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Great, Another Bootstrap Site (drawar.com)
213 points by alecperkins on March 7, 2012 | hide | past | favorite | 109 comments

Bootstrap gives us a sane, standard look and feel for the web, which is a good thing. The design community generally doesn't like the idea of standards because they are a creative community, and there is no more damning phrase in the creative communities of the modern era than "unoriginal". But unoriginal is exactly what most people want with most of their web applications: they want to know how to work the things instinctively and not learn another UI for this or that task.

As a small example: with bootstrap, buttons look the same, so users instinctively recognize them without additional mental effort. Developers can focus on developing applications that are functional and usable, rather than tweaking CSS to make things "look right".

I think bootstrap, and the non-coercive standardization of web applications it is fostering, is one of the most important developments of 2011-2012.

I do think means there will be less need for straight-up aesthetic designers, with UX and information architecture becoming more important.

> Bootstrap gives us a sane, standard look and feel for the web, which is a good thing.

NO. It is NOT a good thing. When it comes to visual design, things are supposed to look different. Twitter is meant to look different than Facebook and facebook should not look like Amazon. That's how you create mind-space . Bootstrap kills that - they all just look the same.

I can't remember name of one site that was made with Bootstrap. because there is nothing special,visually, to remember. No visual cue.

> Developers can focus on developing applications that are functional and usable, rather than tweaking CSS to make things "look right".

That's cool if you are building for just developers. But when it comes to non-devs, you don't want to confuse them, visually, with some other website. Remember, for many Facebook is a that "blue" site. With so many people taking bootstrap as it is, it's going to be... un-special.

I remember my friend discovering facebook themed Tumblr theme. People actually confused it with facebook and made comments like

"Why can't I update my status?"

"Who the hell are you and what are you doing on my fb?"


Also, the author is not saying Bootstrap is bad. In fact, it's good that you can focus on dev and have good defaults on CSS and design. But leaving it there is BAD. (read above, why). Take it forward.

Quick Fix: Don't use the Bootstrap top bar. Seriously, that's one major shift.

- Another Pissed at Bootstrap websites Designer

And yet Facebook, Twitter and Google all have a nearly identical top bar (sorry, Facebook's is blue). They have billions of page views to analyze and have all come to the same conclusion.

> NO. It is NOT a good thing. When it comes to visual design, things are supposed to look different. Twitter is meant to look different than Facebook and facebook should not look like Amazon. That's how you create mind-space . Bootstrap kills that - they all just look the same.

It depends on your goal. If you want to make an application that people use all day, having a unique UI is probably not a win. If you used Netscape back in the day you can use Chrome today and not have trouble. Consistency itself can be beautiful.

If you're making a marketing site, then your designer can go wild (as long as everything is being tested for effectiveness).

I don't think anyone is complaining about the structural similarities between bootstrap sites. If 50% of the sites out there had fixed top-bar navs and responsive content made of three columns under a hero panel, everyone would win. The question is why everyone has light-black Helvetica Neue text on grey and white backgrounds with blue accents, with aqua-blue gradient pill buttons everywhere.

They are not. It's not just the colors but the visual style. They are different for all three. Conclusion is > have a top bar .. with distinct visual style.

> If you want to make an application that people use all day, having a unique UI is probably not a win.

Not discussing user interface design, it's about visual style. Button should look like a button, but not so much like other site that user confuses your site with someone else's.

>Consistency itself can be beautiful.

Yes, same with search engines, if you used Google you can use Yahoo. But still their visual design is different in many ways if not search result. You can tell Yahoo from Google but not two Bootstrap sites.

Consistency is good for usability. Again, Button should look like a button, but not so much like other site that user confuses your site with someone else's.

>Not discussing user interface design, it's about visual style. Button should look like a button, but not so much like other site that user confuses your site with someone else's.

If you are relying on the style of your buttons to distinguish your site from all the others, perhaps you should be spending more time on building out the content/functionality of your site.

I often find that designers are more worried about how a site will look in a portfolio than whether the end users will get anything out of the site.

Do you get confused when you run native apps on your Mac? Like, you can't recall which app does which because they all use native controls with a standard L & F? If you do, this is a usability concern I've not heard of and would love more research into. Most usability studies focus on how effectively one can perform a task in an app, not how quickly one can recollect which application performs which function for them, so it may just not be well-studied.

VIsual design: I'd be confused if all apps used same icons. Paramount to using that bootstrap topbar with same visual style.

Note: You could change colors / gradients and some visual design aspects and things would be different.

Are you a web designer? Because some folks (yours truly included) don't have great design sense, so putting up a bootstrap site is much better than the alternative 2003 geo-cities look that is just as easy to create. When it comes to the lesser of two evils, i'd choose "less" and bootstrap.

I am a UX designer. Bah let's just call me a designer. Included the "Quick Fix" for people who might not have a great design sense.

Sorry, but do you even remember the days before Bootstrap where developers come to showcase their work? Most of their crap are severely under-styled. Some forms in admin sections don't even have labels because the developers knew what the fields were for, so they never bothered to make it remotely comprehend-able for the rest of the team.

