In our previous blog post, we discussed some of the benefits of using Twitter Bootstrap for web design and development projects.
There are plenty of downsides to Twitter Bootstrap as well. Let’s have a look at the major problems it can create:
1. It doesn’t follow best practices
One of the major issues I have with Twitter Bootstrap is that you end up with a whole lot of DOM elements crammed full of classes. This breaks one of the fundamental rules of good web design, the HTML is no longer semantic and the presentation is no longer separate from the content. Front-end purists will find this rather irksome, as it makes scalability, reusability and maintenance that much more of a challenge. Twitter Bootstrap also exacerbates progressive enhancement as presentation and interaction are no longer independent of content.
2. It’s going to collide with my existing set-up
3. Twitter Bootstrap is heavy
4. No SASS support*
Possibly one of the biggest points of contention, and definitely the key issue which puts me off using Bootstrap is the fact that it’s built with Less and provides no native support for Compass and SASS. Now don’t get me wrong, Less is okay, I’ve used it before and it certainly has it’s merits. But SASS is just better, and with a framework like Compass on top, it seems like a complete no-brainer to use it. Some helpful folks have built a Bootstrap for Compass gem, but straight out of the box, you’ll have to make do with Less. I’ll hopefully talk more about SASS and Less in a future article. In the meantime, Chris Coyier has written this article comparing the two.
5. “Hey! My new website looks just like everyone else’s!”
Twitter Bootstrap is super-popular, and therefore every dev and his dog is going be using it. While it is of course possible to customise your app or website design further, you may find time constraints force you to stick to a lot of the vanilla Bootstrap style. This can lead to the inadvertent creation of a lot of similar, generic and unmemorable websites. While Twitter Bootstrap is fast and easy to implement, creativity is often compromised as a result. Innovative designs which defy conventions can be difficult to implement in Bootstrap’s structured environment while you have a tight time constraint.
Other controversial disadvantages of using Bootstrap
Lack of semi-colons
Visitors don’t take your website seriously
Some of the more discerning users have suggested that when visiting a site with the default Bootstrap style, they have questioned the legitimacy of the site. It sounds like it’s mainly a problem with eCommerce sites, which have been associated with fraudulence in the past. By not putting the effort into customising the styling, users may start to perceive Bootstrap-built sites as untrustworthy… which is the last thing you want, especially if you’re trying to sell them something!
Bootstrap putting web designers & front-end devs out of their jobs?
This is one of the more bizarre issues; the fear that as frameworks like Bootstrap give presentation power to the web developers, the web designer/front-end developer role will become obsolete. Bootstrap is great and all, but it shouldn’t be confused with a theme. There are plenty of Bootstrap themes out there of course, which are no doubt built by web designers. Bootstrap is more like scaffolding, a speedy way for devs to prototype a website or app for baseline structure or MVP.
So… to Bootstrap or not to Bootstrap?
These are some of the problems you could encounter when you are working with Twitter Bootstrap. There are plenty of good reasons why you should use Twitter Bootstrap for your web projects though. At the end of the day, time, project and audience constraints factor into whether or not to utilise Twitter Bootstrap.
To make things easier, we’ve made this framework flowchart to help you work out which framework might be best for you, based on your project parameters and your coding preferences.
You might also be interested in Zurb’s Foundation framework, which is a less well-known Bootstrap alternative that contains a lot of the solutions to the problems that we have listed here for Bootstrap. We have written extensively about Foundation and you can read all about it in our Foundation series.
A lot has changed in the world of Bootstrap since we wrote this article. The framework has evolved and continues to improve – including a Bootstrap for Sass version being built to cater for Sassy web designers.