Bootstrap vs Polymer: Let’s Put an End to the Debate!

The debate of adapting the best frontend framework continues, and this article lays down a comparative guide between Bootstrap and Polymer.

April 17, 2021
15 mins read
Last Updated September 09, 2021
Bootstrap vs Polymer Frontend Framework

Bootstrap vs Polymer: Let’s Put an End to the Debate!

With the ongoing debate and comparisons between popular front-end frameworks, I have come across this interesting idea of taking an unconventional framework and pitting it against a widely used one – Bootstrap vs. Polymer. 

You must be wondering, Why Bootstrap and Polymer?

I get your confusion. One framework literally has a growing market share for its ready-made components, while the other is still figuring its way through in the development community. Despite that, both the frameworks are loved by developers and have proved to have unique features, characteristics, and components and have the capability to change the conventional idea of coding. 

Instead of building up our biases against a framework, let us dive into the comprehensive guide outlining some crucial features of Bootstrap and Polymer for developing a web application.

What is Bootstrap? – An Overview

Bootstrap, also known as Twitter Bootstrap, is an open-source front-end CSS framework used to create responsive mobile-first websites. While the front-end framework template is primarily based on CSS, there are various HTML templates available along with support from JavaScript components like jQuery. It has become the second popular UI development framework for its responsive design templates, frameworks, grids, and most importantly, multi-site compatibility.

Mark Otto and Jacob Thornton developed this framework with the idea of standardizing the use of a framework by Twitter employees. This is how the framework came to be known as Twitter Bootstrap. In 2011, the developers launched this project on GitHub for everyone’s access.

Market Usage Statistics

Here are some interesting market usage statistics of Bootstrap:

  • As of March 2021, approximately 3 million people have downloaded Bootstrap for web development.
  • Till April 2021, Bootstrap is used by 22% of all websites amongst the JavaScript libraries. 
  • In terms of popularity and traffic, Bootstrap holds 2nd position with 14.8% of the market share. 

Use Cases of Bootstrap

  • Microblogging applications
  • Social media applications
  • Video streaming applications
  • E-commerce websites
  • Content-based website
  • Geo-location applications
  • On-demand applications
  • Payment applications
  • Messaging service web app
  • Responsive web applications

Popular Apps Built with Bootstrap

  • Vogue – The fashion magazine uses Bootstrap for its flat responsive website templates, making the site compatible with all devices. It also uses Bootstrap’s 12 grid layout to fit in various content-based details within a single screen. 
  • Apple Maps Connect – Apple uses MapKit JS for creating its interactive maps for multiple platforms. The Mapkit JS employs Bootstrap to build its user interface designs. 
  • Lyft – The ride-sharing company utilized Bootstrap’s grid features along with the drop-down plugins for their website. The framework also helped in the website’s development within a short span of time.
  • Paypal – The online payment processing website uses Bootstrap’s Pricing Sliders to create the payment forms while checking out, adding cards, or paying bills through the site.
  • Whatsapp – The user interface of Web Whatsapp has been created using Bootstrap for better interactive features and facilities over the desktop application.

What is Polymer? – An Overview

Polymer, released in May 2013, is developed by Google developers. It is an open-source library for creating reusable components to build web applications. Written in Javascript and HTML, Polymer is a simplified way of creating web components with cross-browser compatibility. The polymer was one of the sources of inspiration for Evan You while designing Vue.js.

Market Usage Statistics

Here are some interesting market usage statistics of Polymer:

  • A survey by SimilarTech shows that 6152 websites are built with Polymer, with 1652 websites developed in the US. 
  • On GitHub, Polymer has 57 repositories and 21.6k stars. 

Use Cases of Polymer

  • Single-page Applications 
  • Progressive Web Applications 
  • Reusable UI Components 
  • eCommerce applications 
  • Hybrid mobile applications
  • Real-time web applications

Popular Apps Built with Polymer

  • Youtube – The company has leveraged Polymer Web Components to rebuild their Mobile and desktop sites. 
  • Google Maps – Google used Polymer’s Web components to create Maps JavaScript API that can be easily integrated into any app and customized as per the app requirements.
  • Google Earth – The application uses Polymer’s elements and web components to redesign its website and mobile app. 
  • McDonald’s – The company chose Polymer to design its Menu Board software for stores in 15,000 locations in the US. The modular software structure allowed the company to alter layouts as per every store’s needs.
  • USA Today The news agency used Polymer to help development and design teams collaborate better on their UI redesign project.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Pros and Cons

Before you choose a framework, it’s important that you understand the opportunities and shortcomings it brings along. This comparison between Bootstrap and Polymer should help you select the most compatible technology for your application.