I agree, sites should be styled. Bootstrap makes it amazingly easy for those developers who want to build an MVP. Tweaks are nice, but if you have zero design skills, they may or may not be necessary.

One would be a fool to simply ignore a web project because they were built on Bootstrap. If it's not relevant to your needs, sure, ignore it. If it can help solve your problems, pay attention to the app and don't worry about the design so much. If it makes a ton of money, I'm sure they can re-invest some of that back into making it look better.

To be honest, I'd prefer Amazon to use Bootstrap with a yellow branded bar at the top, ditto Facebook (with FB blue). Ditto for any flight search website. Anything that's an "application". With blogs however, I don't want to see it resembling the default.

To clear few things up lets discuss why Bootstrap is here.

Bootstrap should be taken as a base where from we can start building our applications right away while being real agile cause it provides us with mostly used design patterns and interactions which if we require can differ from in our design iterations (!imp). So again its essentially a framework providing some conventional patterns for development which I presume is bit like convention over configuration paradigm.

I would agree with the point that visual style matters as its is something which will molds into your brand identity and must be unique as all products are unique in one way or other. So yes its really a fail when most of the developers choose to maintain same Visual style in their sites which is to me is an utter disrespect of brand identity and something that must be avoided.

>Consistency is good for usability. Again, Button should look like a button, but not so much like other site that user confuses your site with someone else's.

As far as Usability is concerned to my understanding it is not affected in any way by fact that 2 sites have visually similar buttons but it is rather defined on the basis of content they provide and how it is presented(!imp). Difference between usability and visual appearance is quite understood I guess.

You might want to consider reading this post by Dave Winer "Why Bootstrap might be very important" http://scripting.com/stories/2012/03/07/whyBootstrapMightBeV... and Twitter Devblog - A brief history https://dev.twitter.com/blog/bootstrap-twitter

Bootstrap is not for Amazon or Facebook. We're talking about websites for wrestling events in the UK -- literally one of the sites in the gallery that the author links to -- and other such things that really do not need to present any sort of ground-breaking, or even interesting, visual design.

+1 to this.

When I talk to other designers and inevitably get into arguments with them about standards, I try to get them to see it from a consumer's point of view for non-IT products.

There are a lot of non-IT products that have the same design: doors to houses, door knobs, rear-view mirrors, tires. The list goes on.

While it's fun to see a new design to a Web site/app, even as a techie I sometimes struggle with using the sexiest websites simply because the designer has changed what I perceive to be a standard usability feature. I can't imagine what Joe 6-Pack thinks when he encounters these sites.

I find this and the parent to be flawed. Door, knobs and so on come in a wide variety of shapes, materials and colors; and so do buttons (open an explorer or finder window - almost every means of interacting with these relies on a button, and they vary widely in appearance.)

The argument this blog post makes isn't that there's a problem with standards, but that a lot of people are using bootstrap without any modification - which is ironic, because modifying bootstrap is vastly easier and safer than creating a new design from scratch.

It takes very little to adjust the colors of the buttons provided by bootstrap, or the links, or add a texture to the background, or change some fonts out (Google webfonts makes this ridiculously easy). When this isn't done, the site leaves no lasting impression unless what it provides is so amazing I can't possibly forget it (this is pretty rare).

For me, power tools would be something that goes at the far functional end of a functional/aesthetic design scale, and even then companies will use widely different colors to separate themselves from their competitors and make them easy to recognize. Perhaps there's something to be learned there.

But for a lot of things, I really don't care if it leaves an impression or not. I just want the thing to work well for my users. Bootstrap provides me with (almost) everything I need to do that. I'm not saying custom design isn't important or doesn't add value, I'm just saying it doesn't always do.

You don't care if your app / site leaves an impression? It's not just the user flow, it's also emotional - design is holistic.

For some things I really don't. Think internal tooling and such.

I don't think the OP is really talking about internal tooling, but rather the wider web.

Even internal tooling should be nice to use.

Of course! Which is why Bootstrap is such a godsend for it. It just doesn't need to have an impressive innovative design.

I found your opinion to be flawed, IMHO.

While most knobs looks similar, you always can see before even touching whether this knob is a rotating one or just press a handle. Furthermore, I have never seen a door with a knob to be placed 10 inches from the ceiling (or the floor), something that would definitely be considered "original" and "nonstandard".

There's a difference between unique style, and unique function. It's possible to have a unique style while still taking advantage of existing affordances. The visual style has to work with the affordance for it to be useful, but they aren't in lock-step.

For example, both a button with a gradient simulating a curved surface with top-down lighting, and a button with flat color but a drop shadow indicate they are to be pressed. But, both can have a very different visual impact.

The same is true of knobs, switches, push bars, and so on. It's possible to vary the style without straying from the established affordances present. The article's point about Bootstrap is that people are given a factory for making different color doors and windows, but not bothering to change the colors despite the ease of doing so that the framework provides. The result being that the houses are all starting to look kind of dull.

> There's a difference between unique style, and unique function

just how many way can you click a button?

If the button requires click and drag, like the shutter button for Mattebox on the iPhone, then it's unique compared to the other ordinary shutter buttons, even though visually it's barely different. (Fortunately, it's different enough to indicate what needs to be done — affordance.) That's a fairly unique interaction, certainly within camera apps, that doesn't require much style differentiation.

