February 19, 2013

Please stop using Twitter Bootstrap

Let’s be honest: a great many of us are tired of seeing the same old Twitter Bootstrap theme again and again. Black header, giant hero, rounded blue buttons, Helvetica Neue.

Yes, you can customize the header to be a different color, maybe re-color some of the buttons, use a different font. Ultimately, however, that doesn’t change anything—it still looks like Bootstrap.

I get it, really. Twitter Bootstrap is great for developers; all of the pieces are nicely laid out for you, use a consistent design language, and piece together like Lego. No design sense needed and no creativity involved. You just import the CSS file and go.

But when you start to see the same layout over, and over, and over again users begin to tune out. You’ve lost me. Your design looks like one of 6,000 other sites out there. And not just the same general layout, but the exact same components.

The problem with Bootstrap is that it is so heavy-handed, so prescriptive, that it is actually a nuisance to modify. It’s easier to use the defaults. You certainly can modify it signficantly and, if you decide to use it anyway, I would encourage you to do so. But most people do not bother.

There are some times it is appropriate to use Twitter Bootstrap’s defaults. Like for an admin dashboard, an open source project's documentation, a prototype, or a weekend hackathon. However, once you go beyond the stage of small test project, it's time to think beyond the black header, blue buttons, and grey 1px outlined boxes.

Twitter Bootstrap’s success has turned it into the Times New Roman of design. It has a time and a place, but you wouldn’t use Times New Roman on your startup’s website, would you?

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Joshua Gross is web designer and developer, and principal of Planetary based in Brooklyn, NY.