Pros of Bootstrap

  • Responsive design – Provides the necessary features of creating a user interface that is responsive in styles and structures and is compatible with multiple platforms.
  • Time-saving – Provides excellent documentation on each component, and its readily available resources help omit the process of writing codes and debug the sites quickly. The CSS preprocessor, LESS, can be used to save time on the custom development process. 
  • Styling Components – Provides various user templates, themes, and plugins and a grid system that are free and customizable as per project requirements.
  • Consistency and Compatibility – Excellent CSS and Javascript compatibility enables excellent cross-browser consistency
  • Substantial community support – A free and open-source framework available on Github with significant community support contributing to its development.

Cons of Bootstrap

  • Similar website templates – Usually criticized for having limited templates, making websites and applications made with Bootstrap look the same. Avoiding this similarity might require extensive manual customization which can be time-consuming and beats the purpose of using this framework.
  • Learning curve – Developers may have to invest some time, though depending on their prior knowledge of frontend technologies, to learn more about the class components and combinations.
  • Unused Resources from JavaScript Library – The JavaScript of Bootstrap is tied to jQuery, which is an extensive, heavy-to-run library with several unnecessary or unused components. These unused resources make the website bulky, thus making it slower in terms of performance.
  • Rewriting and Overriding – Significant amount of customization might lead to deviation from the customary Bootstrap designs, creating compatibility and consistency issues.

Pros of Polymer

  • Creating Custom Elements – Developers can leverage the functionality to compose enclosed HTML, CSS, and JS as custom elements. 
  • Data Binding – Polymer allows one-way as well as two-way data binding. With two-way data binding functionality, changes can be made in both upward and downward directions between the host elements and the DOM elements. As a result, data updates between the host and target elements happen automatically.
  • Easy Onboarding – It comes with structured and well-maintained documentation compared to React/Angular, which is a significant advantage while introducing new developers to the team.
  • Connecting Third-party Libraries – The architecture of Polymer is not equipped with an extra security layer, and connecting to third-party libraries like Mathjax, d3js, Chart.js, etc., is hassle-free for developers building applications.

Cons of Polymer

  • Understanding Web Components – Developers often experience difficulty understanding Polymer’s web component structure and necessary changes in their coding styles. As a result, they end up rewriting the codes and spending countless hours testing them for any possible bugs. This ordeal affects the project timeline and causes delays in meeting the deadlines.
  • Handling Large Scale Applications – Polymer lacks a clear explanation of how it can be leveraged to build and organize large-scale applications. So, if you’re working on a large-scale application, you may not want to go with Polymer.
  • Issues with Mobile Platforms – Users of Polymer have often complained about its low performance in mobile applications. This implies, if the majority of your product users are on mobile, you may want to rethink your choice.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Performance Comparison

While performance should not be a killer factor for small projects, it becomes extremely important to consider when building complex and large projects. With that being said, let’s compare Bootstrap and Polymer in terms of performance.

How does Bootstrap stand out in terms of performance?

Bootstrap is known for its user-centric ease for developing websites and web applications, but when it comes to performance, one has to keep a close eye on it. Developers have often criticized the framework for its vast library and unutilized resources, leading to slower performance. But, what they miss is that it also offers extensive customization features to increase the app’s performance, irrespective of it being content-heavy.

Utilizing requirement-specific resources reduces the bulk over the website, such as using the source code rather than the entire library. Minimal and lean use of CSS and JavaScript codes minimizes the load on the downloading browser and increases efficiency while displaying. Other common workarounds would include compressing images, moving the server closer to the audience, and using a CDN for a high-performance loaded website. With the best practices, Bootstrap can have a lower fully loading time of 2.1 seconds of a page size that is 1.3 MB. 