Using the door handle metaphor, and example would be a handle that's a few inches from the floor and looks almost the same as a handle at 32 inches but is better served by pressing with your foot. Visually the same but very different interactions.

Door knobs are not visual style. They are user interface. If all logos looked the same, you'll be in utter confusion. That's what visual design is for. Your unique self.

Standards !== Aesthetics.

I wholeheartedly agree. This is one of my major gripes with web apps replacing native ones. I never have to figure out what's a button or a tab on a native app. It seems these two concepts get reinvented ad nauseum with web design, such that I have a hard time figuring out what to interact with or how on many sites. This tends to end up in a cyclic argument of "well, if it were well-designed, it'd be obvious." But, if it looked the same, it'd be even more obvious.

The other half to this is I care more about content & usability than aesthetics. Bootstrap lets me produce and consume content more readily. So, I'm a fan.

Whenever I see "user's want standardized UIs" what I hear is "it's easier for me to _program_ standardized UIs". Users want UIs that are in-tune with their goals and mental models and if you deliver that, it won't matter what size and shape your buttons are.

Snapping widgets together like lego bricks and declaring the result to be a "good" interface because it adheres to "standards" is sometimes true, but not nearly as often as you would think, and in my experience leads to interfaces that map closely to the underlying system, but not at all to what the user actually wants to do.

It's good that a non-designer can use bootstrap to create a decent looking site, heaven knows the world is not over-burdened with good-looking websites, but neither we nor the "users" want every web page, or every web app, to look the same.

I wholeheartedly disagree. While power-users might "want UIs that are in-tune with their goals and mental models" I have helped my parents navigate computers enough to know that a great number of users have no mental model at all. All they know is that the button that gets to their email is third from the left on the bottom -- heaven forbid you change that.

It absolutely is beneficial to a newbie to say "Oh! This site looks a lot like xyz.com, maybe I can log in with this button."

Strong points. But from a usability perspective, Bootstrap would be much more significant if it were opinionated about interactions instead of just gradients, whitespace, and CTA placement.

The examples list of beautiful, usable, and identifiable products and services is long. People learn new patterns quickly - you just have to do a decent job designing the pattern.

Bootstrap's "non-coercive standards" are really just CSS shorthand for an approximation of Apple's successful, so-simple-it-feels-generic, already-easy-to-copy example. Anyone who never invested in a brand or consistent visual language before (and therefore simply wouldn't have a brand or consistent visual language) now just piggybacks Apple's aesthetic. Bootstrap is a small step further on the already well-worth path.

As a web programmer I understand where you're coming from, but as a UX designer I whole heartedly disagree.

Bootstrap is a wonderful tool for getting your app out there without having to do much on a design level. But I believe that websites with a distinct look and easy UI that reflects their functionality is way better than a monotonous string of websites with no distinction between their design.

For instance Twitter's design is beautifully streamlined for it's functionality, which is to show a constant flow of micro-information. As opposed to HN's listed threads which show link based data. These designs even though they differ seem "natural" based on their functionality and require little to no mental effort.

Good UX does not require mental effort.

Furthermore, a unique look is how others identify sites. It's Twitter's UI looked exactly like Facebook's, more would have trouble distinguishing the two. This would hurt the site's capability to make an impression in the user's memory.

With no distinction between websites, how will the casual user remember you?

Spot on. However, I would add that much of the push for 'original' designs come from many other sources beside the designer. I can not tell you how many times I have had clients request all manner of non-standard layouts and other customization to make the website look cool/unique/fresh...

It doesn't give us a same standard, it gives us Twitter's version of a standard. You're points are almost totally right and certainly reasonable but the big problem is that a lot of sites are ending up just looking Bootstrap clones of each other with different names and logos. Standards are great and I'm all for them but for the love of god, please at least make it your own. Making it your own does not mean you have to deviate from any standard and that's a big part of what the author was getting at.

"But unoriginal is exactly what most people want with most of their web applications"

You're kidding, right? What about emotional design, making something that connects the user to your app?

Effort is a finite resource. If I am a team of one, and I need to roll a website for my new widget, I have two choices: I can route effort away from further development/refinement of my widget to "design" a proper website, or I can use Bootstrap and conserve that effort to spend on my core product, widgets.

That's a tough decision. I'm not sure there's a "correct" answer. I think it depends on what you value, and what you believe your target user will value: a better product, or a better website.


If you're actually building a product to sell people it behooves you to put some effort into deviating from the base styles.

On the other hand if you're like me and use it every so often for a one-off project that you have no plan on monetizing then why not? I don't particularly care about the UI look and feel, I just don't want it to look awful which it would if I were to design it myself. Bootstrap gives me a decent looking sane UI with guidelines for me to follow to keep it all sane. Other than that, I just want to work on functionality.

I have a slightly different view. I prefer to spend time designing a unique/good looking website but I do not like to waste my time creating my own buttons, text boxes etc. Modern design styles leans towards a 3D css button and nice large curve text boxes. Just grab them from bootstrap and use the grid for the layouts. Do everything else on your own.

