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What is Bootstrap?
Table of Contents
- What is Bootstrap?
- What is Bootstrap in Programming?
- Why Would You Use Bootstrap?
- Is Bootstrap Framework Easy to Use?
- What Does the Bootstrap Framework Include?
- What Are the Advantages of Bootstrap?
- What Are the Disadvantages of Bootstrap?
- How Do You Use Bootstrap?
- Should You Use Bootstrap for Your Next Project?
- Are There Alternatives to Bootstrap?
- Bootstrap in the Marketplace
- It’s Time to Learn More
What is Bootstrap?
Bootstrap is used for millions of sites across the world today, thanks in part to its free, open-source model.
What is Bootstrap in Programming?
In programming, a “bootstrap” to something that launches another system, usually an operating system. In the real world, a “bootstrap” is the little piece at the back of a boot that lets you pull it on. Throughout software development, it refers to a smaller system that boots up a much larger system.
Thus, the Bootstrap meaning that it’s a framework that can be used to launch a website quickly. With Bootstrap, you don’t need to do any of the foundational programming that you would normally have to do. Instead, you can just focus on what’s important — customizing it to your project.
Why Would You Use Bootstrap?
Many developers feel as though they are reinventing the wheel when they need to construct the most basic elements of a website. Bootstrap gives you everything you need to design a clean, effective site out of the box. In fact, you don’t need to write a single line of code if you don’t want to — you can just fill in the content.
Through Bootstrap, developers can:
- Launch sites much faster.
- Improve the consistency of their work.
- Directly control many elements of their sites.
At the same time, developers do have an upfront investment of time. They need to learn the Bootstrap framework and system first if they want to do any serious customization. It can take months to really understand the intricacies of the Bootstrap framework, as it is an extensive compilation of files.
Is Bootstrap Framework Easy to Use?
First, it depends on your background.
Second, it depends on what you want to do with it.
It’s fairly easy to get a website up and running with Bootstrap in as little as an evening. If you just want to create a basic site with Bootstrap, you can hit the ground running and get it done ASAP.
But if you want to customize it, it could take a lot longer. Bootstrap makes a lot of things possible, but to edit some more complex things (like animated loading screens), you’ll have to dig deep.
What Does the Bootstrap Framework Include?
Bootstrap contains typography, forms, buttons, navigation, and other interface components such as maps. Depending on the template, the Bootstrap framework can be extended to contain much more.
There are a few resources for free Bootstrap frameworks:
These resources can be used if you want an all-in-one Bootstrap solution. And by viewing these templates, you can also get a feel for what Bootstrap can potentially do for you.
What Are the Advantages of Bootstrap?
There’s a reason why 12 million websites and counting use Bootstrap. It has a lot of advantages:
- It’s responsive. Today, people are more likely to be browsing the web on a mobile phone or a tablet than a personal computer. A responsive design will automatically resize to suit the page.
- It automatically resizes images and elements. Nothing has to be handled manually by the developer — it’s all done for them.
- It’s grid-based. The grid mechanic makes it much easier for developers to manage where elements show up on their site.
- It includes major components. Dropdowns, navigation bars, forms, progress bars; it’s all designed for you. You just need to drop them in.
- It can easily be customized. Because all the code is open-source, you can do anything with it; advanced users can heavily customize the framework.
- It has a thriving community. Many people are working on improving Bootstrap and supporting other Bootstrap users.
- It has many templates. If you don’t want to design your site, you can download one of the hundreds of user-provided templates. (Make sure you get the right Bootstrap version.)
In brief, it’s easy to use, well-supported, and can save people a lot of time. Bootstrap is currently on its fifth version, and it’s grown a lot throughout its evolution.
But, as with anything, there are some disadvantages, too.
What Are the Disadvantages of Bootstrap?
No technology is perfect. Whether you’re a serious developer or a hobbyist, you should be aware:
- It requires that you know how to code. If you don’t know how to code at all, you’re going to be lost with Bootstrap. A CMS like WordPress is a better bet for those who don’t know how to code.
- Its naming scheme can be confusing. You need to put in the upfront time to learn what is available in Bootstrap. That can require a lot of documentation because there’s no way to intuit what’s there or what it’s named.
- It may be less streamlined than you desire. Bootstrap is known for being bloated because it includes everything that you might use. If you want to create a small, simple site, it’s not going to be ideal.
- You may become too reliant on it. Becoming reliant on it means that you’ll never learn to design a site from scratch (though you may never need to).
As you can see, there are fewer drawbacks than benefits. But you do need to question whether Bootstrap is right for you. Most Bootstrap sites will come out looking somewhat the same, depending on the amount of work you want to do to customize it.
How Do You Use Bootstrap?
To start using Bootstrap:
- Go to GetBootstrap.com.
- Download the most current version (Bootstrap current version: 5.1).
- Unpack into a directory and upload to your server.
That’s it. You now “have Bootstrap.”
But once you set it up, you also need to use it. Within the Bootstrap files, you’ll find example files that show you how to use all the elements. In truth, using Bootstrap is often reduced down to a lot of copying and pasting.
You can either manually edit the HTML5 and CSS files or download one of the many popular Bootstrap templates available. For a beginner, it’s often easier to use a template. But you will need to know some HTML at a minimum if you’re going to modify it for your site.
Should You Use Bootstrap for Your Next Project?
If you’re trying to learn how to develop from the ground up, Bootstrap might just hold you back. Bootstrap, as a technology, makes it easier for programmers to never really learn the basics — instead, you deal with the layer of abstraction that’s afforded by the system.
At the same time, that’s a lot like saying that someone who programs in C++ will never learn to manipulate a machine the way that machine code or even C would let them. While it’s technically true, many programmers will never need to manipulate a machine and its memory granularly.
If it’s not important to develop a site from the ground up — or if you’re already an advanced/power user — Bootstrap doesn’t have a lot of downsides. It’s a fast, easy way to create a fully featured site without having to program every single element.
Are There Alternatives to Bootstrap?
Foundation. A responsive front-end framework with grid and components.
Bulma. An open source CSS framework based on Flexbox.
Skeleton. A boilerplate system for responsive CSS design.
Pure CSS. A series of responsive CSS modules for web project design.
Related reading: Top Bootstrap Alternatives
Bootstrap in the Marketplace
While there are the other alternatives listed above, none of them have the instant recognizability of Bootstrap.
Related reading: Bootstrap Interview Questions and Answers
It’s Time to Learn More
Bootstrap is a fully developed front-end web application framework. As such, it’s covered in many front-end and full-stack development bootcamps, web development seminars, and online classes.
To learn to use Bootstrap, you can: