Bootstrap or Foundation: Which Front-End Framework Should You Use?

Designers working at desk in small office
izusek/E+/Getty Images

Front-end frameworks (also known as CSS frameworks) are invaluable tools for saving time and streamlining your site-building process. There are many out there, but for most people it comes down to a choice between the two “big” ones: Bootstrap and Foundation.

Neither is necessarily better than the other, objectively speaking, but most people have a definite preference based on what they’re looking for in a CSS framework.

In this article, I want to help you figure out which one best fits your needs.

About Bootstrap

Originally created to serve as Twitter’s internal style guide, Bootstrap rocketed to worldwide popularity after its public release in August 2011. Now in version 3.2, the mobile-first framework is free and open source.

With almost 83,000 stars on Github making it the most-starred project, it has a large fanbase and is the most widely-used framework currently available.

About Foundation

Also free and open source, Foundation has a similar origin story, with roots as a company guide at Zurb Foundation. Like Bootstrap, it is mobile-first, and describes itself as “the most advanced responsive front-end framework.”

Recently, Foundation unveiled version 5.3, and although it’s still much less mainstream than Bootstrap, the latest releases have been converting more and more users.

Which Should You Use?

Like I said earlier, there’s really no “right answer,” but there are a few key differences that just might make the decision for you.

If you like to use Less, Bootstrap is the way to go, as it is currently unavailable in Foundation. Likewise, if your target demographics often use Internet Explorer, Bootstrap is the better idea; Foundation does not support IE 8.

One of the primary advantages of Bootstrap lies in its popularity. Since it is used by so many, it stands to reason that there is more information available: more tutorials, more answered questions, etc.

If you’ve never used a front-end framework before, it’s undoubtedly the easiest place to start.

Web-building veterans, however, may prefer the flexibility of Foundation. It’s a little more bare-bones, which allows for additional customizability. 

The simplest way to explain who should use which framework is probably this:

  • If you need to build and launch websites quickly and easily (and don’t mind if it looks a little more pre-made), Bootstrap will serve you well.
  • If you want to spend a little more time on the front-end, get in-depth into the customization, and make your site look more unique, choose Foundation.

(This may not apply to you, but often developer-oriented people will opt for Bootstrap, while designers prefer Foundation.)

Conclusion

Since both frameworks are free and open-source, the only way to get your final answer may be just to try each.

You may discover that one just feels more “natural” and produces results you like the look of. And if that’s the case, then your decision will be easy.