In this chapter, I will show you part of how Bootstrap handles layout. This will let you better imagine the look of your project and help you consider if it’s the best way of presenting your information.


Web designers typically undergo a step called wireframing, which involves drawing what the layout or structure of a web page should be. This helps determine how the information is presented and how the various bits of information interact. Because this entanglement of information is the center of wireframing, there is no focus on fonts or colors or graphics.

Wireframing, in short, is a way of forcing the web author to answer the questions regarding what they want their website to do. What do they want their users to do. What kind of information do they want to expose.

For the “Could Be” Project, there are three clear containers of information that I want to present to the user. The first is the poem itself, in an interactive format. The second is the map, showing the five locations mentioned in the poem. And the third is a container showing the information I have researched on each location, perhaps with a picture.

The ideal user in my imagination reads the poem and clicks on a place. The map then zooms to that place, and the container fills with information about that location. But I also want the user to be able to click through the places without having to click on the poem.

In my head, the best way to achieve this is by having the poem on one side of the page, and having the map atop the location information container, which has a navigation bar atop it listing all five locations. Bootstrap, luckily, has tools to help us visualize a simple structure like what is in my head.

The Bootstrap grid

Grids help organize visual content. When items on the page (including a webpage) do not line up, the page can be confusing and tiring to read. In Bootstrap, when a <div> has the .row class, it triggers Bootstrap’s grid system, which generates a grid that is twelve columns wide, leaving us to distribute those columns as we like.

The great part about Bootstrap’s grid is that it resizes itself depending on the width of the browser. For example, what might be two columns on a laptop or tablet may appear as just one column (with both columns stacked atop each other) on a smartphone.

Each column in Bootstrap is typically also a <div> with a class that uses a col-sz-n syntax. Here, sz refers to the breakpoint, meaning at what size do the columns start spreading out. The breakpoints can be sm (phones that are in landscape mode), md (tablets), lg (desktops), and xl (large desktops). The n, on the other hand, is an integer between 1 and 12 that describes how many grid columns wide the <div> should be.

I rewrite part of could-be.html to make use of the grid system:

<div class="container">
  <h1>“Could Be,” by Langston Hughes</h1>
  <div class="row">
    <div class="col-md-4" id="poem">
      <p>Poem will go here</p>
    <div class="col-md-8" id="places-sidebar">
      <div id="could-be-map" class="map"></div>
      <div id="content">
        <p>Info on places, that is, the content,
          will go here.</p>

Save and reload, and now the page is clearly split up into three parts. What’s more, at small widths, the poem will appear above the map, instead of squeezing the map.

Building tabbed navigation

The next step is designing that navigation element I want to use to show the five different places in the poem. We wrap the navigation elements, which are <a> tags, in a <nav> tag. Bootstrap’s classes do all the heavy lifting. The navigation for the #content section of our project page, then, will look like this, and it goes inside the #content <div>:

<div id="content">
  <nav id="nav-tabs" class="nav nav-pills mt-3">
    <a class="nav-link active" href="#introduction">Introduction</a>
    <a class="nav-link" href="#hastings-street">Hastings St.</a>
    <a class="nav-link" href="#lenox-avenue">Lenox Ave.</a>
    <a class="nav-link" href="#eighteenth-and-vine">18th &amp; Vine</a>
    <a class="nav-link" href="#fifth-and-mound">5th &amp; Mound</a>
    <a class="nav-link" href="#rampart">Rampart</a>

The .nav-pills class means that Bootstrap will style this as though it were a bunch of “pills,” where the one with the .active class will be a different color. This will work just fine for how we want our design to look. Additionally, the .mt-3 class is a Bootstrap class that adds a margin to the top, to push the tabs away from the map above it.

Also notice that to create an ampersand (&) in HTML, one has to type the unwieldy &amp;. This also goes for typing things like <> (&lt;&gt;). Markdown, ahem, suffers from none of these problems.

Below the navigation list, we create the contents of each tab. Here we make use of more of Bootstrap’s built in classes.

<div class="tab-content p-3">
  <section class="tab-pane active" id="introduction" role="tabpanel"> </section>
  <section class="tab-pane" id="hastings-street" role="tabpanel"> </section>
  <section class="tab-pane" id="lenox-avenue" role="tabpanel"> </section>
  <section class="tab-pane" id="eighteenth-and-vine" role="tabpanel"> </section>
  <section class="tab-pane" id="fifth-and-mound" role="tabpanel"> </section>
  <section class="tab-pane" id="rampart" role="tabpanel"> </section>

The relationship between each <section>’s id and the href setting on the navigation list is how we connect the tabs to the content beneath. Furthermore, the .p-3 class provides some padding for the inner content. Margins and padding are the two best ways to use CSS to control negative space.

In order to make the tab pills work their magic, however, we have to add some data attributes, so that Bootstrap’s JavaScript knows to treat the section as a set of tabs, so the navigation gets augmented to include that:

<nav id="nav-tabs" class="nav nav-pills mt-3" role="tablist">
  <a class="nav-link active" href="#introduction" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">Introduction</a>
  <a class="nav-link" href="#hastings-street" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">Hastings St.</a>
  <a class="nav-link" href="#lenox-avenue" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">Lenox Ave.</a>
  <a class="nav-link" href="#eighteenth-and-vine" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">18th &amp; Vine</a>
  <a class="nav-link" href="#fifth-and-mound" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">5th &amp; Mound</a>
  <a class="nav-link" href="#rampart" data-toggle="tab" role="tab">Rampart</a>

Now, inside the #content block, you should have the <nav></nav> section as well as the .tab-content collection of <section>s. See how the href= attribute among the .nav-links connects to the id= of the .tab-panes, as we’ll also wire the JavaScript to use those terms as well in the next section.

Populating the sections with Markdown content

The <section>s hold all of the content for this project are currently empty, so I will write one markdown file for each. I’ll then use a variation on the $.ajax() method we used in the previous chapter to feed the content into the tabs. Importantly, however, every Markdown document has the same name as the id of its corresponding <section>. As a result, instead of having to write the same call to $.ajax() five times, we can write it once and loop over it by creating an array on the fly made up of the tab names. Remember that the $.ajax() method’s .url property must refer to a document on the internet (begins with http:// or https://, so have a quick peek at chapter 15 to see how to setup your GitHub repository as its own mini webserver.

let md;
md = window.markdownit({html: true}).use(window.markdownitFootnote);
["hastings-street", "eighteenth-and-vine",
  "fifth-and-mound", "introduction",
  "lenox-avenue", "rampart"].forEach(function(tab){
  // Create a variable tab that has the name as a string.
    // tab + ".md" yields, for example, "".
    url: "" + tab + ".md",
    success: function(markdown){
      let html;
      html = md.render(markdown);
      // "#rampart", for example.
      $("#" + tab).html(html);

The tabs now show the text for each place, as you can see here.


  1. Draw (by hand) a wireframe for your web project. It can have multiple pages to show how the site reacts to different user interactions.
  2. Populate some <section>s in your project with Markdown.