I agree. I think you can use bootstrap as a starting point then move on from there. It just helps things look nice while you allocate resources elsewhere for the time being.

From the perspective of someone who frequents Hacker News then of course it's going to seem like there's a ton of sites using the nearly-stock bootstrap look. That's because people like us actually look at sites like "Built With Bootstrap" and check out people's demos of bootstrap sites. Back in the real world the average internet user will likely never notice.

Most sites in the early stages will have few visitors and due to variety of interests it's unlikely that a single person will be using a large enough number of these sites to start realizing this problem.

As the successful sites grow larger and move beyond the early stages it's likely the developers will have access to more resources to improve their site theme over time and move away from the bootstrap look.

The sad part of this is that it's so easy to make your Bootstrap site look a little different, even for non-designers.

I'm sure the idea here is "oh, I'm just making a quick MVP, or even a pre-MVP, or a weekend project, and Bootstrap makes the design super easy!" But if you're not going to change it at all, you might as well stick with browser defaults and not include a stylesheet at all - at this point, uncustomized Boostrap looks just as tacky as a site that was black serif text on a white background with blue and purple links.

It's easy to fix, and it's fun. Just take an hour to experiment - your site deserves it. Change up the fonts! Get a nice header font, especially if you're using a big "Hero" badge. Look at the Google Web Font gallery for some inspiration. Get some unique colors - different shades for different elements, build a nice visual hierarchy.

Drop the top nav bar, unless you're doing docs or something that could actually use it. It looks a bit tacky, especially "position: fixed", when it's unnecessary.

Now, on the other hand, you don't have to change everything. Leave the button gradients as they are, the grid system isn't exactly going to stick out, etc. You just need the overall look of your site to be unique - individual elements don't matter as much. http://www.savng.com/ is built with Bootstrap, but you couldn't tell it unless you really were looking (and thus noticed the "Add a deal" button and the pill navs at the bottom).

Just be a bit different. It's easy, and rewarding.

I think the point that an uncustomized Bootstrap looking just as tacky as a plain html site is only true for people who hang around on HN or similar sites and so see many different sites using Bootstrap. For your average Joe on the internet, a Bootstrap-ped site will look much more professional and less tacky than a plain html site. So depending on your target audience, there might not be much motivation to spend any time customizing your site.

Bingo, give this man (or woman, or whatever) a cookie. Not everybody is like us, scouring the internet all day long for new startups and clicking every interesting link that shows up on HN. The average Joe off the street has probably seen 2 bootstrap based sites in his life, and has no idea what bootstrap is, and couldn't care less that a site he's using looks nearly identical to 3000 other sites that he'll most likely never visit.

This whole "bootstrap backlash" is just a storm in a teacup and a waste of bandwidth.

That is the way the Internet works.

1. Product, hardware or software, gains the hearts and minds of hackers everywhere. 2. Backlash.

+1 (and a cookie). Average Joe is used to seeing sites like http://www.universityinnfresno.com/ or http://www.sunnyvalemetro.org/ and so, a clean site based on Bootstrap is a ton better than most of what he comes across. The # of Bootstrap-based sites is a tiny, tiny sliver of all sites out there and no one other than your dedicated HN-reader is going to come across a 2nd Bootstrap site the same day.

Heck, I hang around on HN a lot and still think that the default Bootstrap theme looks great. Sure, a little variety wouldn't hurt and I'd probably change some stuff (like some of the colors) before deploying a real project with it but it looks and works great and it's better than anything I could make as a programmer.

This. 100 times this. For the people who actually matter (for non design/web related projects).... the customers, they do not even notice. If you aren't going after designers, or web devs themselves, bootstrap looks very professional....and I for one, am not here to stroke designers egos, but to make money.

Hey! I am the owner/creator/customer support/janitor/one-man-wrecking-crew of Savng.com.

I am pleasantly surprised to see it mentioned as a good example of Bootstrap based sites. On a unrelated note, I am not sure how you found it since I have really advertised it yet :o

To echo the same sentiment as avolcano, Bootstrap can be easily modified both via Less or CSS. And this is coming from someone who has rudimentary knowledge in both. A little change here and there can go a long way in differentiating your site from all the other bootstrap clone.

Here are a few low hanging fruits:

1) Colors -- Change the color of the top nav bar, links, text, and etc, as color has a tremendous affect on the look and feel of your site.

2) Font - Changing fonts is easy with Google Web Fonts and font hosting services like Typekit. Like color, it also affects the look and your feel of your site.

3) Laytout - Experiment and try different layouts, 1 column, 2 column, 3 columns and etc. Look at various sites within the same niche (and outside of your niche) for inspirations.

Here are some great resources that I've used in making my site:

1. Google Web Fonts

2. Typekit

3. Site Inspire

4. Siiimple

5. Grid Based

6. Minimal Exhibit

7. Design seeds enclosed (this is a godsend if you don't have a back ground in color theory like me)

8. Little Big Details

It's easy to tweak the Bootstrap defaults, but trying to keep things as cohesive as the defaults can lead you down the rabbit hole of dependencies. BS 2.0 is a big step up, but I've found that playing only with the values in variables.less doesn't cut it quite yet.

