Bootstrap: A Force for Good?

Sep 2015

The motion that Bootstrap is a force for good in the Web Development industry is a topic of perennial heat. With passionate advocates on both sides strongly opposing the other, it can be unclear when starting out whether it’s a good idea to use Bootstrap or not.

The dogmatic totality of saying you should never use Bootstrap is inherently flawed. There’s many cases where I feel Bootstrap is applicable and justified. That being said, Bootstrap and similar CSS frameworks do have their issues.

The anesthetic of Abstraction

Abstraction can sometimes be an anesthetic to new developers, removing any need for them to learn how to write proper CSS and JS themselves. Most similar CSS frameworks by definition provide a set of reusable classes and logic which hide complexity - brilliant for new developers. The obvious problem here however is that this abstraction is antithetical to the pursuit of real understanding of how the CSS and JS work behind the scenes.

It’s a brilliant exercise to re-create modules, framework design patterns or components from scratch to truly demonstrate understanding. Once you can do this, JS and CSS frameworks simply become a brilliant time-saving device.

Why Bootstrap is awesome

Bootstrap is awesome for myriad reasons. Most notably, the process of building a MVP (Minimum Viable Product) can be sped up severalfold with the kind of functionality a framework like Bootstrap offers with one simple bower install bootstrap. I would imagine this is applicable to startups too, where time really is an issue.

Bootstrap being ubiquitous and used by major companies attests to its usefulness for select scenarios. I feel it’s important to ask yourself however if you really need to use Bootstrap at the start of the project: if the extra CSS network request is worth it and if you’re certain you aren’t using it for its ‘anesthetic’ qualities if you’re a new developer.

As with all programming (javascript in particular), learning frameworks does not constitute enough in building a skill-set of longevity. Learning the fundamentals is arguably the most important part of future-proofing a career. Then, the abstraction these frameworks and tool-sets provide is bloody awesome.