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Bootstrap: What Is It and Why Should You Care

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Caution! This article is 8 years old, and our opinions may have changed.

Bootstrap is a free and open source front end web development framework/toolkit primarily used for creating websites and web apps. It was created by Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton in 2011, whilst they were at Twitter as a way to maintain design consistency and reduce the maintenance burden that came as a result of using different libraries and tools on a single project.

What started off as a small internal tool at Twitter soon grew to much more and within a couple of months became the de-facto way to “document and share common design patterns and assets within the company”. Mark Otto succinctly defines Bootstraps goal in his detailed article for Alistapart, to “provide a refined, well-documented, and extensive library of flexible design components built with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript for others to build and innovate on”.

Buy what makes Bootstrap so much better than most other front end framework/libraries/toolkits out there? We have summarised what we feel are the main reasons below;

1. It’s mobile first.

I don’t think we need to spend too much time stressing that mobile is crucially important and that the vast majority of web traffic comes from mobile in both the developed and developing world. Many front end frameworks were initially created for the desktop web and have later been repurposed for mobile. However, Bootstrap is, and always has been, mobile first and focuses around infinitely scalable and malleable components which makes it the perfect tool for designing products for the many mobile screen sizes out there in use today.

2. It can save you a lot of time.

The days of starting a new site or web app completely from scratch are long gone. Bootstrap kicks any project into first gear with an extensive and ever growing set of brilliant, beautiful, well documented CSS and HTML based elements (forms, buttons, navigation elements and so on) and JavaScript plugins/extensions. The web has moved to a state of maturity in which now, for many use cases, we know what works well and delivers results. Bootstrap provides the elements for the most tried and tested design patterns that are suitable for a large proportion of web projects. No more reinventing the wheel each time.

3. Huge and active community.

Bootstrap has a huge and active community. It’s easily one of the most popular projects on Github out of thousands. As of today it has over 94,000 stars, 40,000 forks and 600 contributors. This is no small feat for something that was started less than 6 years ago. What this means is that Bootstrap is continuously being maintained and optimised and if you run into an issues or want to know how to do something you are just one click away from thousands of heavy Bootstrap users that can help you in an instant.

4. Open source and customisable.

Unlike many front end frameworks/libraries that are owned and sold by private companies, the bootstrap framework is completely open source and thus also incredibly customisable. You are not by any means confined to the elements that are provided as default and can repurpose the framework to suit pretty much whatever needs you have.

5. Fast.

Speed is important. As reported by Kissmetrics, surveys have shown that almost 50% of web users expect a site to have fully loaded in 2 second and are likely to leave if it hasn’t loaded in 3 seconds. Thankfully Bootstrap is light and fast and its components are constantly being optimised for speed and efficiency.