Bootstrap 3The latest release of Twitter’s Bootstrap framework (some 2 months back) has both great as well as troubling implications for web designers who are currently using Bootstrap 2 (including those who have switched over to Joomla! 3). While there is no need to switch over immediately, its new features and a new paradigm means that this will be an attractive option for many.

Not everyone will jump on the bandwagon, of course. Joomla’s core development team, for instance, has intimated that they will not be incorporating Bootstrap 3 until the next major version of Joomla (v4, in this case). This means that Bootstrap 2 will continue to be the primary framework used in Joomla’s core and its extensions until a year from now. But if you want to be on the bleeding edge, then do take these things into consideration:

Bootstrap 3 is mobile-first

A significant (and very extensive) remodeling of the framework means that Bootstrap 3 is optimised and designed in view of mobile devices that may have minimal screen size and a portrait orientation by default. Bootstrap 3, in fact, has RWD in mind all throughout (but its developers understand that not every website should be responsive, and they do allow you to turn it off), and has changed its grid system to suit. In effect, this means that they expect Web developers to design their sites on phone screen resolutions, then make sure they work well when moving to higher resolutions. If you have been designing for desktop resolutions, and then testing for mobile devices, this is a change of paradigm you will have to get used to.

Bootstrap 3 breaks sites based on earlier versions

Simply dropping the new version of Bootstrap into your existing website could cause you a world of hurt. Almost everything has been redesigned and – more importantly – renamed. While there are ways of auto-updating your website from Bootstrap 2 to 3, it is a non-trivial task, and you would be best off checking manually that everything went smoothly.

Bootstrap 2 is no longer officially supported

Unlike proprietary software which has incredible support lifecycles (Microsoft, for instance, has supported Windows XP for a staggering 12 years), FOSS does not (and cannot) sustain such a business model, and is likely to have support lifecycles measured in months. In light of this, Twitter’s decision to drop support & continued development for Bootstrap 2 is understandable. The documentation is still on their website, and obviously expertise in Bootstrap 2 is not going away soon. Official support is not critical for something rarely subject to security vulnerabilities – but it is something to keep in mind.

Older browsers are no longer supported

For most people, this is probably not an issue. But if you do have a substantial number of users still using IE7 and/or Firefox 3.x, either stick with Bootstrap 2, or ask them to upgrade. Globally, the total number of people still surfing with both browsers combined is less than 2%, which is probably why Twitter decided they could drop support.

Progress is inevitable, and by 2015, assuming Twitter hasn’t come up with Bootstrap 4 or 5, we should see widespread adoption of this very popular framework. If you are building a website based on Bootstrap 3 right now, you should take full advantage of its greater ease and versatility. Otherwise, you may want to hold off for a year or so.

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