Bootstrap 101: What it is and how to use it

You may know a bootstrap as something located on the back of a shoe or boot. You may even know it from the common expression to “pull yourself up by the bootstrap!” It represents the idea of creating for and providing for yourself, making something out of nothing.

The idea of “bootstrapping” is about starting small and creating something much bigger with only your own efforts and little advantages.

Of course, this has an entirely different meaning in the digital realm. When it comes to computers and electronic devices, the term bootstrap refers to the ability to “boot” a program onto a device with the help of a smaller program. This facilitates the larger program being integrated typically in an operating system.

So, while a bootstrap is a tiny part of a boot used for lifting it up, from a computer perspective, Bootstrap is a much different entity. Let’s take a closer look at Bootstrap by defining what it is, its impact on the technology world, how you can use Bootstrap, and what its continued use means for the future.

What is Bootstrap?

Two Twitter developers named Jacob Thornton and Mark Otto developed Bootstrap while at the social media platform. They created it to make the tools used on Twitter perform more reliably while also cutting down on the time needed to maintain those tools. Initially, the tool itself was known as Twitter Blueprint while often being referred to as Twitter Bootstrap.

Here’s what it is: a software that provides a front-end development framework for creating websites and applications that support websites. It’s free to use and available for all, open-source. Bootstrap was manifested using HTML, CSS, and JavaScript to support its functions. The apps it creates are mobile-focused.

Now that you understand what Bootstrap is, let’s dive into what it means to the technology world – and specifically, those looking to develop websites without unlimited financial resources to throw at the problem.

What Bootstrap means to the technology world

The main benefit of using Bootstrap is that it’s equally valuable to experienced developers and beginners. It facilitates easy website building and design without forcing the user to enter commands.

Bootstrap taps into sound design principles to give anyone engaging with it an optimal user experience. It has a responsive layout, which means that the website or app can look it gives the viewer based on the viewer’s specific orientation. Because it’s mobile-first software, it operates with the assumption that all users will be using a tablet or smartphone.

It’s this responsiveness that makes Bootstrap an effective tool. It makes this the perfect solution for organizations with staff that work primarily on mobile applications. They no longer must worry about changing dimensions on the device – Bootstrap adapts depending on the situation.

Along with its intuitive design, Bootstrap also offers plenty of valuable user interface components. It delivers an implementation framework that will leave users able to easily begin using it. It also offers source code, or the program can be compiled in advance, depending on the user’s needs.

One of the biggest advantages of Bootstrap is that along with being open source, it’s also free to use. Anyone who wants to use it can find it hosted on GitHub and can download it from the official Bootstrap website.

It’s clear why Bootstrap is such an invaluable tool for so many developers working in the mobile space. But what exactly can they use it for, and why should they use Bootstrap?

How and why you should use Bootstrap

The primary use of Bootstrap is simple: if you’re looking to develop a mobile-based application, it’s an inexpensive yet comprehensive option. Bootstrap’s functionality eliminates the need to write endless amounts of CSS code. This frees up your availability for other tasks.

There are multiple reasons why you should consider using Bootstrap. As noted above, its responsiveness is a major selling point. It comes with a prefilled grid, meaning you can load content directly into your containers.

It also comes with handy components that you can integrate into your website design. You can add navigation bars, dropdown menus, or thumbnail images. These aren’t the only components you can add, of course, but just a small sample of what’s possible.

Because of the responsive design, you’ll be able to add a wide variety of components that resize to fit your site. You won’t have to grapple with sizing the components yourself – Bootstrap takes care of that for you, again leaving you free to focus your mental energy elsewhere.

Bootstrap also has shockingly thorough and easy-to-grasp documentation. No matter what you need to do through the software, you’ll be able to find documentation to help guide you through the process. There’s nothing more frustrating than being stuck with software and having no idea how to implement it. Bootstrap’s documentation provides plenty of code samples, making complicated moves easy even for novices.

Because it runs using JavaScript, Bootstrap also provides multiple plugins from JQuery. They have an entire catalog of plugins you can insert into your site. They offer everything from pop ups to image carousels.

The bottom line is that Bootstrap is simple to use and compatible with most browsers. Using it for mobile application development is a slam dunk. But what’s the future of this tool?

The future of Bootstrap and determining if its right for your team

So, should you use Bootstrap? It’s certainly not without its drawbacks. It’s easy to use, but users will need to familiarize themselves with it and get used to its interface.

No matter what type of front-end web development you’re working on, Bootstrap likely offers the solutions and capabilities you’ll need. It has a versatile set of tools with plenty of educational resources within the program itself for anyone who needs to get acclimated.

Yes, it’s not perfect – no web development tool is – but the design flexibility it offers you is hard to beat. And as a free service, you certainly can’t beat the price.

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