How does Polymer stand out in terms of performance?

The performance of an application is naturally an important factor while building a web app. Keeping this necessity in mind, Polymer introduced lit-html v1.0 & LitElement v2.0. While lit-HTML serves as a fast and lightweight HTML templating library, LitElement is a JS library for creating lightweight web components. The key purpose of both libraries is to improve app performance with web components that can be used with or without a framework for app development. 

At the Chrome Dev Summit 2016, Taylor Savage revealed how Jumia Travel, which functions as the travel division of Africa’s largest eCommerce site, used Polymer to maintain an exceptional performance, 

“Thanks to the  Polymer App Toolbox and web components, Jumia built a progressive web app that has twice as fast a page load on 2G, and uses six times less data than their native app to be able to deliver the same exact flow.” 

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Application Architecture

When choosing a framework, it’s important to choose flexibility and avoid any strict enforcement of architecture and guidelines.  As a matter of fact, it’s always recommended to treat a framework as a guide, not methods and standards. That said, let’s juxtapose Bootstrap and Polymer with each other and check whether they are flexible in terms of architecture.

What kind of architecture does Bootstrap support?

Bootstrap’s architecture can be summarized as a View-View-Controller architecture because of its built that uses two components – Logic Layer and the View Layer. The views component focuses explicitly on the visual displays, while the view-controller sets out all the visual components’ behavior within the framework. There are six modules within the view layer, while the logic layer has twelve components that provide unique functionality to a corresponding visual aid. 

Bootstrap supports the Model-View-Controller architecture pattern while developing a webpage. But, it is to be noted that while creating a web application using the MVC design principle, the framework would serve as the view component. 

What kind of architecture does Polymer support?

Polymer does not require you to follow any particular structure as its primary function is to build web components for applications. Polymer’s internal architecture is divided into 4 interconnected layers:- 

  1. Native consists of all essential features available natively on browsers 
  2. Foundation includes polyfills which add features to browsers that are not natively added to these browsers 
  3. Core provides the necessary infrastructure to explore the features offered by Native and Foundation layers 
  4. Elements are a basic set of elements that act as building blocks for developers to create applications 

This block structure is crucial as it enables repeated reuse in various other projects without the need to code from scratch. 

Bootstrap vs. Vue – Ease of Testing

To be able to work without a glitch under continuous, high load, and growing market expectations, your application development project needs to go through a series of tests to ensure compliance with the UI standards, compatibility, and usability. Here’s how Bootstrap and Polymer stand out when compared with testing. 

How easy is it to test a Bootstrap app?

While there are no internal components within Bootstrap for running tests, external plugins and compatible tools can be used for testing apps and sites made with Bootstrap. One advantage that the framework has is that the cross-browser bugs would be eliminated because of its single coding component that is reusable and does not require any repetition.

However, irrespective of this advantage, running tests across browsers from different devices is necessary to check the application’s consistency and uniformity. External applications that can be utilized for testing a bootstrap application include Chrome Developer Tools, DesignModo, BrowserStack, UIlicious, TestComplete, and many more. 

How easy is it to test a Polymer app?

The Polymer team has developed an end-to-end testing environment called the Web Component Tester. It is built with similar functionalities as third-party testing tools like Mocha, Chai, Sinon, Selenium, and more and eliminates the necessity to learn a new tool. 

While discussing the benefits at the Polymer Summit 2015 of using the Web Component Tester, Chris Joel, software engineer at Polymer has explained the functionality in a simplified manner, 

“WCT can drive multiple browsers with just one command and writing tests for WCT is as simple as creating an HTML. […] Not only are they (web components) easy to test, but web components can make the whole experience of testing just much better. And the Polymer team has built some great tools to make the whole experience even better than that.”

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Scalability

Frameworks significantly influence the web application scalability, therefore, the right choice of framework is important. Here’s how Bootstrap and Polymer stand out in terms of scalability.

Is Bootstrap scalable?

Being a mobile-first development framework, Bootstrap can be relied on for making scalable websites and applications. Through Bootstrap, responsive website content can be scaled up or down depending on the browser, application, or screen that the user is using. The framework also omits cross-browser bugs and compatibility issues through its single universal codes and makes it preferable amongst developers. 

