Web Development

Deciding Between CSS Grid and Flexbox: A Guide to Picking the Right Layout Tool

Since you are here, you already know the importance of having a website and how it can bring you great business benefits. Now, the big question is – which CSS layout should you opt for and use in your next web development project? The two common choices that experts choose are the CSS grid and flexbox layouts; but, which is better and should be used more frequently? Well, even CSS experts juggle between these two options based on the project needs, which is why we have curated the following article.

Here, we will discuss the key points of the CSS grid vs flexbox debate and help you better understand their similarities and differences. Prepare to jump into this article and learn about the types of projects where you must use CSS grid vs flexbox ones. By the end of this article, you will have become a CSS expert and a great tech professional.

What is the CSS Flexbox Layout?

Although the CSS flexbox layout was launched only in 2009, it is still popular; and, the biggest reason is that it allows designers and developers to create responsive websites, which you know are really important in today’s world where user experience and accessibility is in focus. Before we get into the CSS grid vs flexbox debate, we think discussing what the CSS flexbox layout is would be better.

To help you better understand the effect of the CSS layout, let us look at an example below; here, we mention the code and the effect of the flexbox layout (i.e. flex property).

HTML Code

<div class="container>
	<div id="one">One</div>
	<div id="two">Two</div>
	<div id = "three">Three</div>
</div>

CSS Code - 
.container {
	display: flex;
}
One
Two
Three
Fig 1.1: Container Div before the CSS code is applied
OneTwoThree
Fig 1.2: Container div after the CSS code is applied

Another important point to note here is that we can set some other properties for our flex container; and, the most important one that you must learn is the flex-direction with values row and column. Figure 1.2 is a great demonstration of the flex-direction: row value (which is the default); check out the below diagram for a representation of the flex-direction: column.

.container {
	display: flex;
	flex-direction: column;
}
One
Two
Three
Fig 1.3: Container div after the column direction CSS flex is applied

Are you confused about the use of the flex-direction: column value and the original figure (1.1) that had no CSS styling applied to it? Well, the key difference is that div elements are block-level elements, so when the CSS styling is not applied, div one, two, and three take up the complete space. But, in the case of the CSS column direction, they become flexible and can be styled to appear in the center of the page. We recommend you try out different flexbox elements to gain a clearer idea about the versatility of the flex layout!

What is the CSS Grid Layout?

Now that you have seen what the CSS flexbox property can do, it is time to move to the other part of the CSS grid vs flexbox debate. Before we do that, did you notice something about the flexbox property? Yes, it is a one-dimensional property (i.e. you can either work with rows or columns), but what if you need a two-dimensional layout? Well, this problem is solved by the CSS grid layout that allows us to work with both rows and columns; this opens up a lot of possibilities and allows us to easily manipulate our website’s design.

To help you quickly understand what the grid layout is, let us look at the code below.

HTML Code

<div class="container">
	<div id="one">One</div>
	<div id="two">Two</div>
	<div id="three">Three</div>
	<div id="four">Four</div>
	<div id="five">Five</div>
</div>

CSS Code

.container {
	grid-template-columns: 60px 60px;
	grid-template-rows: auto;
}
One
Two
Three
Four
Five
Fig 2.1: Container div before the CSS code is applied
OneTwo
ThreeFour
Five 
Fig 2.2: Container div after the CSS code is applied

Are you confused about how we got this figure after applying the CSS code? Well, in the code, the grid-template-columns indicate that our grid will have two columns that are each 60px in width. As for the grid-template-rows: auto, it indicates the CSS code to automatically adjust the container div’s elements and divide them into 2 columns and as many rows as needed.

Common Properties Between CSS Grid vs Flexbox Layouts

The main reason due to which the CSS grid vs flexbox debate arises is because these layouts have a lot of differences. However, if you have used them, you will also find that they have some common properties that we must discuss in this section.

The biggest similarity between CSS grid and Flexbox is that both of these are used to set up the layout of our websites and allow us to easily create complex designs. Some common CSS properties that you can use for both CSS grid and flexbox layouts include: justify-content, align-self, align-items, and align-content.

Key Difference Between the CSS Grid vs Flexbox Layouts

Now that we have seen the key similarities between the two layouts, let us have a look at the properties that give rise to the CSS grid vs flexbox debate.

The main difference is that the CSS flexbox layout allows us to create one-dimensional layouts and might not be useful in the case of complex websites. This is where the CSS grid layout comes to the rescue and allows us to work with two dimensions. A simpler way to think about it is that you can use CSS grid layout primarily for your layout, whereas the CSS flexbox is a better choice if you are looking to play with the alignment of your website’s elements.

Projects where CSS Grid vs Flexbox Layouts Must Be Used

Although you have seen the key differences that lead to the CSS grid vs flexbox debate, you must know where exactly each of these is to be used. This will help you master the basics of both of these layouts and become an expert in CSS properties. To help you better understand which projects you should develop using CSS flexbox and ones where you should use CSS grid, we have listed them below.

Which Types of Projects Are Better for CSS Grid?

  • When your website design is complex and will not fit into rows or columns, opt for the CSS grid layout.
  • If you are looking to have spaces between your block elements, use CSS grid as flexbox lacks this property.
  • To add overlapping elements to your website, use CSS grid and its properties like grid-column and grid-row.
  • If you already have an idea about your website’s layout, it is always a better idea to use a CSS grid to lay down your website design.

When Should You Use the CSS Flexbox Layout?

  • When you have a small design that you want to implement; typically, a website design that can fit into a few rows or columns.
  • If you are looking to align your website’s elements, use Flexbox and utilize the flex-direction property to play with the alignment.
  • In case you do not have any idea about how your web page content is going to look, it is better to use Flexbox to set a content-first design.

Conclusion

Now that we have reached the end of our CSS grid vs flexbox debate, it is undoubtedly clear that both of these aid designers and developers in their website projects. If you are not accustomed to CSS designs and are looking for professional help, you can reach out to a top professional development company offering UI/UX design services.

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Raj Maurya

Raj Maurya is the founder of Digital Gyan. He is a technical content writer on Fiverr and freelancer.com. He loves writing. When not working he plays Valorant.

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