Ever since its inception in 2011, Bootstrap has risen to fame overnight, and it currently stands tall as the most loved framework on Github. In fact, when it comes to anything related to front-end development, there are good chances that Bootstrap is involved in some way or the other. More and more developers are turning towards Bootstrap with each passing day, and it has become the de facto standard in its own right.
Quite obviously, Bootstrap’s popularity has earned it a spot in several places where it should otherwise not belong: WordPress theme development is a case in point. Bootstrap is pretty popular among WordPress theme developers. However, is it really that good? In reality, Bootstrap is probably not the best pick when it comes to building WordPress themes. In this article, I will try to explain why the marriage between WordPress themes and Bootstrap just cannot work out.
Bootstrap is Not Meant For WordPress Themes
Bootstrap: What is it About?
Before going any further, let us take a moment to actually assess and appreciate the capabilities and abilities of Bootstrap. In spite of whatever flaws it might have, Bootstrap is surely a robust solution in its own right, and it deserves to be popular.
Bootstrap was created by Twitter as a solution for back-end developers to help them create interface for their applications with ease. By using Bootstrap, developers could eliminate inconsistencies that used to arise owing to usage of various libraries.
As such, Bootstrap was conceived with a specific goal in mind, and it served that particular goal to the optimum level. The logic here was to help developers quickly iterate and focus entirely on back-end, without having to spend sleepless nights about the front-end. Bootstrap, in simplest terms, made the developers’ lives easy by re-introducing precision in web development.
However, just because Bootstrap served certain specific purposes, we cannot claim that it is the silver bullet for web development: in WordPress themes, for instance, the front-end is what matters more.
Bootstrap: Not Meant For WordPress Themes
When it comes to theme development, WordPress offers a set of functions that can be used in template files. The HTML output of such functions is then leveraged to build WordPress themes. Bootstrap, on the other hand, structures HTML in its own way that just might not blend well with the native methodology of WordPress theme development.
What does this mean?
In other words, by using Bootstrap for WordPress theme development, you are writing more code, spending more time developing (and debugging), increasing your maintenance efforts, staying aloof from instant WordPress core enhancements, and thereby reducing the efficiency of your theme.
In general, frameworks such as Bootstrap tend to be built for general usage scenarios. As such, if you need to achieve a specific result, you need to add additional CSS classes to HTML elements. This makes your code, and in turn your WordPress theme, bloated.
But What About The Grid?
Most WordPress theme developers who use Bootstrap argue in its favor by claiming that the twelve column fully responsive grid system of Bootstrap is the best thing that has ever happened to theme development. By adding classes within the HTML markup, you can create responsive WordPress themes with ease.
However, once again, using a predefined set of grids is just not how WordPress theme development works. While you can use predefined grids to design for the web, it might not be the cleanest approach — just because you can doesn’t mean you should!
Personally, I feel that using predefined grids to design from the outside to the inside gives your design projects a mechanical feel. You can forget all about proportions and harmony as well.
Furthermore, while the fully responsive grid system of Bootstrap is surely a boon in terms of responsiveness, it is a bane if considered from the typographic point of view. No matter what font you are using, your grid will remain the same. Therefore, it is not uncommon to see poor legibility or ill-shaped typography on WordPress themes built with Bootstrap. Considering the fact that responsiveness is just one end of the spectrum and clean and legible typography is also a very vital factor for mobile users, using Bootstrap is surely not a magic wand that will make your websites and themes mobile-friendly.
Make no mistake about it: Bootstrap is not a bad framework. In fact, when it comes to back-end, nothing beats Bootstrap in terms of precision and accuracy. The fact that it has risen to such great heights is a big testimony to its credentials.
However, much like any other popular entity or concept, Bootstrap too is nowadays being misused and, dare I add, abused. It has a role to play in several tasks, but probably not in WordPress theme development.
There are better options for you if you are planning to build a WordPress theme, so you can leave Bootstrap alone for now. For example, you can work with starter WordPress themes, which will take care of the basic markup and help you get started with the visual aspects straightaway. Alternatively, you can choose a dedicated WordPress theme framework too, such as Thesis or Genesis, or Hybrid, and so on. Beyond that, if you are looking to save development time, you can use libraries and code snippets. And lastly, considering the fact that WordPress and most things related to it are GPL, you can use default WordPress themes too to extract code snippets or build child themes.
All said and done, Bootstrap, though very powerful and near-perfect for tasks that it was ideally developed for, is a misfit when it comes to WordPress theme development.
Have you used Bootstrap for WordPress theme development? How was your experience? Agree or disagree with my views? Have your say in the comments below!