Trifork Blog

Twitter Bootstrap, why you should *not* use it

June 4th, 2013 by

We all know Twitter Bootstrap, a great tool for quickly building “sleek and intuitive” web applications. But why are people actually choosing to use Twitter Bootstrap and why? And more importantly, why I think you should *not* use it (in most cases)!

Disclaimer: I am a frontend developer and wrote this blog entry from my point of view, so if you are a backend developer, take this with a pinch of salt and don’t be offended 😉

You hear it all the time: “You should really use Twitter Bootstrap! It’s really good and easy to use”. Also, I notice that bootstrap enables backend developers to quickly set up a frontend using twitter bootstrap. And suddenly they have to admit that a little frontend development can actually be a lot of fun. However, typically things turn bad once the project progresses…

So what can bootstrap do for you and what makes that people find it useful:

  • Quickly create a layout (fixed, fluid and responsive)
  • Quickly create a form
  • Everything imediatly in the same style
  • Reasonable grid system
  • Tables
  • Buttons

And there are many other useful things that bootstrap offers and allows you to add in no time. Just dive into it, it’s more than worth it…

When and what for should you use bootstrap?

  • A backend system without too much commercial purpose
  • A website without fancy design
  • Show (preliminary) functionality to a product owner during a project

So what remains and why should you *not* use bootstrap?

You have to consider that most frontend developers get their thrill from translating a spiffy design to HTML/CSS using client-side scripting when needed. They are typically good at just that thing using their own preferred tools and frameworks and typically less good at modifying existing code bases that they didn’t create from scratch.

So when better not?

  • When you are just interested in the grid layout, then there are better and more resource-friendly alternatives
  • If you are only using one or two features, why not build them yourself? (why not reuse?)
  • When dealing with a design of your own, you might end up removing bootstrap specifics or trying desperately to override them

To conclude, there are defintely reasons and scenarios where Twitter Bootstrap can be handy, but make sure that you don’t shoot yourself in the foot, because it might cause you more work in the long run. Especially when using bootstrap in a larger project, it might save you time in the beginning, but it might start to bother you and cost you greatly a little further down the road. In those cases, setting up your project correctly yourself from the beginning, is a more recommendable approach.

5 Responses

  1. June 26, 2013 at 00:35 by Bob

    I actually disagree. Bootstrap themes are coming along in leaps and bounds, and if you check out some of the latest themes people are making with bootstrap at I think you’ll see a lot of your points are invalid.

  2. July 31, 2013 at 16:02 by Ade

    I agree with your post Kwint and think Bob is wrong. Yes, there are some cool themes which have been built using Bootstrap, but I find it takes so long to strip out all the bloat, or as Kwint said, override default styling, that it takes the same time to build a theme using a grid and a basic CSS framework like Modernizer or Blueprint.

  3. September 24, 2013 at 17:17 by Edric N

    The reason of the creation of Twitter bootstrap wast to power the Twitter web application (DUh!) hence this tool is great for web application and backend development but not for frontend AKA normal mundane content, The creation of CSS was to actually to get content and presentation in separated layers easy to maintain and in a scalable way, now with the misuse of bootstrap and bootstrap classes the markup that once was clean and simple in now again polluted with lots and lots of classes that easily reminds you the use of inline styles.

    This article nailed it when it says the nice part of bootstrap is the grid and the utility classes like visible-desktop, hidden-phone, etc but if you are not creating a web application you should try to avoid Bootstrap because you will end up with a site that may be unusable when JS is disabled and also fighting and constantly overriding Bootstrap classes to get a portion of the page to get certain styles.

    Edric Navarro

  4. February 25, 2014 at 16:39 by Dennis

    I see NO reason to use this software for a professional web designer. It is as bad as WP.

  5. December 3, 2014 at 17:59 by Ed

    I’ve seen these type of articles before and it seems to be more of front end developers not thrilled that backend developers are using twitter bootstrap as a “band-aid” solution for a UI.

    I understand that someone who works with web design exclusively would prefer their own toolset, but for those of us who are more of a backend programmer (like myself) like an easy way to whip up a clean responsive UI without a whole lot of effort.

    @Dennis, why is it as bad as using WP? if it solves the problem the developer has to solve, what’s the harm? WP is a good solution for when you want to build a website fast and have a low learning curve for the user(s) who will be administering it.

    I agree if you just plan to use it for its responsive features, then you could use something else that just focus on that one aspect.

    But if you plan to use everything or nearly everything in the toolset, then its an invaluable tool that saves you a ton of work and gives you a framework to build off of.

    It just comes down to if it solves your problem and for many of us it does, then theres no real harm in using the framework, but yes you should do your homework and make sure it offers everything you need before investing yourself in it.