Is Bootstrap still relevant?

ByDiego Pinho in

Bootstrap, one of the most relevant and well rated web development libraries in the world – with over 123 thousand stars on its Github repository – has recently launched the version 4.0.0 (that’s been in Alpha version for a long time). This version has a lot of new features and all the grid system and most of the component were rewritten using Flexbox by default.

However, despite being an important announcement, the question remains:

“Is it relevant to the point that’s worth studying and implementing in our projects?”

To understand this question, we have to understand a little of web evolution on the past years.

A time of pain and suffering

A while ago, only a few things on this world caused desperation and pain to web developers like the initials IE. The initials that represent the Microsoft’s lagged browser, Internet Explorer, was a constant problem.

Its lack of compatibility with the other browsers have forced us writing customized applications (jerry-rig) to work on the browser. As at that time it was the default browser on Windows, the number of users was very big, so we didn’t have much choice.

At the same time, the era of smartphones was beginning. The very first phones capable of rendering websites on a pleasant and consistent way started appearing thanks to the Google (Android) and Apple (iOS) operational systems. Therefore, the websites that were totally desktop, started gaining shape on mobile devices.

It was then that in August 19th, 2011, Bootstrap was born as an open source project. The project was originally developed for the Twitter website, called Twitter Blueprint, and it was initially developed by Mark Otto and Jacó Thornton as an instrument to encourage the consistence through company internal tools. According to them, before Bootstrap, a lot of libraries were used for interface development, causing some inconsistencies and an excessive weight on the maintenance.

The project has grown along the time and has become the number one option for developers to create websites. And it’s kingdom kept for a long time.

A light at the end of the tunnel

Time has passed and we have entered on the fourth industrial revolution. All the medias, solutions and business have migrated to the digital world (if not entirely, a portion of their operations). That happened because internet became an accessible – not only in our houses or workplaces – but mainly in our phones. After all, who doesn’t access the internet through the smartphone?

But evolving didn’t apply exclusively to the internet; technology has evolved as well. While Bootstrap kept on making our lives easier, new CSS alternatives started appearing to solve responsiveness and compatibility problems.

Amongst them, the famous Flexbox and CSS Grid. These specifications have become extremely popular and loved by front-end developers by the fact that now we treat our layout components on a flexible way, and through a grid system, idea that has popularized with Bootstrap itself (that matches the tendency of web components, popularized by React and Vue.js technologies) on a much easier and native way.

Given it’s popularity, current browsers (meaning Safari, Google Chrome, Firefox and Edge) started giving support to them. Result: we started developing responsive layout on a much easier, intuitive and without the addition of any library and/or framework way.

Bootstrap isn’t the only solution

Technology, as always, evolved drastically and the way we develop websites and applications for the web has changed. Even on the Bootstrap golden times, a lot of other excellent libraries came out with the purpose of solving the same problems. To quote some: Bulma, Foundation and Semantic UI.

The same way that jQuery has revolutionized the way we use JavaScript on the front-end, Bootstrap did the same to CSS. Both have made developing  extremely fast, but with a terrible cost: depending on the technology.

How many times you have seen (or took part) on a discussion about the need of using jQuery? At the end of the day, it’s nothing more than a pure JavaScript. I believe that on the Bootstrap x CSS Grid situation, the line of reasoning is the same.

Goodbye isn’t needed

I’ve always rised the flag in favor of fundamentals in the first place, being whatever the technology and/or knowledge area. Wanna learn React, Vue.js or React? Great, but learn JavaScript fisrt. The same goes for Bootstrap, learn CSS first.

I think it’s fantastic the community movement of creating open source solutions that make developing way faster, however, we started using libraries without even knowing how they work underneath the hood. That makes us accommodated developers.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is a place for technologies like Bootstrap and so many others out there. Situations like an MVP development of an startup, personal projects or even the university are perfect examples, for they require a fast development and without a great commitment.

However, when we start speaking about enterprise projects for production, working without depending on third party tools is always better. That gives us a lot more flexibility and independence to project what we want. Who’s never identified a website developed in Bootstrap only by looking at it, right?

That’s why my vote is the following: study and use fundamentals of technologies that are native. If you already master them and the framework/library brings some handy features, thus adapting to your project, then use it, otherwise, don’t. Libraries come and go, fundamentals don’t. And that applies to Bootstrap.

Either way, I believe that as jQuery has left a longing feeling, Bootstrap will also have a space in our programmers heart too.

What about you? What do you think? Leave a comment down bellow.

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