I've tried to hit a sweet spot with Bootswatch (http://bootswatch.com), keeping it a quick-start solution for hackers while adding variety to the defaults.

> it's so easy to make your Bootstrap site look a little different

I think the problem is that it's not very easy. And that's why you see so little variation (combined with a certain amount of laziness, of course). Editing the CSS directly is pretty much impossible for mere mortals. And of you're not familiar with LESS and compiling styles, you're going to have trouble.

It's not hard at all. You don't need to recompile with LESS - just have a separate style sheet which overrides the default bootstrap one in selected areas.

> The sad part of this is that it's so easy to make your Bootstrap site look a little different, even for non-designers.

You have to redo your changes for each new Bootstrap version, right? AFAIK, Bootstrap is not themeable and you better extend it than change it.

I think this post is ridiculous. You know how many great law firms have website themes from the 90s? How many great restaurants have that crappy flash intro?

Lots of them and I'm still going to use their service regardless.

"How depressing is it to go through this gallery of sites built with Bootstrap?"

How depressing is it to go to some site that's been hyped up, see a great design, and then see no compelling product behind it?

We would both prefer to use a great product with a crappy website than a crappy product with a great website, but I think the standard has shifted from, "Do you have a website?" up to "How does your website design look compared to your competitor?"

And I think that's a good thing.

You may not be swayed by the design of sites but the majority of people are. A big mistake people make when approaching design is thinking their attitudes apply to "most people". It takes training and experience to really get a feel for how "the average person" will react to something.

The "average" person is confused by things that are new and different. Making them learn a thousand different UIs just so "designers" can show off their artistic inabilities is one of the worst crimes perpetrated by the web.

I think this entire assertion has the wrong idea.

This idea would be valid if the universal alternative to using Bootstrap is some impressive design stitched together by your in-house crack team of designers. But I'm sure the alternative to Bootstrap for most people is for the developer to use his own html/css know-how to construct something passable as he goes.

So, for most people, I'd wager that Bootstrap is mostly just a time optimization that saves the developer from spending time on a design that would have been far less impressive anyways, that saves the developer from burning time that could be allocated to the actual product.

I find it silly to condemn people for how they allocate their time.

Even the whole pro-Bootstrap chorus of "But it's just a standard interface for the web" is silly. Really? I have yet to even stumble across a Bootstrap website in the wild that wasn't linked to from a Show HN. Are these monthly Bootstrap rants conflating the HN echo chamber with the internet? Weekend solo-dev projects with funded business websites? I guarantee it.

The likening of Bootstrap to Wordpress' default theme is telling. Does anyone here really encounter WP's default theme in the wild? I sure don't. Maybe the majority of WP installs still have the default theme, but it's in the same way that the majority of WAMP installs still have the default "It Works!" Apache screen on localhost.

I just don't get the point. If Bootstrap really was some prevalent interface that most of the web started using, then you guys that do have the crack team of designers at your disposal should be excited! Here's your chance to stand out! But I'm using Bootstrap because it's literally faster than any other alternative I can think of until I have someone separately working on a UI branch that I can merge into my code.

If I took your advice and stopped using Bootstrap because you assume "I don't care enough" to make a custom design, I'd end up with something that will probably look worse and guaranteed to take much longer to create giving me more bottlenecks as I get hamstringed by aesthetics when I could instead be funneling my efforts into business logic and not into something that's rather trivial to switch out when my app is deployed and my time frees up to address less-critical concerns.

OTOH, you end up with stuff like this without it ;)


I actually tried to resize the tab to see something similar but was rather surprised by a responsive design. What browser do you use?

Why value uniqueness over simplicity, cleanliness, and learn-ability? When the Mac came out, the primary selling point of the interface was that every application could share a common way of doing things and present it's capabilities to the user.

Bootstrap provides some of this for web applications. I'm not trying to keep my users from being "bored"; I'm trying to give them a simple approachable application where they can get stuff done. A gratuitous re-design serves only the ego of the designer.

Great, another person bitching about seeing bootstrap sites...

I love the look of bootstrap sites. Having identical looking sites beats the shitty design most of these sites would have had before bootstrap.

It comes down to the same issues that I have with templates of tumblr,posterous and wp. They all look the same. I think bootstrap should be used as a way to jumpstart the design process and not built a WHOLE website using the components bootstrap provides.

When I see that grey-black gradient nav bar i go "Haizz yet another bootstrap site."

I now use Twitter Bootstrap as the starting point for all my projects, but not in the way many folk are.

The LESS files are a goldmine for me. Pre-made mixins, cross-browser support, responsive media queries, color functions

For me the LESS is being underplayed while the "default" style CSS is being overused.

It appears people who are writing about Bootstrap are not actually paying attention to its development... As of 2.0, you can customize the colors, and that helps a lot:


Also, it now has responsive design built in, and I am not going to spend my time building that from scratch; I'm going to use a framework!

If you're looking for easy ways to customize it, have a look at http://stylebootstrap.info/ . This was on HN recently.

I've enjoyed Bootstrap for building internal web apps. It's hard to justify a big design budget for something used by a handful of people internally (unless design is your business), so just stock Bootstrap is a huge step up. It's compatible in the browser you use, it's responsive, it's easy to put anything where it needs to go. That really saves time, especially for projects that have a lot of different screens and a ton of "just add this here" requests.

