CSS Grid Systems

What is a Grid System?

A grid system is a layout mechanism, which makes it an alternative to the CSS Flexbox Layout (aka. flexbox) and the CSS Grid Layout (aka. CSS grid).

Whereas both the CSS Flexbox Layout and the CSS Grid Layout are part of the CSS specification, a grid system is built using CSS functionality and it does exist in the CSS specification. As such there are numerous frameworks that each come with their own implementation of a grid system.

Certain features are common to all grid system. The features are described in detail later.

Difference between Grid System, CSS Grid Layout and CSS Flexbox Layout

Despite the naming similarities, a grid system is not to be confused with the CSS Grid Layout.

I think they do similar things but I could not figure out how they differ or if CSS Grid Layout is there to replace custom grid systems. Need more expertise.

On the twitter boostrap page for their grid system, it says that the grid system is implemented using the CSS Flexbox Layout!

What does a Grid System do?

A Grid System ultimately sizes and positions elements in a responsive fashion. The promise is, when done right, all elements will be assigned appropriate screen space across all viewport size possible. The benefit is that there is always enough width assign so the use can consume the content with maximum convenience.

In a grid systen, elements are put into rows. All rows have the same amount of columns. The amount of columns in bootstrap’s grid system is 12 for example. Other amounts of columns are possible.

Elements are assigned (different) column widths based on media queries. On viewport size changes, elements will take up a dynamic amount of columns because of what the user has defined for each query. On large screen sizes, an element might take up 3 columns for example. In a media query for smaller device, it maybe takes up 6 columns so it is still visible. In a media query for smartphones, it might even take up all 12 columns so it stretches an entire row’s width and the user can still make out its content nicely even though the screen is very small.

Elements, once placed into a row, will never leave that row. If the amount of columns are used up and there are still more elements to place into a row, the row will break and elements will start to stack on top of each other so they do not leave the row.

This most often happens when elements are assign higher column counts on media queries for smaller screens. This keeps rows separate from other rows at all times.

In most grid systems, the media-queries are predefined with standard breakpoints and are called xs, s, m, l and xl similar to clothing sizes. The xs media-query is for very small screen sizes such as mobile phones, xl is for desktop screens.

To define the amount of columns per media-query, a grid system usually defines CSS classes. Several of those CSS classes are then assigned to elements until the user has described the element columns in all media-queries. The CSS classes have no effect unless their media-query actives, which is when the CSS class has an effect on the element. It will then tell the grid-system how many columns the element consumes. 

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