What Is the Main Difference Between Bootstrap and Tailwind?

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What Is the Main Difference Between Bootstrap and Tailwind?

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January 19th, 2024

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Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS are two popular open-source frontend frameworks. Many normal and on-demand app development agency use these for developing responsive web applications and websites.

Bootstrap was created on Twitter in 2010 by Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton. It provides CSS utilities for typography, forms, buttons, navigation, and other interface components, as well as optional JavaScript plugins.

Bootstrap aims to help developers quickly build interpretive framework websites and apps that look good on any device using a grid-based layout, responsive CSS, and powerful Javascript plugins.

Tailwind CSS was created by Adam Wathan in 2017. It is a utility-first CSS framework that focuses on generating highly reusable styles without opinionated decisions. It provides low-level utility classes for padding, margin, color, flexbox, grid, and more that can be composed to build any design. The goal is to have developers write their own custom CSS within the constraints of the Tailwind system.

While both frameworks are designed for responsive web development, they have different philosophies and approaches. This article by The App Founders will dive deeper into the key differences between Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS.

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History

Both Frameworks were created to solve similar problems but took different approaches based on their origins.

Bootstrap was created first in 2011 by Twitter developers Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton. It came from Twitter’s desire for a reusable front-end component library to standardize UI elements like forms, buttons, navigation and other interface components across their products. The goal was increased consistency and faster development times because they understood the user experience importance.

Tailwind CSS came later in 2017, created by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger. It arose more from a desire for low-level utility classes instead of pre-made components. The goal was the flexibility to build anything by combining simple utility classes rather than being constrained to a framework’s existing components.

So Bootstrap established the component library model, while Tailwind pursued the utility-first model. But both aimed to improve CSS at scale for entire product ecosystems.

Philosophy

Both frameworks take different philosophical approaches to styling and layout in CSS.

Bootstrap aims to provide a lot of pre-built components and styling out of the box through its library of CSS classes and plugins. The goal is to allow developers to quickly build websites and applications without writing much custom CSS or using complex app development tools.

Bootstrap takes more of a “batteries included” approach, giving you many pre-made components like navigation bars, buttons, modals, carousels, etc. This can help accelerate development. However, It also means you end up with some stylistic opinions baked into the framework that you may need to override later.

Conversely, Tailwind provides low-level utility classes that allow you to build up your components and design system. Things like padding, margin, color, font size, flexbox classes, etc.

This means you must style and compose components using these atomic utility classes. The benefit is that you have complete control over the styling and can customize things with your web app development techniques exactly how you want without fighting against framework defaults.

It avoids imposing design opinions in favor of flexibility. So, the philosophy is centered around crafting reusable utility classes instead of pre-made components.

So, in summary, Bootstrap favors convention, while Tailwind favors customization. Bootstrap gives you more out-of-the-box components, while Tailwind gives you more stylistic control.

Class Naming

Not both of these frameworks take very different approaches when it comes to class naming.

Bootstrap uses abstract class names like .btn, .card, and .navbar that provide styling for common components. You don’t necessarily know what styles are applied from the class name alone.

Tailwind takes a utility-first approach and builds up styles using utility classes like .bg-white, .p-4, and .font-bold. The class names describe exactly what styles will be applied.

With Bootstrap, you style a button by adding the .btn and modifier classes like .btn-primary.

<button class=”btn btn-primary”>Button</button>

With Tailwind, you build up the styling from low-level utility classes:

<button class=”bg-blue-500 text-white font-bold py-2 px-4 rounded”>

  Button

</button>

The utility class approach gives you finer-grained control over styling but can also produce more verbose HTML. It abstracts away some of those details into predefined components.

So, in summary, Bootstrap favors abstract class names for common components, while Tailwind uses explicit utility classes to build up styles.

Customization

One of the biggest differences between these frameworks is how customizable they are.

Bootstrap is designed to provide a set of pre-made components that you can use out of the box. While you can customize things like colors, fonts, etc., the components are not flexible. Bootstrap relies on a system of classes like .btn, .card, and .navbar that cannot be modified. So, you are limited to the look and functionality that Bootstrap provides.

Tailwind, on the other hand, is extremely customizable since it is composed entirely of utility classes. Instead of .btn, you would build a button using classes like px-4, py-2, bg-blue-500, text-white, etc. This means you have complete control over the styling and can tweak every detail. With it, you are crafting each piece of UI yourself using the low-level utility classes.

The downside of this flexibility is it requires more work upfront to build out your UI components from scratch. But the benefit is you have no limits and can customize everything exactly how you want.

