Alpha Coder

Write your own responsive grid system with few lines of CSS code

How many times have you added Bootstrap to your project just for its grid system? Probably not enough times to think about learning how to create your own grid system. However there are times when you need something light!

Say you’re learning a new framework or testing out some code and you want to throw in some grid love so that things look a little organized on the page. Would you rather include the heavyweight champ that is Bootstrap, or scribble a few lines of grid code?

While adding Bootstrap may sound easier, you may be faced with the nightmare that is overriding classes. Nobody loves overriding the classes they don’t want/need, plus you’re now distracted from what you really want to accomplish.

Besides, you don’t lose anything by learning how to write a grid system. In fact, it makes you understand and appreciate CSS libraries and better. True story!

There was this school project I had to work on. It was pretty basic, but I needed a grid system. I had already decided to build it from the ground up with only vanilla, so Bootstrap or Materialize was not an option. I had to learn how to write my own grid system. It turns out that it’s not difficult at all. In fact, I wrote a grid system with a few lines of CSS code.

Now before we get into The Matrix, it’s important to note that there are several ways of building a grid system; each with its own quirks. It’s easy to forget that CSS 1.0 wasn’t made with grid in mind as the webosphere is now littered with millions of sites using layouts of all shapes and sizes.

Devs cooked up various workarounds and hacks. They used tables to create grids back in the day. Wicked! More recently, they used floats. Float grids sufficed until they didn’t. They are still in use today. However, flexbox has replaced float grid systems on many sites online. Flexbox was made to solve the grid problem. Sweet! Nevertheless, flexbox has it’s own limitations. The new kid on the block grid layout, was created to handle more complex systems that web apps of today demand.

I used flexbox to create a simple grid system. Flexbox is great! It is supported in major browsers and is easy to implement. Take a look at the cute bit of CSS code…

I don’t want get into the intricacies of flexbox. I’ll be reinventing the wheel by doing that. Instead I’ll point you to a resource that helped me wrap my head around it. Nonetheless, from the code, it’s pretty easy to figure out how everything kinda works. It’s basically some flexbox code and media queries for 3 view ports — mobile, tablet and desktop.

Just add this simple markup and you’re good to go…


Of course, you can’t do some of the naughty things you may be accustomed to with CSS libraries and all. For simple layouts, you probably wouldn’t need to do stuff like that. Anyhoo, you can always add a few more lines for other neat functionalities. If you feel you’re doing too much, it may be time to throw in a library or something. If you feel Bootstrap is too overweight, there are a ton of CSS grid libraries. I don’t want to name names, but Google is your friend. A search would yield a ton of interesting results.

At the end of the day when all is said some is done, you would have learnt a thing or two about grid systems in CSS. Awesome!

Check out the repo for this tutorial:

Also, ensure to check out Chris Coyier’s complete guide to flexbox. If you have the time, totally go through Chris House’ complete guide to grid.

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