July 6, 2021 3 mins read

CSS Grid vs Flexbox – Which Layout to Choose and Why?


To match the demands for increasing complexities in website design, developers have devised newer methods and languages. With its wide range of functions, CSS has become one of the most preferred web development languages in recent times.

However, CSS offers different layouts to arrange the content, and the debate is around which one of these is better or more suitable. In this blog, we are going to do one of the most arguable comparisons in the web development industry: Grid vs Flexbox.

It’s worthwhile to note that although both the layouts have some inherent similarities and can sometimes have overlapping functions, Both Grid vs Flexbox. & they are designed to serve unique purposes. We are going to underline significant differences that would enable the developers to make an informed choice while deciding the right fit for the project at hand.

Grid vs Flexbox: The Essence

For a proper understanding of the CSS Grid vs Flexbox debate, it’s imperative that we first look at the individual essences of both Grid and Flexbox.

Also known as ‘Flexible Box,’ the Flexbox layout offers a way to alter the arrangement of items in the container so that it can fit any orientation or display size.

The CSS Grid, on the other hand, thrives upon its ability to divide the page into multiple sections. Doing so, it can also specify the correlation between their sizes, position, and layer.

CSS Grid vs Flexbox – One Dimensional vs Two Dimensional

Their ability to deal with rows and columns is one of the most basic and crucial differences when considering CSS Grid vs Flexbox layout.

Flexbox is ‘one-dimensional’ while Grid is ‘two-dimensional.’ In other words, Flexbox can only arrange items either horizontally (rows) or vertically (columns). Thus, the developer must have a clear conception of whether they want a row-based or a column-based layout.

Some of the issues arising from such a uni-dimensional approach can be resolved by Flexbox’s ability to wrap multiple rows or columns, depending on the size of the content and the available space.

The CSS Grid, on the other hand, offers a more permanent and viable solution to this problem for handling both rows and columns. Being two-dimensional, the Grid allows developers to work along both the horizontal and vertical axes. This approach allows for more precision in terms of the position of grid items, which is defined by the intersection of rows and columns.

However, some experts have taken a stance contrary to this 1D vs 2D approach to the Flexbox vs Grid Layout debate and suggest that Grid can perform quite well even for the one-dimensional arrangement of items. Moreover, with the advent of Bootstrap 4, the basic principles of Flexbox are also being used to create 2D layouts.

CSS Grid vs Flexbox – Content Placement vs Content Flow

The CSS Grid treats every item as a grid cell whose position is determined by the intersection of both the horizontal and the vertical axes. It allows for the precise placement of items on the grid (ultimately on the displayed webpage) and grants the developer great control.

With properties such as ‘grid-template-rows,’ ‘grid-template-columns,’ and fraction units, developers can accurately predict and control the items’ behavior on most viewports. However, such a thing is not possible with Flexbox.

Although some ‘tricks’ enable Flexbox users to achieve similar results using the ‘calc ()’ function, it’s rather detrimental to the very essence and purpose of this layout.

As opposed to content placement, Flexbox is more focused on the content flow. In other words, while Grid is a ‘layout first’ approach to web development, Flexbox is ‘content-first.’ The size of flex items are determined by, and dependent upon their inner content. These items can grow or shrink to accommodate the content within the available space.

Considering above mentioned properties, the CSS Grid is best suited for websites involving broken, asymmetrical, or overlapping layouts while Flexbox is perfect for centering items, creating responsive menus, and so on.

Grid vs Flexbox 2019 – Browser Compatibility

In pursuing the CSS Grid vs Flexbox debate, it’s not enough to understand the technical differences between the two. The question of browser compatibility is pertinent, especially when a developer has to decide which method is more suitable.

Presently, most major browsers support Flexbox designs. The list includes Google Chrome, some versions of Opera, Mozilla Firefox, Internet Explorer, and Edge. However, the CSS Grid doesn’t work with certain browsers such as Opera Mini, as well as some versions of Google Chrome, iOS Safari, and Blackberry Browser.

CSS Grid vs Flexbox: Conclusion

Before we conclude, let’s summarize the significant differences between the two layouts – CSS Grid vs Flexbox.

  • Flexbox is one-dimensional while Grid is two-dimensional
  • Flexbox focuses on content flow while Grid focuses on content placement
  • Flexbox is a content-first approach while Grid is layout-first

Now, to answer the ultimate question, which one to opt for? Here, the honest answer would be that it’s not about one method replacing the other. Instead, to be able to decide, the developers must first analyze the purpose and the result that they are looking to achieve. Only then it would be possible for them to choose one over the other, based on the principles and differences outlined in this blog.

Moreover, developers and other experts in this field have often suggested hybrid methods that use both Grid vs Flexbox to achieve even greater control on items and their layout. For instance, one might develop the overall layout using the CSS Grid while also controlling individual grid items using Flexbox. However, this approach is prone to making the coding very complicated and demands excellent proficiency on the part of the developer.

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