If you need to tweak spacing, change colors, use a different font, modify hover effects, etc, it is easy to do that in Tailwind. With Bootstrap, you would be stuck with what their .btn class provides.

Responsiveness

Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS are both mobile-first frameworks used by many mobile app development services company that focus on responsive web design. They allow developers to build websites and applications that adapt to different screen sizes and devices.

Some key aspects of responsiveness in these frameworks are:

  • They use CSS media queries, fluid layouts, and a grid system to create responsive page layouts. Bootstrap has a 12-column grid, while Tailwind uses a utility-first approach with flexbox utilities.
  • Bootstrap has predefined responsive utility classes like .col-md-6 for medium screens and .col-lg-4 for large screens. In Tailwind, you build custom responsive classes like md:w-1/2 for half-width on medium screens.
  • Both make it easy to hide/show and resize elements responsively. Bootstrap uses .d-none, .d-md-block etc, while Tailwind uses hidden, md: block and other display utilities.
  • They have mobile-friendly defaults and styles for typography, buttons, navbars etc. The frameworks handle the responsive adaptations.
  • The breakpoints at which page layouts adapt can be customized in both frameworks. Bootstrap has predefined breakpoints, while Tailwind lets you fully configure breakpoints.
  • Responsiveness in Bootstrap works right out of the box. With Tailwind, you need to customize and apply the necessary utilities manually.

Overall, both frameworks provide excellent responsive capabilities with mobile-first design in mind. Developers can build responsive sites quickly without writing custom CSS for media queries and fluid layouts.

Community & Resources

Bootstrap has been around longer (since 2011) and thus has a much larger community behind it. Its popularity over the years means there’s great community support available, like tutorials, StackOverflow answers, and open-source plugins/themes. Many developers are already familiar with Bootstrap from previous experience.

Tailwind is newer (created in 2017), so its community is smaller but growing rapidly. Though the official documentation is excellent, fewer learning resources are available compared to Bootstrap. The Tailwind Discord channel and GitHub discussions provide good community support.

While Bootstrap’s community is bigger, Tailwind is gaining momentum. As more developers adopt Tailwind, its community will continue expanding. But Bootstrap will likely maintain the edge in sheer numbers, given its longevity and widespread use.

Learning Curve

Bootstrap has a shallower learning curve compared to Tailwind CSS. Since Bootstrap provides predefined classes, developers can simply look up and apply the classes they need. Everything is laid out with class names like btn, btn-primary, navbar, etc., making learning intuitive.

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS requires learning all the utility classes and how to combine them to build components. Classes in this framework have abstract names like flex, text-center, and p-4 that represent CSS properties. So, you need to know CSS well to leverage this framework effectively. The class names don’t provide any indication of what is being styled.

Bootstrap is easier for beginners, while Tailwind has a steeper learning curve. You must invest time upfront to learn Tailwind CSS before using it efficiently. But the benefit is that once you learn it, you gain fine-grained control over styling and can customize designs without being limited to Bootstrap’s preset components.

Performance

Tailwind is designed to only generate the CSS used in your project. This minimizes unused CSS and results in smaller bundle sizes compared to Bootstrap.

Bootstrap includes the entire framework’s CSS, even if you only use a small portion. This can create unnecessary bloat with unused CSS.

Tailwind avoids unused CSS by being utility-first and generating styles based on the classes you use in your HTML. Nothing more, nothing less. This lean approach reduces file size and improves performance.

Bootstrap takes a different approach with predefined classes and component-based styling. While powerful, you pull in CSS for things you may not use. This isn’t optimal for performance.

So, if you want to optimize bundle size and eliminate unused CSS, Tailwind has a clear advantage. Its Just-In-Time engine analyzes your HTML and outputs lean stylesheets. Bootstrap’s global styling can have a lot of overhead in comparison.

However, Bootstrap may be a better choice if you need complex components out of the box. The tradeoff is unused CSS and larger files. With Tailwind, you build up components yourself using utility classes. This gives you flexibility but requires more work.

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Conclusion

Bootstrap and Tailwind are widely used CSS frameworks that make it faster and easier to build responsive web apps. However, they have some key differences. Bootstrap may be better if you want prebuilt components and don’t need much customization. But If you prefer writing CSS utilities yourself and want fine-grained responsiveness control, Tailwind is likely the better option.

In summary, Bootstrap favors convention, while Tailwind favors customization. When choosing these useful frameworks, consider your team’s skills, project needs, and preferences.

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