Bootstrap’s class component allows developers to specify column sizes based on the screen sizes and alter the content displayed based on the screens. Furthermore, its interactive grid system also allows creating projects that fit the screen sizes over multiple platforms. So, be it a mobile screen, a tablet, or a laptop, there is a uniformity of aesthetics within the application.

Is Polymer scalable?

With Polymer’s block structure, developers are at liberty to add new blocks of codes to the structure to scale up or down the app without changing any previous codes. Polymer is also supported by the majority of known browsers, and this improves the chances of app compatibility. To sum it up, building scalable frontend applications with Polymer is achievable. 

YouTube is a notable example of adopting Polymer to build websites like YouTube Gaming and YouTube TV. The websites hosted a large user base and are popular for being the largest Polymer deployments in the world. Mikhail Sychev, at the Polymer Summit 2017, discussed the company’s achievements after choosing Polymer, 

“We have about 400 components that are YouTube specific and more than 1000+ components across all the codebases […] Polymer played a major role helping us organize our internal workflow. Overall the site is faster, that’s up to 15% faster, depending on the page. We finally share components across our projects, and we’re using a standard stack instead of developing everything by ourselves.”

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Suitability for Building Complex Applications

Both Bootstrap and Polymer offer official documents, guidelines, open-source projects, and third-party libraries and plugins to support developers throughout the development process. Let’s compare how Bootstrap and Polymer fare against each other in terms of building complex apps.

Is Bootstrap suitable for building complex apps?

Being amongst the popular HTML/CSS/JS frontend frameworks, Bootstrap easily passes off for developing complex applications. The framework has a broad range of ready-made components, templates, themes, and other resources that can be utilized depending on the project requirements. 

Being a mobile-first framework used for creating responsive websites, Bootstrap can also be used for developing applications that support various platforms, devices, and screens, without having to repeat the codes. Bootstrap’s unique 12 column grid system and visual breakpoints facilitate complex web layouts that can be defined using the predefined grid classes based on viewpoint width. This prevents the cluster of overlapping elements and adjusts designs within a frame that sets the right space amongst its rows and columns.

Is Polymer suitable for building complex apps?

With the web standards-based web components APIs and custom elements, Polymer can be used for building high-performing complex apps. However, many developers have expressed concerns about insufficient information available on how to build enterprise apps with the Polymer. 

Netflix’s Cloud Platform team leveraged Polymer and web components to rapidly build a set of intuitive tools for monitoring app performance, visualizations, and self-service tools for their team of engineers. With the help of these tools, the teams can efficiently operate Netflix systems that are distributed on a large scale across the cloud.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Security

It’s only the technology or framework that guides the implementation and management of security controls within an organization. So it’s a necessity that they provide standards or best practices to build secure applications. Let’s compare Bootstrap and Polymer in terms of security aspects and check how they fare against each other. 

How is security handled in Bootstrap?

It is common for frontend frameworks to have security vulnerabilities, and Bootstrap is also amongst the list that is prone to threats. It is mainly prone to XSS vulnerabilities through the data-target attribute, and developers have reported this threat even over the updated versions. Most vulnerability threats are possible in the tooltip or popover data-temple attribute, affix configuration target property, tooltip data-viewport attribute, data container property of tooltip, data-target attribute, and data-target property of scrollspy. 

The vulnerability exists within the package because of insufficient validation of user-supplied input. However, there are ways to overcome this threat. Developers can choose to implement a new JavaScript sanitizer to allow whitelisted HTML elements in the data attribute and setting the HttpOnly flag for cookies. Other ways include auditing security reporting workflows, ensuring that they are up to date, and using a Content Security Policy. 

How is security handled in Polymer?

In the past few years, XSS vulnerabilities are the most frequent bugs in websites and make up 18% of the total bugs found. The JavaScript security model of Content Security Policy is a part of Polymer and prevents the apps from XSS and other attacks. Thus, it makes an app built with Polymer more secure for its users.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – User Experience

User experience is one vital element in choosing the right framework for your project. It aims to provide positive experiences that keep users loyal to the product or brand. Additionally, a meaningful user experience allows you to define customer journeys on your applications that are most conducive to business success.

