This is Part 4 in multipart series on the State of Mobile Frameworks in 2014, if you haven’t already read the previous articles, they are here:


I spent some time creating a bootstrap version of my Recipe Folder app before switching to TopCoatTouch. It was fairly easy to switch from jQuery mobile to a bootstrap implementation but the application just didn’t feel like a mobile app, but more like a website so I abandoned the project after about a week. These are just some things to bear in mind when reading this review, that while I am very familiar with Bootstrap and mobile Bootstrap I have only spent a week or so building a hybrid app in Bootstrap and with more time I may have had a much different experience.


Bootstrap is another monster in the mobile world now, especially with Bootstrap 3.0 and its emphasis on “responsive” and “mobile first” design. And it can’t be argued that it is popular, a lot of the sites you see created in the past few years are written with the aid of Bootstrap (or perhaps Zurb’s Foundation). It provides a great way to get a website up and going, and looking good with as little effort as possible, and with its prevelence on the web it provides a familiar comforting look and feel to the site. And mobile websites (not apps) properly designed look and feel fantastic, however when run as app on a phone or tablet it really feels like a website packaged for that device.

How it Works

While Bootstrap will work with just css (unlike, say jQuery mobile), it requires jQuery and Bootstrap’s own javascript files to gain access to some of the more powerful Bootstrap functionality like transitions, modals, dropdowns, tabs, tooltips, etc. You decorate your elements with Bootstrap classes (as well as the default css that Bootstrap provides) to provide the functionality. After a short learning curve you will be creating sites that can work well both phones, tablets and desktops. However, you will have to take a bit of care in your design depending on your site to get a proper mobile experience that doesn’t feel like scrolling safari as responsive design requires more than a simple framework to make it successful, you have to spend some time designing how the experiences should work. However, all that said, while Bootstrap makes very nice mobile websites they look like website and not apps. This is the main problem with using Bootstrap to create a mobile app, is that you have to make fairly radical changes to the Bootstrap css and javascript to get the feeling of app rather than a website. That said, the Twitter Bootstrap folks have recently pushed Ratchet which was initially an IOS prototyping tool, the latest version looks like something to keep an eye on in the mobile app space.

Advantages - Easy to use, and if you haven’t worked with some kind CSS framework in the past few years you really should spend some time with either bootstrap or foundation. - Very popular, hundreds or thousands of Bootstrap themes are available as well as hundreds of plugins. - Modern looking, constantly updated, and has a very nice web ascetic. - It is very thoroughly and nicely documented.

Disadvantages - Looks like a website, not an app. - Requires lots of changes to the css and js to get the appearance of an app, which makes it difficult to upgrade. - While it provides a lot of features for a web developer it really doesn’t provide much for the mobile developer, there is no way to deal with fixed toolbars (the position:fixed css attribute is notoriously broken in mobile) or scrollable div’s (overflow: auto is another issue with many mobile browsers to the point where the scrolling is so jerky that people assume that they need a native client to get smooth scrolling on a mobile device).


Next up, KendoUI Mobile