Bootstrap vs. Tailwind: What’s the difference?

  • 12 mins read

Bootstrap vs. Tailwind: What’s the difference?

Are you struggling to decide between Bootstrap vs. Tailwind CSS?

I totally get it – I’ve been in your shoes before. It can be challenging to weigh the pros and cons of each framework and choose the one that will save you the most time and hassle in the long run. That’s why I’m excited to explore and compare Tailwind vs. Bootstrap in this article.

We’ll take a look at what makes each framework unique and what kind of projects they’re best suited for. As someone who’s used both frameworks, I can tell you that they both have their strengths and weaknesses. But don’t worry, by the end of this article, you’ll know which one is right for you.

So grab a cup of coffee, settle in, and let’s dive into the debate of Bootstrap vs. Tailwind

What is Bootstrap?

If you’ve been in the web development game for a while, you’ve probably heard of Bootstrap. It’s a popular CSS framework that’s been around since 2011, and it was created by Twitter!

Bootstrap has stood the test of time because it provides a set of CSS-based templates and classes for common components. This makes it super easy to create responsive and mobile-friendly designs. 

Let me give you an example: Say you want to create a dropdown menu on your website. With Bootstrap, all you have to do is use the “dropdown-menu” class and dropdown-item classes on the container and child elements, and Bootstrap takes care of the rest.

Coding a dropdown menu in bootstrap simply entails adding the “dropdown” class to your elements:

<div class="dropdown">

  <button class="btn btn-secondary dropdown-toggle" type="button" id="dropdownMenuButton" data-toggle="dropdown" aria-haspopup="true" aria-expanded="false">

    Dropdown button

  </button>

  <div class="dropdown-menu" aria-labelledby="dropdownMenuButton">

    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Action</a>

    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Another action</a>

    <a class="dropdown-item" href="#">Something else here</a>

  </div>

</div>

Now here’s the same thing if you wanted to use plain old CSS:

.dropdown {
  position: relative;
  display: inline-block;
}

.dropdown-toggle {
  background-color: #f5f5f5;
  border: 1px solid #ccc;
  color: #333;
  padding: 8px 12px;
  font-size: 16px;
  line-height: 1.42857143;
  border-radius: 4px;
  cursor: pointer;
}

.dropdown-menu {
  position: absolute;
  top: 100%;
  left: 0;
  z-index: 1000;
  display: none;
  float: left;
  min-width: 160px;
  padding: 5px 0;
  margin: 2px 0 0;
  font-size: 14px;
  text-align: left;
  list-style: none;
  background-color: #fff;
  border: 1px solid #ccc;
  border-radius: 4px;
  box-shadow: 0 6px 12px rgba(0,0,0,.175);
}

.dropdown-menu.show {
  display: block;
}

.dropdown-item {
  display: block;
  width: 100%;
  padding: 3px 20px;
  clear: both;
  font-weight: 400;
  color: #333;
  text-align: inherit;
  white-space: nowrap;
  background-color: transparent;
  border: 0;
}

.dropdown-item:hover, .dropdown-item:focus {
  color: #262626;
  text-decoration: none;
  background-color: #f6f6f6;
}

That’s in addition to the HTML! Now you see why developers might fall in love with Bootstrap.

Now, I’ve personally used Bootstrap a few times in my projects, and I have to say, it’s pretty handy. Providing ready-made styles for common components saves you time and effort.

But I can’t help but feel like its a little dated. Bootstrap sites all seem to have that recognizable old school feel. I mean, look at this:

bootstrap style

Once, while working on a Bootstrap project, I hit a roadblock and couldn’t get the modern look I was going for. Frustrated, I went on a hunt for an alternative–and that’s when I stumbled upon Tailwind CSS.

What is Tailwind CSS?

Tailwind CSS is a utility-first CSS framework created in 2017 by Adam Wathan and Steve Schoger. Unlike other frameworks like Bootstrap, Tailwind doesn’t come with pre-made components. Instead, it gives you all the tools you need to design and build your components from scratch.