Bootstrap’s ability to give the best user experience

Twitter Bootstrap was developed as a web responsive frontend framework to render a standardized and best user experience. The framework’s responsive design gives web users, developers, and viewers consistency across all platforms, which would directly increase the trust and value of the application. 

Its readily available templates, themes, drop-down menus, buttons, sliders, plugins built on jQuery, and other interactive components give users a seamless experience through the web application. For enhancing the user experience to a greater degree, Bootstrap UI HTML Kits like Get Shit Done, Shards Dashboard Lite React, Stream can be used. Other free Bootstrap XD UI Kits include Adobe XD Bootstrap 4 UI Kit, Adobe XD Bootstrap 4 Grid Template, Take Me, Universal Web UI Kit. 

Polymer’s ability to give the best user experience

As Polymer is not a framework, developers use the many functions that the library offers while building web apps. For instance, the Shop is an e-commerce app that leverages Polymer’s App Toolbox that offers a component-based architecture, responsive UI elements, modular routing elements, and more to build a smooth user experience.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Rapid Development

For projects where low Time to Market (TTM) is essential, it’s imperative to look out whether the framework you choose offers rapid development or not. In our experience, development speed is even more important when your team doesn’t have time to learn a new framework or technology. Having said that, let’s uncover whether Bootstrap and Polymer offer rapid development or not. 

How does Bootstrap contribute to rapid application development?

The frontend framework is known for quickly developing applications and saves time with the help of its extensive documentation. Being developer-friendly, Bootstrap libraries consist of several class components, making it a framework that doesn’t require coding knowledge to develop an application. You would simply need an understanding of a markup language like HTML and styling basics like CSS preprocessors for implementing Bootstrap in your projects.

The ready-made components, JS plugins, and documented synergy also save time and energy to remember the specifications of each element. Bootstrap’s cross-browser compatibility and consistency reduce the bugs on multiple platforms and aids in upgrading an application within a short span of time. 

How does Polymer contribute to rapid application development?

Owing to the ‘lego block’ structure of Polymer, the reusable modules significantly reduce development time, and developers can attach modules as and when required without making major changes to the codes.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Application Size

The selection of a framework can have a large impact on the size of an application code. For a large project, the application size should dominate the framework size. Less size is always more in this case. Let’s map out the difference between Bootstrap and Polymer in terms of application size.

What is Bootstrap’s application size?

Bootstrap application sizes vary, depending on the content that has been used for its design and presentation. A comprehensive and simple Bootstrap application would have a minimum file size of 49 KB in JavaScript and a CSS file size of 137 KB. 

Regardless of the minimum application size, developers would have to be wary of the library packages’ unused components that can bulk up an app. Following the best practices of writing lean HTML and CSS codes, downloading resources from the source code, and minimizing the presentation images would reduce the site’s weight. Bootstrap applications can also be compressed by minifying the JS and CSS codes or using GZIP compression. 

What is Polymer’s application size?

The size of a basic Polymer app is 127 KB, and when additional polyfills for browsers are attached to the app, the size extends up to 168 kb. Moreover, Polymer’s toolset provides functionality to help you reduce the download size of an app by minifying the code.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Code Maintainability

A framework should be easier to maintain and adapt. In terms of application development, maintainability means that your developers can easily analyze the code and proceed in fixing errors, thus implementing the correct functionality. That said, let’s analyze how maintainable the code is in the case of Bootstrap and Polymer.

How convenient is it to maintain code in Bootstrap apps?

Bootstrap is a UI framework for developing responsive web applications. The class components, utility packages, and template resources are readily available for utilization without writing codes for its development. 

The flexibility of class components makes the applications workable for multiple sites and platforms. Thus having a reusable code omits the rewriting process for separate devices. Therefore, the consistency and cross-browser compatibility of the components reduces bugs while developing the application, making it beginner’s friendly for team projects. But, developers have to be wary of the overwriting and customization to make the website unique since Bootstrap inserts unnecessary jQuery plugins within the application. 

How convenient is it to maintain code in Polymer apps?

The build toolset by Polymer ensures that apps are compatible with old browsers. For example, while Polymer 2.0 was written in ES6 for more maintainable code, the toolset compiled it to ES5 for better compatibility with these old browsers.