The OP links to this site: http://builtwithbootstrap.com/

There are definitely a few sites that look barely-out-of-the-cookie-cutter...however, there are others that are only vaguely bootstrappish at a glance.

What do people consider the minimum amount of alterations before a bootstrap site looks unique enough? Besides color I mean....font-spacing and sizes? Going from a 12-col grid to 15/16/20-grid?

I don't think anyone would suggest changing the grid system or standard font sizes as a way to differentiate your bootstrapped site. I wouldn't mess with the scaffolding type stuff unless you really need to create a specific desired effect. Off the top of my head, the quickest ways to make a bstrap site look unique and keep the haters happy would be:

1- Navbar, the dark gray will not fly, tweak the height of it too or remove it all together.

2- Background of your container, give it some life. Here is a good place to start- http://subtlepatterns.com/

3- Special font for your branding/ H tags, boom (http://www.google.com/webfonts)

4- change up the button colors a tad, if only one, the blue one, it seems to be everywhere.

The above items will take you 15-30 min depending on how many combinations you try out & will take you pretty far.

Yessssss. SWIM should make a bootstrap theme builder with these in mind!

Talk about a first-world problem! I'm sure the original Ford T was frowned upon by purists for their lack of originality.

For every spoiled designer turning away in disgust from a cookie-cutter bootstrap website, there are 50 web apps being created which would not exist without bootstrap !

For example: at dotCloud our ratio of backend/frontend engineers is 10/1. We've got people (me included) who can automate a cluster of hundreds of machines but are basically UI-impaired. Bootstrap has multiplied our individual velocity by at least 10: now our core platform engineers take the time to write web tools because it's achievable in a couple hours.

And when we finally grew our frontend team there was a point of reference for building a style guide, reusable page elements, etc.

I think the author hits on a good point that he may just be too polite to really call out. A lot of developers get annoyed when designers use some framework to make building web pages simpler and then say they can build sites. This just seems to be the opposite reaction: devs using design frameworks to bang out their sites. Both should be lauded for making it simpler for people to get basic work done. Neither should be confused with what a serious professional can accomplish. When that happens, things get really weird. I personally believe the rash of web designers calling themselves Rails devs really screwed with the Boston area Ruby/Rails market.

'Normals' (http://cdixon.org/2010/01/22/techies-and-normals/) don't give a shit. Unless your audience is purely people deep into technology that look at and analyze sites all day the average person isn't going to know the difference between the site you spent a month designing to be pixel perfect and your average bootstrap site. I tend to find that focusing on the user interactions is way more valuable than focusing on the 'design' (meaning how it looks), bootstrap makes the 'design' part easy, freeing me up to spend my time on other things. This is generally a big win.

I think the real issue is that people are using all of bootstrap to create their weekend hack site and not bothering to even try to be creative with it.

For my site, https://www.voo.st/ we just used a bunch of elements from bootstrap and also parts of the core. We integrated that into an existing theme that we bought for cheap.

For example, the buttons and the form elements are great, we took the header bar and made it a footer. I really think that with some creative thought, bootstrap is really great and much needed in the community.

You need to step out of the mindset of a designer and realize the average person doesn't know or care. If you are building an app/site for web people, then yea...Bootstrap is probably a bad choice because people will know instantly effort wasn't put into the front end and they will judge, consciously or subconsciously (customizing the variables doesn't fix this, people still know). But your article, and the other commenters, make the assumption that apps are only built for web people. I use Bootstrap, raw, as a starting point for MVPs I build for small businesses. It saves me a week's worth of frontend development (that will be redesigned anyways within a few months), and it lets me have an appealing, not mind blowing, look on the site. It takes my mind off of design, and focuses it on biz dev, marketing, and development to get the MVP off the ground. My audience, and millions of others could care less if Bootstrap is used, and would likely prefer it to an ugly developer-designed mess. My point is: Don't denounce an incredible framework that solves a key problem, just because you and several others misinterpret its purpose. And by the way, it is NOT the equivalent of Wordpress Themes, and it was likely never intended to be.

Design is very much the culmination of many details and decisions. What is great about bootstrap is all of those decisions are made for you, leaving you to focus on the part you're good at - the app.

A nice palette of widgets and views makes for a consistent and fairly intuitive experience. Nobody argues Mac apps look too much like one another. Folk get angry when they stop looking like Mac apps.

But this is the web, not the Mac. Websites are expected to look different from one another. But when a engineer starts customizing bootstrap so that it "doesn't look bootstrap" I think the end product is often a broken design with awkward colors, margins and compositions.

I think the author of the OP would enjoy a greater set of bootstrap themes, something like bootswatch.com and furthermore it seems like a great opportunity for a company like themeforest.net or someone similar.

Bootstrap is popular not because of visual styling. What sets it apart is incredible documentation and programmer-friendly semantic markup. Regarding bootstrap as a theme is a disservice. Bootstrap is a framework which could use some more high quality visual themes.

"Seeing a default Bootstrap “theme” site makes me leave it right away because I feel the person doesn’t care about what they are doing."

