The styling and presentation of your website is imperative, as it plays an important role in creating a sublime user experience. Therefore, you need to acquire design skills, which help you to create attractive websites. Add deadlines to the project where time is imperative and you realize you have quite a task at hand. Several toolkits and frameworks have come to the fore to ease and streamline the task of web designing but none comes close to the open source framework, Bootstrap.
Since 2013, Bootstrap has become one of the most popular projects on the code-sharing platform GitHub. It has good community support and a vast ecosystem including templates and extensions built around it. With a modular approach, Bootstrap saves you a considerable amount of time and effort allowing you to focus on the core parts of your web development projects. Released initially by Twitter to maintain consistency in their internal web designing and development projects, Bootstrap has evolved and since the release of Version 3 has been licensed under the open source MIT license.
With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, responsive web design is the need of the hour. Earlier, there was the graceful degradation approach wherein you build a website for desktops and then remove features and adapt it for small screen sizes with a lesser set of capabilities resulting in a watered down, subpar browsing experience.
With the release of Bootstrap 3, a mobile-first approach was implemented thereby helping you to create websites that function efficiently on mobile platforms despite the platform constraints. This included taking into account all the restrictions of mobile devices and creating a website that is powerful with cross-browser compatibility giving your website users an awesome mobile experience. Using progressive enhancement techniques, you then add other features for desktop users thereby increasing the accessibility significantly. Thus, your website is well-equipped to handle changes regardless of whether you are using an iPad device, a Windows PC, or any other platform of your choice.
Let's consider that we design a navigation bar for a web page. On a desktop screen, the web page will be displayed as follows:
It is quite evident that the website displays the navbar brand Packt Publishing alongside the menu options such as Books and Videos, Articles, Categories, and Support with the search field on the right-hand side.
However, on a small screen mobile phone, the web page would be displayed as follows:
On clicking the expandable mobile navigation icon displayed at the top right corner of the mobile screen, the following screen will be displayed:
Bootstrap is "batteries-included", meaning that it brings along with it an incredible responsive Grid system and Base CSS, including extensible classes for implementing and enhancing styling for various elements ranging from typography, buttons, tables, forms, and images to mention a few. With an extensive list of components that consist of Glyphicons, responsive navigation bars, BreadCrumbs, Alerts, and much more in addition to official plugins for Modals, Carousels, and PopOvers to name a few, Bootstrap has you covered. With basic knowledge of HTML and CSS, you can understand Bootstrap and implement it in your projects thereby making it a go-to tool for web design.
Reusability: In web designing, a modular pattern is favored as you do not have to rewrite code for various portions of your design. Bootstrap has ready-made components, CSS styles, and plugins that can be included directly in your code. This aspect saves you a considerable amount of time and effort resulting in rapid development. Moreover, this results in easy code maintenance and helps you organize your code efficiently.
Consistency: Easy code readability is crucial for a designer. It also helps that the designers working with you or assigned the same project can understand the code well so as to implement modifications and alterations. As Bootstrap uses ready-made code snippets and is compatible across different browsers, there is a high degree of uniformity in your designing process. This also lowers the learning curve for new designers who want to build on the same project or implement a similar functionality on different projects.
Flexible grid layout: Bootstrap has a default Grid system that can scale up to 12 columns with the relative increase in the screen size and with the flexibility to opt for a fixed or fluid responsive grid. Apart from this, Bootstrap is flexible as you can add any number of customized columns that you may need on a row-by-row basis using its built-in LESS variables and mixins. Using the variables and mixins, you can determine the number of columns and the gutter width as well as the media query point, which decides the threshold for floating columns in addition to generating semantic CSS for individual grid columns. Offsetting and nesting can be implemented easily, with a few lines of code. Using Media Queries and responsive utility classes, you can also manipulate certain blocks of content by making them appear or hide based on the screen size.
Futuristic outlook and open development: The development of Bootstrap is explicitly carried out on GitHub. You can follow all the changes implemented and view the records of outstanding issues with the facility of reporting Bootstrap-related errors and bugs, in addition to contributing to the future development of Bootstrap. The project roadmap can also be found on the official website along with facets such as backward compatibility among the challenges to be addressed in the near future. Bootstrap is a framework that incorporates HTML5 and CSS3 in addition to a plethora of toolsets and utilities thereby shaping up to becoming a benchmark and a vital cog in the wheel for futuristic design and development.
In this chapter, we had a look at Bootstrap and the reasons to incorporate it in your web designing projects. You understood Bootstrap's mobile-first approach and its relevance in this era where mobiles and tablets are increasingly becoming the first medium for browsing the Web. In the next chapter, we will look at the different ways to install Bootstrap in your projects, which also includes customizing it to build impressive websites.