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Ionic vs. Bootstrap - for a Web App

Ionic 1.x vs Bootstrap 3.x for a Web App

I was recently asked at work to come up with a comparison between Ionic Framework and a more traditional Angular/Bootstrap combination to create a web app. The application will primarily be used in a desktop web browser (probably Chrome or IE). There are also some use cases where it will be accessed from Safari on an iPad. However, this is purely a web; there are no plans to install the app onto the iPad as a hybrid app. Thus, recommending Ionic to build the UI hadn't occurred to me until the request was made.

This is even more surprising in that I recently published a Pluralsight course on Ionic Framework 1. It should have been the first thing that crossed my mind.

One constraint is that currently only Angular 1.x and Bootstrap 3 are authorized web technologies. Ionic 1.3 was recently approved, but not Ionic 2, Angular 2, or TypeScript yet.

Given those constraints, herein is my attempt at coming up with reasons to use (or not to use) Ionic Framework 1 to build a pure web application.

Ionic

  • Ionic is designed for Mobile First, and will look and perform great on the iPad.
  • Ionic leverages Angular knowledge.
  • Designed for Angular
  • Requires a newer version of Angular (1.5.x) than most of our teams are using.
  • More modern UI than Bootstrap (see below).
  • Leverage existing Ionic code, including test cases and styles.
  • More “app-centric” design over Bootstrap’s “webpage-centric” design.
  • Grid layout system designed for mobile.
  • Uses Angular/CSS animations by default.

Bootstrap

  • May introduce a slightly steeper learning curve to our developers who have not used Ionic before, though probably about the same as Bootstrap.
  • Bootstrap is already part of our integrated CICD pipeline, so using Ionic may be more difficult to adopt.
  • Many Bootstrap Desktop UI elements (split buttons, dropdown buttons) have no Ionic equivalents, though I don’t believe these elements have a place in a mobile app environment.
  • Bootstrap requires 3rd party library to integrate with Angular.
  • I've seen a few online reports of Bootstrap performance problems on mobile devices (iPad, iPhone).

Components

Both frameworks provide set of common components, a sample of which can be seen below. Many desktop-focused components (Split buttons, large navbars) have no analog in Ionic. However, the Ionic versions seem to sport a more modern appearance, at least to this humble developer's eye.


Ionic 1.3

Bootstrap 3

Button Bar
Button Groups
Ion-list
List Group
Tabs
Tabs
Cards
Panels

Typography
Typography
Forms
Forms
Checkbox (or Toggle)
Checkbox

Radio Buttons
Radio Buttons
Select
Select


JavaScript Extensions

Ionic provides a large number of modern AngularJS directives and extensions to make development easier and quicker. Bootstrap also provides Javascript extensions, but requires an additional library to work with Angular.


Popover
Similar to Bootstrap - need to find a sample.
Tooltip / Popover
Popup
Alert
Slide Box
Carousel
Modal
Modal
Loading / Spinner


Conclusion

After my brief review of the two frameworks, my conclusion is that Ionic is perfectly suited for web development, even if you have no intention of using any Cordova functionality. It's clean and attractive, seems just as easy to learn as Bootstrap, and integrates with Angular right out of the box.

If I were beginning a brand new web application today, I would not hesitate to recommend at least trying a quick proof of concept with Ionic Framework.



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