Get over yourself.

Bootstrap is great for what the name implies, but when you are delivering the product to the public, it's not good enough.

The perfect example is iOS apps. Can you imagine your designers simply copying and pasting from iOS's default theme? It's very bland, it turns off users before they even use it (which in effect, is bad UX. Bootstrap has both + and -, good UXer will see this and adjust accordingly/depending on the phase of the product). I use this resource for my wireframe/mockups http://www.teehanlax.com/blog/iphone-gui-psd-v4/ Personally I won't ever use it in a beta product/website as is.

There's nothing wrong with bootstrapping to map out user flow, and give clear indication a button is a button, a list is a list etc. But when it's time to up your game, give access to the public, default bootstrap visual/color needs to go.

Humans judge a book by its cover. If you release your bootstrap website, users will have to work and over come the barrier of your bland looking site and then decide if it's worth it to try your product.

PS: The point about lawyers have crappy websites and yet we still use them is because our expectations changes depending on the organization. Do we expect government websites to be wow and dazzle us? Do we expect a new Apple product's website to use bootstrap? Do we expect a 2 month old startup website to be featured on Behance's frontpage?

And remember who your early adopters are – if it's people that scours HN or see countless bootstrapped sites, what are they going to think when they see your site? Would they be understanding and go 'Oh its okay - they're a startup, I'll give them some leeway when it comes to visual design' or 'Would they go eff this, these guys don't care about design or visuals. I'll come back later'.

This runs close to arguments made by TV advertisers, for "creative" and "original" ads that "engage" the watcher and produce a "holistic emotional experience", who are more interested in scoring at Cannes than selling product.

Not everyone goes to a website and bemoans yet another instance of Helvetica. Hell, most people couldn't identify Comic Sans if their lives depended on it. When I go to a site I want to get the information I want and do what I need to do quickly. In and out. If they're using a readable font, familiar icons, and common colours, per se, I don't care about originality.

It make sense for designers to see those things. It also makes sense for designers to be offended by the notion that Bootstrap may automate some of what they do. But extending this to Bootstrap == evil isn't rational.

Caveat: there are some sites that need to delight you. Content sites, e.g. NY Times, Facebook, etc., should put higher value on branding through UI. But inducing that this is necessary for all sites isn't tenable.

/all day long I have been thinking this but never expressing it because it's clear it would trigger a swarm of disagreement which is all valid but also so not the point, but I'm so glad someone else wrote it so thanks/

So thank you sir. I will bury my Bootstrap dislike deep, deep down where noone can detect it. At least I get to vent my jQuery dislike nowadays.

So what? My goal is to create a site that makes money by solving a real problem for customers, not to satisfy some rule 'you have to create a new design thing'. The benefit of a startup is that we can shed the supposed rules of business -- you have to have an office, work from 9 till 5 where clothing, have a logo, have a design, etc, etc.

I agree with the OP, pretty spot on, while bootstrap sites look good, they generally all look the same. For CRUD/admin, yes, bootstrap is a definite go; for public front facing, not for my clients.

Client identity should be based on a unique brand, and bootstrap, short of major tweaks, does not provide that.

To umm, boot, boostrap is a wee bit on the heavy side for my liking (80KB css minified), and the javascript features are not mind blowing (for example, would prefer flyout menus like in Foundation or HTML Kickstart).

I'm rolling with Skeleton and jquerytools (sadly behind the maintenance curve) on the front end.

If bootstrap becomes themeable, I'll consider using on the front end, but until then, differentiation is king in my book.

Bootstrap looks tired to us, the Hacker News crowd, who are into startups and see new ones everyday. The rest of the population, the actual market of these startups, isn't seeing this high concentration, and has no idea what Twitter Bootstrap is.

From the article:

"Seeing a default Bootstrap “theme” site makes me leave it right away because I feel the person doesn’t care about what they are doing."

That's a great way to miss out on content, which I believe is the reason many web sites exist in the first place. I read lots of great articles on HN and unless the site is absolutely hard to read due to font size or contrast, I don't really notice what theme it's using.

To me, this comment comes across as snobbery. Us "in the business" types can spot these things, but in the end, does anyone care but us? Design is ridiculously important when selling a product or establishing a brand, but I don't believe design is a substitute for content.

I use bootstrap mostly for prototyping and get it up and running. However, the way I see it, twitter bootstrap for instance is a very well done front-end framework, and puts a high bar for the front-end dev, which is always good.

While twitter bootstrap does help give websites a familiar layout for users (ie. nav starts in top left of header, login/account functionality in top right), I agree that without customization, it's helping to make the visual web more like eating vanilla paste.

I made http://convertunixtimestamp.com/ over the weekend, and I used bootstrap mainly for the responsive design. But I tried to customize it enough so that it wouldn't be recognizable as a bootstrap site.

And I chopped about 85% of it out b/c it just wasn't needed.

The real problem is that web design is about 100x harder than it should be. I'm not saying there shouldn't be room for the artists to outshine the rest of us, but there's no excuse for why placing elements with css is so hard. Different browsers shouldn't have different names and syntax for the same features. The cascade makes it difficult to mix templates without adjusting a million different things.

