For quite a while by now, Bootstrap has been a favorite for several web developers. With its features such as an awesome grid system, standardized settings, a uniform approach towards CSS and UI development, as well as support for jQuery libraries, Bootstrap is among the most popular picks, especially when it comes to front-end development.
That said, is Bootstrap really the silver bullet for all your web development needs? Today, we see innumerable templates and themes, UI mockups, and a lot more that have been built using Bootstrap. In fact, even though this was not its intended usage, Bootstrap has become almost a marketing buzzword for WordPress themes as well.
Is Bootstrap Really Meant For WordPress Themes?
Question is, when should, and when should you not, use Bootstrap in your projects? This article will shed some light on the strong and weak aspects of Bootstrap, and help you make a judicious choice as to in what scenario Bootstrap should be used, and in which cases it should be avoided.
An Introduction to Bootstrap
First up, let us begin with a very basic introduction to Bootstrap. Today, Bootstrap is an open source project, no longer associated with Twitter. But earlier on, when it first launched in 2011, Bootstrap was created by Twitter as a means to help back-end developers quickly create an interface for their apps and projects with ease, without having to spend a lot of time and efforts. In other words, Bootstrap was built to save back-end developers’ time, if and when they needed to quickly come up with a front-end design for their project.
Of course, that no longer is the only use for Bootstrap today, and with each passing day, we come across a new template or theme that is based on some version of Bootstrap. This, very clearly, is not the intended usage of Bootstrap, and probably not the ideal usage either. Let us try to understand this by discussing the good and bad parts of Bootstrap in isolation.
The Benefits of Using Bootstrap
Quite easily, the biggest advantage of using Bootstrap is that it can save a good deal of your time. You can rely on its predefined classes and templates, and put together a decent design even if you have just a basic understanding of HTML and CSS. Plus, you can also customize it to suit your needs, and tweak your designs accordingly.
Furthermore, Bootstrap is as consistent as it can be — your work will look the same across all devices, as well as web browsers. Bootstrap is probably one of the rarest frameworks that do not face consistency or performance issues and are fully cross-browser compatible in every sense of the term.
However, the biggest and most obvious advantage that Bootstrap has to offer is its grid system. Its mobile-friendly grid system lets you work with different screen resolutions and sizes, and in essence, this fluid grid system ensures that anything you create using Bootstrap is responsive right from its inception.
Lastly, Bootstrap is open source and well-documented.
The Drawbacks of Using Bootstrap
On the downside, however, Bootstrap is pretty bloated in its own right, and is probably not the best pick if you are looking for something truly nimble and agile. This has more to do with the very nature of Bootstrap: the easy availability of native classes means the code in itself is bulky, and not ideally meant for extremely lightweight or small projects.
Similarly, once again, on account of the native classes and styles, Bootstrap’s output might not always be eye-candy. You will get HTML output that is fully functional and does the job well, but it may or may not be perfectly semantic.
Beyond that, there are some in the community who feel that every single website created by means of Bootstrap looks the same.
Now that we have covered both the good and bad aspects of Bootstrap, let us turn to the big question: when should we or shouldn’t we use it?
Bootstrap is ideal if you are short of time, or resources, or both. If you are looking to quickly add a design to an existing piece of back-end code, or are wanting to set up something at the earliest, and do not truly care about the semantics of your code, Bootstrap is the savior you need!
As such, Bootstrap is meant for startups that might not be able to afford a dedicated designer for their projects.
The fact that Bootstrap is responsive in nature, and is under active development, and also offers consistent UI that looks good enough out of the box — is enough to stand in favor of Bootstrap for general usage. This is, by far, the ultimate and intended usage of Bootstrap — it is a standardized platform that comes with all the tools, components, bells and whistles that you might need when building something. In other words, Bootstrap is a real time-saver.
However, anything beyond that is probably not meant for Bootstrap. While we do see a surge in Bootstrap-based WordPress themes, this is not the best possible use of this otherwise powerful and impressive technology. When you build a WordPress theme with the help of Bootstrap, you are basically relying on the framework’s ability to quickly put together a decent design for you, and using this ability to churn out a WordPress theme. This approach is functional, but is of little use. WordPress has its own methodology for handling templates and CSS elements, and when you rely on Bootstrap, you are basically overriding that methodology with that of Bootstrap, and insisting that HTML is structured in a manner that may not always blend with the native methods of WordPress.
The same logic can be applied to any Content Management System out there. Bootstrap is what you should use to put together a quick design, but it is not something you should use to create a proper theme meant for usage on a CMS such as WordPress, because if you choose to do so, a good part of your time will go not in coding, but in trying to inadvertently ensure that everything works well with Bootstrap’s predefined sets of grids and classes.
What do you think of Bootstrap as a framework, and its intended usage? Share your views in the comments below!