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Learning Curve

The learning curve can help organizations understand the time frame required for the developers to become proficient in the framework. It is important to choose a framework as organizations can better perceive the situation and foresee whether the developers require training support or time to practice the framework before starting working with it. Let’s find out how Bootstrap and Polymer fare against each other in terms of the learning curve.

How good is the learning curve of Bootstrap for developers?

Bootstrap is a developer-friendly framework. It has a little learning curve for developers who are well-versed with HTML and CSS basics. However, it’d be essential to know and acquire oneself with the CSS classes and the Bootstrap components to make the task easy. Also, it utilizes an entirely different approach than other frameworks, i.e., developing mobile-centric applications, and developers may have to adapt to the new style.  

Bootstrap’s extensive documentation makes it quick and easy to develop a web application without knowing to code, but customization might require knowledge of HTML and CSS. Being an open-source framework and having a large community of developers means that there are loads of learning guides for you to begin working. Using this framework can be a great place to start for beginners considering its scope as the most popular framework and its utilization for developing web applications. 

How good is the learning curve of Polymer for developers?

Polymer components can be written in ES5/ES6 Javascript, and even beginners with basic knowledge about the library can work with its easy-to-use syntax. Thus, the learning curve for Polymer is gentle, and any developer with an understanding of Javascript can use it in app development.

Comcast, the biggest entertainment platform in the US, chose Polymer to develop their website XFINITY Home for home security systems. The company successfully created 500+ components with Polymer while the website hosted half a million users daily. Talking about how the learning curve for their developers, John Riviello at the Polymer Summit 2016 explained, 

“So the people we’ve brought on to work on Polymer projects at Comcast, probably only 20% had any experience with Polymer before working on these applications. And that really hasn’t been an issue. If you have engineers who have a solid understanding of html, CSS, and JavaScript, that’s all you really need.”

Bootstrap vs. Polymer – Hiring Developers

Irrespective of the advantages and disadvantages of Bootstrap and Polymer, it is important to identify the team size before you begin the development. This will help you plan and make a decision based on the cost that might be incurred in sourcing or hiring developers who might be a novice or someone who is already well-versed with the framework of your choice.

How convenient is it to hire Bootstrap developers?

Bootstrap has become one of the critical frontend frameworks for web development adopted by startups and even established companies. Considering the popularity and market share of Bootstrap users, it is pretty easy to hire a Bootstrap developer from the developer’s community. On average, the cost of hiring a Bootstrap developer ranges from $30 – $50 per hour. With experience and advanced skills, the hiring cost would increase up to $100 per hour or even more. 

How convenient is it to hire Polymer developers?

As Polymer developers are experienced in Javascript, you can hire Javascript developers at an average of $25-$30 per hour. However, the price range largely depends on the experience held by the developer. 

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Conclusion

When it comes to defining uniqueness and thinking out of the box qualities within a conventional pattern, both Bootstrap and Polymer have proved to be boating examples. Bootstrap is an HTML, CSS, JavaScript framework with ready-made components for creating responsive user interfaces. On the other hand, Polymer is a library for creating web components, leveraging the browser infrastructure. Depending on its core architectural features and facilities, a developer can make a choice to choose a framework that would increase business profitability and receive user appreciation. 

Still having doubts over which framework to choose?

Below is a short checklist that can help you make the crucial decision for your next project.

Choose Bootstrap if –

  • You want to create a responsive mobile-first application.
  • You want to create consistent and compatible designs supported over multiple platforms and devices within a short period of time.
  • If you want an advantage of ready-made styling components within your framework.
  • You are looking for a framework with significant community support.
  • You are looking for a framework with easy customization and integration opportunities.

Choose Polymer if –

  • You want to create web components with modularized and customized HTML tags.
  • You are looking for a library for creating progressive web applications.
  • You want to leverage the browser and build quick applications.
  • You want to develop reusable web components without increasing or bloating the size of the application.
  • You are looking for a highly scalable framework with only customizable HTML elements.

Hiren is VP of Technology at Simform with an extensive experience in helping enterprises and startups streamline their business performance through data-driven innovation.

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