bootstrap tutorial for beginners

There was a time when professional web design was out of reach for all but large corporations. Now, anyone can Bootstrap a website without sacrificing quality or functionality. 

What is Bootstrap?

Bootstrap is “the world’s most popular front-end component library” for building responsive, mobile-first websites. Back up…what’s a component? Carousels, buttons, nav bars, etc., all the pieces you need to build a site by quickly copying and pasting snippets of HTML. 

It’s the ultimate front-end framework that was created to make web design fast and virtually effortless. Bootstrap was first used to build Twitter, and it’s still a popular open source platform that almost anyone can use with a little knowledge and experimentation. 

Using this tool allows developers to focus on fine-tuning the front-end look and functionality, building on current HTML and CSS-supported style sheets to create any feature you need to make your user interface mobile-friendly and hassle-free. 

The JQuery plugins allow you to place carousels, provide pop-outs and tool-tips that users can mouse over, and add any buttons needed for their website to function. It focuses on three areas, grid layouts, mobile-first functionality, and flat design. With Bootstrap, you can:

  • Create multi-form layouts with distinct classes
  • Build prototypes
  • Showcase images and other content by creating carousels or sliders
  • Create dynamic tabs to handle large blocks of content
  • Add components like modals and accordions without needing to touch any JS

Responsive website design that’s big on user experience (UX) should be the goal of all website owners, regardless of the purpose of your site or the intended audience. Our goal is to give you some tips and tricks to get the most out of this platform regardless of your level of tech knowledge or skill. 

Tip 1: Begin With the Basics

You can get started with Bootstrap by opening it with a content delivery network (CDN). It’ll load faster and streamline the process of creating your first web page with this platform. Once you install jQuery and JS libraries in the footer of the index.html file, you’re ready to open your code editor and create a sample html file. Please note that jQUery is required to use Bootstrap’s JS plugins. Hopefully, this will change some time in the near future.

Make sure to place the meta tag inside the header section to enable touch zooming and proper mobile rendering. You can try it out using this example:

bootstrap tutorial how to place the meta tag inside the header section to enable touch zooming and proper mobile rendering

This can be converted from plain HTML to a Bootstrap template by using their links to include Bootstrap CSS, JS files, any required jQuery, and Popper.js. Include JS files at the bottom of the page just before you close the body to get better page performance. It should look like this:

include Bootstrap CSS, JS files, any required jQuery, and Popper.js.

Website visitors that already have Bootstrap CSS and JS files installed using the same CDN as yours during their browsing sessions will be able to load your web pages directly from the browser cache, which will further reduce page loads. 

Once you’ve created the template, you can save it to your desktop for easy access later. 

Tip 2: Getting Used to Grids

bootstrap tutorial grid example

You won’t truly see the beauty of Bootstrap’s front-end flow until you get the hang of the grid system. The responsive design mechanisms just glide over the templates and create an environment with great UI across all mobile devices which, thanks to Google’s mobile-first indexation, can lead to higher exposure in search engine results

With now more than 50 percent of all internet traffic of the mobile variety, this becomes a huge deal. The grid itself is created on a framework of containers that are designed to snap into place, with an impenetrable gutter surrounding them to keep each design element in place and prevent overlap. 

Grids are easy to learn but can be difficult to master. They provide you with a template that can be used to build quite complex sites, but once you get the hang of them there are endless possibilities. 

Here are the basics. The grid template contains 12 columns labeled “navbar,” “headers”, “cards,” and other functions you’ll want to add to your pages. The way the containers work, columns are created that allow content to flow freely within each column, and it’s controlled by nesting the offsets and rows in a way that always ensures the right amount of space between each. 

This process offers some symmetry to the layout without bleeding too close to the browser edges or crowding content, and so lets you focus on your design without worrying about how it will look on different displays and browsers. 

The grid widths are expressed as percentages so they can be resized in relation to their parent element. You can remove the gutters – the horizontal padding on column sides – for those times when you just need one column with no padding by adding this bit of code:

bootstrap remove gutter

Bootstrap themes are designed to work with your templates. A bootstrap theme is essentially a package of code that provides the style elements and structure that you’ll end up using on your site. Themes are different from your templates in that themes contain HTML, CSS and JavaScript code that sits on top of your templates. Your templates provide the large-scale structure of your site; themes provide styling, UI components and page layouts. In essence, they are pre-built website templates for you to adapt and build upon. 

Themes are built on top of the Bootstrap core code and ultimately add and improve upon its features. When you download a Bootstrap theme (here is a good place to find them for free), it will come with two folders. The documentation file contains all of the asset files, CSS, JS, and the other contains the theme. Bear in mind that your project is divided among three elements. The HTML contains your project, the JS file holds all of the interactive bits, and the CSS determines the visual layout features like fonts and colors. 

This discussion of themes and templates might sound like a bit much. After all, isn’t Bootstrap supposed to be a lean framework for developing blazing fast, responsive mobile websites? If you need themes and templates, it raises the question why one wouldn’t just default to using a tried-and-true CMS like WordPress.

Well, Bootstrap has some key advantages over more basic CMSs like WordPress. It allows a far greater level of control over your site at a far more fundamental level. In other words, whilst you can certainly build a complex website in WordPress, it’s going to be slow because you’ll have to add plenty of plugins and Javascript to achieve your vision. With Bootstrap, you can build in advanced functionality at a “lower” level, and so your customers will get a site that is both fast and functional.

Tip 3: Creating Responsive Embedded Video

create responsive embedded video

Image from Oculu Video Platform

One of the biggest advantages of working with Bootstrap is how easy it makes responsive web design. This is easily demonstrated by the procedure for embedding video using a helper class to create iFrames. 

It should look like this, with your specs added:

<!– 16:9 aspect ratio –>

<div class=”embed-responsive embed-responsive-16by9″>

Adding this code to your markup will allow Bootstrap to normalize any awkward borders or outlines without the need to define the frame borders. This is the essence of responsive design. 

Now What?

Great website design is only as good as the platform that’s hosting it. In today’s world, you can find affordable hosting solutions that are secure, reliable, and ideal for any type of website. Don’t let the word “cheap” put you off; it’s meant in relative terms. 

Affordable hosting by a reliable provider will allow you or your clients to focus on branding while avoiding common network vulnerabilities that could cause downtime.. What should you look for in a hosting service?

  • Responsive, 24/7 customer support
  • Site backup availability with client access
  • Competitive registration and maintenance costs
  • Lack of caps on bandwidth and storage
  • Ability to add domains as needed
  • Reliable, guaranteed uptime percentages, security, and performance

Final Thoughts

Even if you’re an experienced developer, there’s something to love in this platform. Bootstrap fits right in with Google’s new mobile first indexing, which can help with SEO and compliance. Since it’s an open source platform, you have the flexibility to customize and tweak to your heart’s content. When time is of the essence from design to launch, anything that can get you off the ground faster is worth a second look.

bio photo of Dan Fries

Dan Fries is a freelance writer and full stack Rust developer. He looks for convergence in technology trends, with specific interests in cyber security and micromobility (🛴💨). Dan enjoys snowboarding and is based in Hong Kong with his pet beagle, Teddy.