One of the things I love about Tailwind is how it makes responsive design so easy. The framework takes care of all the media queries for you, so you have to specify the breakpoint you want to target in front of the class you’re using. This makes it a breeze to create designs that look great on any device, whether a giant desktop screen or a small mobile phone.

Another thing that differentiates Tailwind is its fantastic integration with IDEs like VS Code. The integration makes it so simple to write Tailwind CSS classes with features like autocomplete suggestions, linting, and class definitions right in the editor. No more jumping back and forth between a stylesheet and the documentation.

The core framework uses utility classes like px-4, text-center, and rounded-full to make styling elements quick and easy. And the best part is you don’t have to write CSS or come up with class names. Tailwind takes care of all that for you, so you can focus on what you do best – creating fantastic designs!

Difference between Tailwind and Bootstrap

Here are some of the key differences between Tailwind CSS and Bootstrap:

Let’s start with the utilities

One thing that sets these two frameworks apart is their approach to utilities.

Tailwind CSS is just all about utility classes. To style an HTML component, you’ll have to use utility classes and apply them directly to the HTML elements. It’s sort of like inline styling but with some cool benefits. 

What I really mean by this is that you could use the utility class “md:flex-row” to change the flex-direction from column to row on larger-sized screens. This just makes creating responsive designs that look great on any device easy.

Bootstrap, on the other hand, has a lot of minimal utility classes that can save s your time. With Bootstrap, you can instantly add margin or padding to HTML elements using spacing utility classes. And the best part is that the text utility classes can help you control text alignment, weight, wrapping, and more. 

For example, you could use “text-center” to center your text or “fs-1” to increase the font size to “Heading 1” size. And if you want to make your text bold, you can use “fw-bold“.

How about the components?

With Tailwind CSS, you have the freedom to create your own components or use a component library like daisyUI or Mamba UI. But keep in mind Tailwind CSS doesn’t come with pre-defined components like Bootstrap.

Bootstrap, on the other hand, has a whole bunch of pre-made components ready for you to use. This really helps Bootstrap takes the edge when it comes to Bootstrap vs. Tailwind.

Bootstrap’s got your back when it comes to premade components – from cards and modals to carousels and buttons, you name it! And the icing on the cake? You can seamlessly add your own custom styles to these components to tailor them to your design needs. How cool is that?

Each one has a different transition and learning curve

As someone who has used both, I can tell you that the transition from Bootstrap to Tailwind CSS can be a bit tricky, at first. If you’re used to the component-based approach of Bootstrap, Tailwind CSS can take some time. But trust me, if you give it some effort and patience, you’ll soon realize the beauty of the utility-first framework.

You see, Bootstrap has a whole bunch of pre-built components ready to use–And that’s great! But, for me, it’s a double-edged sword. While it saves you time in the short run, it makes customizing the design more complicated. 

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS is all about customizing and styling elements from scratch. It may take some extra time initially, but it allows for a more intuitive and organic design process.

Tailwind CSS writes more like regular CSS than Bootstrap, so if you’re familiar with CSS, you’ll feel right at home. The final output is always kept in mind, so there’s minimal CSS to write. So, if you’re looking for a framework that’s more flexible and easy to customize, give Tailwind CSS a try. You won’t regret it!

Both Tailwind and Bootstrap have the Docs and Community

When it comes to documentation, both Tailwind CSS and Bootstrap have really got you covered. They offer a very clear and concise guide that helps you get started and just dive into all the features and functions. And, well, good news, they’re regularly updated so that you can stay on top of any changes.

Now when we talk about community, obviously sort of takes the edge over simply because it has been around since 2011, and before Tailwind CSS, it didn’t even have to compete with any other framework. So it ended up becoming the most widely used CSS framework in the whole wide world. It shouldn’t be a surprise that it has a larger and more established community with a wider range of third-party plugins and resources available.

