There are so many great CSS resources all over the internet. But what if you just want a simple layout and you want it NOW?

In this article, I describe the 5 most common web page layouts and how to build them using both Flexbox and Grid.

How this will work

There is a link below every layout for the full HTML and CSS code on CodePen.

Note that I'm using SASS for composing style definitions, so if you want to do the same on your local, install SASS using:

npm i sass -g

Basic card template

I used the above card as the base of the web page layout. It's composed of three elements in a vertical direction, so normal div blocks would work well. However, I will later need to make the middle element - the text paragraph - stretch.

Here both Flexbox and Grid do the job seamlessly. I prefer Flexbox as it's more straightforward to me.

Winner: Flexbox

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

Now let's start creating our different layouts.

#1 Vertically and horizontally centered card

With Flexbox, we need one element that centers horizontally, and another (the child element) that centers vertically.

The order of items is defined by flex-direction. How the element positions itself in the available space is set by align-self on the element or align-items on its parent.

With Grid, we need three columns and three rows. Then we position the card in the middle cell.

The horizontal centering is easy. We define three columns and their sizes using grid-template-columns: auto 33% auto as the card should be as wide as 1/3 of the visible area.

The problem is, we don't know the vertical dimensions. We want the top and bottom rows to take up the remaining space which is not possible with grid. The card is centered, but its height depends on the height of the window.

However, we can solve this with an additional wrapping element around the card and center it using margin.

Winner: Flexbox

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

#2 Two cards vertically and horizontally centered

Often we need to center more than just one element. These two cards should also maintain the same height if one or the other contains longer text.

With Flexbox, we need to wrap both cards in another element and use it to center both cards at once.

We can't use align-items here as that applies to the Y-axis in this case. We need to define how the remaining space on the X-axis should be distributed with justify-content: center. That ensures both cards are horizontally centered.

If we omit the variable height problem of Grid, we can achieve the same result even without any additional wrapping elements. This time we define grid with five columns with grid-template-columns: auto 33% 50px 33% auto. The rest stays the same as in the previous example.

Winner: Flexbox

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

#3 Multiple cards with same width and height

This is another typical use case for blogs, e-commerce sites, or generally any site that displays some kind of listing. We want the cards to have the same width and height. Height needs to be inferred from the greatest element in the list.

This can be done in Flexbox using flex-wrap: wrap. Elements will wrap to the next line if their width exceeds the remaining space of each line. However, the same height is only preserved in the scope of a single line, unless you define it explicitly.

Grid shows its true power here. This layout can be created using grid-auto-rows: 1fr which enforces the same height on all rows.

Winner: Grid

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

#4 Alternating text and images vertically and horizontally centered

In this example, we have text with CTA buttons accompanied by an image on the other side. Both components should be vertically centered, as their size can vary.

This is a piece of cake for Flexbox. Every row is an article element split into two wrapping containers, .img and .content. They are required for even size distribution (flex-basis: 50%).

Vertical centering of the inner content is defined by align-items: center.

The alternation is achieved by reversing the direction of Flexbox by flex-direction: row-reverse on every odd article.

Grid handles this use-case nicely too. We don't need to define one giant grid, but rather one for each article.

It defines equally wide columns that are vertically centered using align-items: center.

The alternation is defined on the cell-level by switched values for grid-column.

Winner: tie

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

#5 Horizontal header with menu

To achieve this design using Flexbox, both sides of the header need to be represented by a single element.

The logo and company name form one anchor on the left, and the menu is a single nav element on the right. Flexbox positions them with justify-content: space-between.

With Grid, we need two columns - one for the logo and the other for the menu. The menu is another grid that distributes the size of columns evenly using grid-template-columns: repeat(4, minmax(0, 1fr)).

The problem here is that if we want to add another item to the menu, we also need to adjust the CSS.

Winner: Flexbox

CodePen Flexbox, CodePen Grid

And the winner is...

The final score is 5:2 in favor of Flexbox, but this does not mean that it becomes the ultimate CSS winner. There are situations when you need to use one or the other, sometimes even both together, to achieve what you need.

If you need flexible and conditional positioning, use Flexbox. If you want to create listings or similar structures that require equally sized elements or have a table form, use Grid.

As a front-end developer, you won't get away with not knowing both.

Reference guide Flexbox, Reference guide Grid

P.S. If I missed a layout you use on a daily basis, let me know on Twitter and I'll prepare a sequel :-)