Bootstrap solves most of this. That is why it's becoming prevalent. The only way this trend will stop is a high-quality cross-browser WYSIWYG editor.

Would we think the same thing when we saw a raw html form as a demo / proof of concept?

I agree bootstrap is spreading, maybe we see it a bit more being in the startup space. But, any average internet user I've let try out a quick idea in bootstrap has always commented on how nice it looks for a demo.

About variety, the more developers get used to Bootstrap, the more they will modify it. For many, just using anything this polished is a big jump, we just have to encourage customization of tools like bootstrap (much like 960js and others allow).

Looks like most of the negative comments are from designers which totally makes sense; you're getting paid for coming up with neat little buttons and so on... but on the other hand, why didn't you designers come up with a good (open-source) framework for these things. Teach people, give them rope, enable them... oh, and there are already tools like bootswatch coming up. This is not the end, just the beginning for a sane design for the rest of us (aka the developers).

You have fallen into the common trap of seeing apps through developers' eyes. Please consider that almost no one in the world has heard of Bootstrap. Though it's captured our mindshare as developers, most of our users will not know nor care.

Basically none of the general public will say "Hey, this is a Bootstrap'ed application, I'm not using it." They just do not know nor care what Bootstrap is. If it looks professional and works as they expect, they will be happy.

Bootstrap does one very important thing. It raises the previously very, very low bar of a poorly designed website. Exceptional designers will always be exceptional designers; poor designers (engineers? :P) now have a tool to put them on an even (I use this term VERY loosely, put away the pitchforks) playing field.

So what if it's another bootstrap site? At least it's not some times new roman on a green background monstrosity.

I think the benefit of something like Bootstrap is getting an idea off the floor with _some_ nod towards aesthtics. If I can't afford a designer, I'm happy to use someones idea of a 'default' to get it to the point that it is functional, relatively easy on the eyes, etc. Then, when the funds / time is available focus on tweaking things to not appear like the bootstrap default.

But, weren't we expecting this though?, I mean we're raising the bar to a better standard looking web. I think it's a good thing, now more developers get to push more projects because it cuts time in the prototyping process. We still need to get chops on skinning to differentiate our projects, and stand out of the bunch. But in my opinion this is moving forward.

Most people will never even know what the hell you are talking about with the word "Bootstrap", so just because we can recognize these things as developers/designers does not mean it has any influence whatsoever on your users. I'd much rather see a generic bootstrap site than a piece of crap design personally. I would hope many of you would agree.

Speaking as someone who is absolutely terrible at design (I work almost entirely on backend stuff), I really like the idea of Bootstrap. It would allow me to focus on doing the work I enjoy, and not have to worry about design details that I don't care about.

I haven't used Bootstrap yet, but I plan to use it when I finally get around to making my personal website.

For the same reason that, as a user, I benefit from Apple's Human Interface Guidelines, I am fine using Bootstrap applications.

Have been wanting to write something like this for the past few months. Glad someone else did it. It is making me go crazy!

I think I agree. Bootstrap is not bad but using the default visual scheme brings noise and unwanted association with other websites which the user might have seen.

At the minimum, pick a different color scheme from http://bootswatch.com/#gallery

When I saw font awesome, I did not think about how to use it with a bootstrap theme. I saw it as a totally separate entity completely. To be honest Font Awesome was more impressive to me and potentially have much further usage beyond just on bootstrap-themed sites.

Ironically, the author appears to borrow quite heavily from Dustin Curtis:

Layout: http://dcurt.is/

Transparent border: http://blog.dustincurtis.com/the-dcurtis-manifesto

We recently have been working on http://www.wanttechnologies.com which uses bootstrap. But you can't really tell. Only really used the "scaffolding" and buttons.

Tweaking variables.less is enough to make the site look unique. Someone should write a pseudo-random variables.less generator.

+1 for CarsonGross. Bootstrap is a very good thing. AlecPerkins quit your complaining and give us something edifying.

Not my article, though I do think it raises some valid points and would prompt interesting discussion (hence submitting it).

More broadly, it seems as though a lot of people on HN often respond to posts as if the author and submitter are one and the same. I recently saw a post, submitted by Jeremy Ashkenas, about why the author doesn't use CoffeeScript. The top comment directly challenged the submitter, calling out 'his statements', as if he were the author.

I wouldn't mind if every site in the world looked like vanilla bootstrap.

Websites and projects that are meant to be used by non-techies probably wouldn't regard this as an issue... of course since we are techies we notice at the first hit of the eye, but normal people? my guess is that it will take much a bigger part of the web using bootstrap and a lot of time for them to notice and start to care....

also, I really suck at design, I f*cking hate it, it takes me weeks to produce something acceptable even with bootstrap...what am I going to do?

I mean, I can get annoyed looking at this bootstrap list too, I also believe the least that should be done is try to custom it a little so it doesn't look just like another bootstrap page... but again, webdesigning is a PAINFUL(and I mean it) thing for me to do...

Bootstrap is about usability, not design. It helps you set up sensible defaults for usability. Yes, you still need a designer to make your site look professional and stand out, but with the right tools you can at least make your site usable with less effort than it took last year.

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