On the other hand, Tailwind CSS is a relatively new kid on the block, first released in 2018. But don’t let that fool you! It’s quickly gaining popularity and has a growing community of passionate developers who are constantly working to improve the framework and create new resources for it.

A Different Approach to Grids: Tailwind vs. Bootstrap

Tailwind CSS and Bootstrap employ quite distinct approaches when it comes to grid systems. If you use Tailwind CSS, you’ll have access to a highly flexible grid system that will make even the most intricate layouts a breeze to create. With Tailwind CSS, you can modify the grid in any way you choose, including the number of columns, the gutter width, and the breakpoints. Since Tailwind CSS’s grid classes are generated dynamically, you may tailor the grid settings in your CSS file to your project’s precise requirements.

To create a grid with four columns and a gap between each element, you only need a little bit of code, compared to regular CSS:

<div class="grid grid-cols-4 gap-4">

  <div>01</div>

  <div>02</div>

  <div>03</div>

  <div>04</div>

</div>

You apply the utility class “grid,” to tell any child elements that they will be part of the grid, with “grid-cols” setting them to a vertical or column formation. “Cols-4” sets the column-count to four and finally, the “gap-4” class applies a spacing of 1rem or 16px between each element.

In contrast, Bootstrap’s grid system is more conventional in nature…

with fixed breakpoints and a smaller collection of grid classes. There are 12 columns in the Bootstrap grid system, and you may set the width of each element in response to different screen sizes.

Although this method may appear simpler to use initially, keep in mind that it simply might restrict your freedom to design ingenious and intricate patterns. So as a developer, you will be unable to provide your own point of view and will be limited to providing a more generic one; this kind of eliminates any room for originality in front-end development.

Having said that, there are advantages and disadvantages to both grid systems. While the grid system in Tailwind CSS is very adaptable and makes it simple to construct even elaborate layouts, it might be difficult to grasp for inexperienced programmers. The grid system of Bootstrap is more intuitive and user-friendly than that of Tailwind CSS, although the latter may be better suited to more complicated tasks.

The decision between using Tailwind CSS or Bootstrap’s grid system should be made based on the specific needs of your project. Tailwind CSS is a great option if you need a flexible grid system with many customization options. Bootstrap, on the other hand, is an excellent choice if you want a more clear and more easy-to-use grid layout.

Bootstrap vs. Tailwind CSS, Things to Keep in Mind

When it comes to choosing between Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS for your next project, you want to make sure you have all the important information to make the best decision for your specific needs. Here are some things to keep in mind:

Design Work

I’ve found that Bootstrap offers pre-built CSS components for you to use, making it a faster option for those who don’t excel at designing. However, If you are required to design and build components from scratch, you go with Tailwind; this can be a challenge but also a great opportunity for you to improve your design skills.

Customizability

Want more control over your website’s design? Then Tailwind CSS is the right pick for you as it provides you with low-level utility classes for customization. Bootstrap’s pre-built components may not be flexible enough to meet your design needs.

Performance

Both Tailwind CSS and Bootstrap have been optimized for performance, but Tailwind CSS has a smaller file size which can lead to faster load times for your website.

Bootstrap vs. Tailwind: Final Thoughts

As a fellow web developer, I know how overwhelming it can be to choose between Bootstrap and Tailwind CSS. Both frameworks have their own set of strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately, it all boils down to your project’s specific requirements.

If you’re after a faster development process and less time designing, then Bootstrap is your best bet. Its pre-built CSS components and UI kit can save you tons of time, letting you focus on coding. But bear in mind that using pre-built components may limit your design options, and your site may end up looking generic.

On the flip side, if you’re looking for more control over your design and want a unique-looking website that showcases your frontend skills, Tailwind CSS is the way to go. Sure, building your components from scratch will take more time, but the low-level utility classes provided by Tailwind CSS will give you full creative control over your design.