What is Flexbox and Grid in CSS

Flexbox and Grid in CSS

The Flexbox and Grid debate is currently the most popular topic in the CSS Community, so what actually are these layout systems. Everything on the Internet is contained in web pages. These pages contain content within them which is placed in some form of a layout or format. The advancement in technology has enabled the users to browse the web on any screen dimension, forcing the content to be responsive. This is where responsive layout design is one of the essential aspects of building your webpage. Fundamentally the webpage is built up using boxes, and these are then tweaked as per the content demanding height and width. While all this is still possible using the techniques like tables, floats, positioning and inline-block, it is still not sufficient enough to build some significant functionality (Vertical Centering, for example) and complex layouts.


CSS has always been there for us when it comes to designing layouts, but producing complicated structures such as multi-columns, grids, and rows has been a little burdensome and fiddly when working across multiple browsers and devices with different dimensions.

Well-structured and responsive layout models were invented to solve all of these layout issues, known as the CSS Flexbox and Grid. These models were supported across all platforms and compatible with all browsers and devices. These introductions made life much more accessible and helped in building complex layouts without involving Javascript. 

Coming back to which layout system is best for your project, understanding and finalizing this can help you achieve a better result and well-written CSS code.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at these CSS Layout Models, explaining their fundamental properties and ideal use cases.

Quick Tip: Flexbox layout is most suitable to the components of an application, and small-scale structures, while the Grid layout is meant for larger scale layouts.

Flexbox or CSS Grid


Flexbox is a one-dimensional layout system that is used to create a row or a column axis layout. It makes our life much easier to structure and build responsive web pages without involving tricky hacks and many float and position properties in our CSS code. Flexbox is also helpful in the allocation and alignment of space among items in a container. It is compatible with all kinds of display devices and screen sizes.

To begin using Flexbox, all you need to do is create a flex container using the display: flex property. Once this is declared, every child element that you have inside that parent flex container turns into a flex item. A flex container always expands its items to fill available free space or shrinks them to prevent overflow. It provides a better arrangement of all of the page elements.

Please have a look at the below figure from the specification, explaining the main idea behind the flex layout.

Flexbox Container

Since the model is a one-dimensional layout system, the items will be laid out either on the main axis or the cross axis.

  • Main-axis: The main axis of the flexbox is the primary axis along which flex items are laid out. It is not necessarily horizontal but depends on the flex:direction property.
  • Main-size: A flex item’s width or height, whichever is in the main dimension, is the item’s main size.
  • Cross-axis: The axis perpendicular to the main axis is called the cross axis. The main axis direction determines its direction.
  • Cross-size: The width or height of a flex item, whichever is in the cross dimension, is the item’s cross size.


If Flexbox is a powerful layout system, CSS Grids is one step further. It is a two-dimensional layout system meaning with can work with rows or columns together.

It is best used to divide a page into several sections or define the correlation in terms of size, position, and layer. Just tables, grid layout, allow us to align elements into columns and rows.

To use a grid layout system, you must define the parent element as display:grid along with the column and row sizes with grid-template-rows and grid-template-columns.

-Image Source: Designmodo

CSS Grid provides an edge over Flexbox

There is a complex design to implement – For some use cases, when there are intricate designs to execute, that’s when the magic of CSS grid shows itself. The two-dimensional layout system here is the goto to create a complex structure.

You need to have a gap between the items – Gaps can be created between grid-items by simply using the grid-column-gap property. While to achieve the same result in flexbox, we would have to use padding and nested containers or increase the width of the flex-container and use the justify-content property to spread the flex-items.

Element overlap is required – Overlap elements using a CSS grid is straightforward, you need to use the grid-column and grid-row properties, and the result is overlapping elements.

A layout-first design is of priority – when you already have your layout design structure. The two-dimensional layout system helps us a lot when we can use rows and columns together and position the elements the way we want.

What differentiates CSS Grids and Flexbox

1. Dimension and Flexibility:

Flexbox offers greater control over alignment and space distribution between items. Being one-dimensional, Flexbox only deals with either columns or rows.

Grid has two-dimension layout capabilities, which allow flexible widths as a unit of length. This compensates for the limitations in Flex.

2. Alignment:

Flex Direction enables developers to align elements vertically or horizontally, used when developers create and reverse rows or columns.

CSS Grid deploys fractional measure units for grid fluidity and auto-keyword functionality to automatically adjust columns or rows.

3. Item Management:

The parent element is called the Flex Container, while Flex Item represents the children. The Flex Container can ensure balanced representation by adjusting item dimensions. This allows developers to design for fluctuating screen sizes.

Grids support both implicit and explicit content placement. Its inbuilt automation automatically extends line items and copies values into the new creation from the preceding item.

Browser Support

Flexbox has fairly good browser support, while CSS Grid is not supported by IE11- and Edge 15-.  The images below show a detailed analysis of browser support for Grid & Flexbox.

-Image Source: Caniuse
-Image Source: Caniuse


So, with this, can we conclude if one is superior to the other. It is hard to tell as CSS Grid and Flexbox are both designed to solve different sets of obstacles.

CSS Grid currently doesn’t have enough support across the browsers to make production-ready websites. One can use the general rule of thumb that a feature must cover more than 95% of global usage. As a result, only then can you use that feature in existing websites. At the moment 95% of global usage is covered by Flexbox, and 87% of global usage by Grid.

It is expected that soon Grid will also get good support among the browsers. This will enable the developers to use a combination of Grids and Flexboxes to make fantastic website layouts that previously weren’t possible. It will be more helpful and time-saving if you use both at the same time.

If you have any questions or feedback, let us know in the comments section.

Check out Webflare Blog for more insights. 

About Author
Asad Qureshi

Asad is a frontend developer who believes in the synergy of rational and intuitive thinking. With a knack for creativity and a logical approach, he specializes in crafting visually stunning and user-friendly interfaces.

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