My take on the CSS grid layout

July 01, 2017

It’s time to dive into the CSS grid layout. All the modern browsers support it, and Microsoft is working on the implementation for IE and Edge. I would like to give you a short introduction to help you understand how grid works and to show you how easy it is to get started with.

CSS Grid layout support

The current support for CSS Grid Layout. Date 1 Jul 2017

Define a basic grid

display: grid. This is the new property value that would be set on the container element where you would want your grid to be established.

Let’s set up the columns for this grid. You can set the width of every column by grid-template-columns, which also sets the total number of columns for one row. In this case I will create a four-column layout with a width of 250px for each column.

grid-template-columns: 250px 250px 250px 250px

Now we must define the rows of the grid using the grid-template-rows property. We will set that to 250px, which will be the height of this one row.

Hot tip: Firefox has implemented a grid overlay representation for the inspector when inspecting a grid layout. My screenshots use the Firefox overlay.

You can watch the video here

New unit for grid (fr)

Let’s make this a little bit more exciting. We can define a twelve-equal column layout without having to calculating the math for it. We will be using a new unit called fr. fr is short for fraction, and it’s a grid unit that assigns track of the available space in the container. It’s likeflex-grow for flexbox. Let’s use that to display the twelve equal width columns for a row with the repeat function for the grid.

Grid gutter

You can also add a gutter to the grid by using the grid-gap property. grid-gap is shorthand for grid-row-gap and grid-column-gap. We will set that to 20px to define our gutters for this grid.

Grid column

Let’s position something within this grid. We can create a child element <div class="box"</div> and place it using grid-column: start / end in this grid. In this case I can start with column row number 3 and end before column row number 5 using grid-column: 3 / 5.

There is also another easier way to define the width of that box, by defining a span. The span will regulate how many columns are filled. In this example, it would be five grid cells adding span to the end row. grid-column: 3 / span 5

Grid row

You can also define the position of the starting grid row. grid-row: start / end Here is another example of how that works with multiple rows in the grid.

** Note: the display grid property only affects one depth down the document tree. You can always define a new grid down the tree (nested grids) or use the display: subgrid  property, which will copy the columns and rows from its parent grid without having to redefine the same values.**

Grid template areas

With the grid, you can also create references for your cells, sort of like a map representation to apply grid areas called grid-template-areas. I’ve created a demo to present a typical example.

So, for each element you need to specify the area where it will be positioned. In this case I would say header { grid-area: header } and that would place by the header reference. The dot (.) represents none and will leave a position empty.

Now you have a understanding of what grid is and how powerful it is. If you would like to deep dive into grid which I think you should do. Look future down for more reading.

The flexbox vs grid dilema 🤔

Some developers have trouble understanding the difference between flexbox and grid. Simply put, flexbox is not grid, and grid is not flexbox. Grid is for establishing a layout, while flexbox is for flexing content within a box vertically or horizontally.


I think there is going to be a problem with accessibility. We have to be responsible for how we layout elements within a grid layout. Remember that we are not moving things in the DOM.

Old browsers!? 😱

So, what about old browsers? I think we have to accept that not everything will look the same for all browsers. Building a layout without the grid would be a great fallback for starters. You can also use @support to check if grid is supported and go from there. Let me know if you have any other suggestions for how to deal with old browsers.

More links and resources to master grid 😎

There is so much more to learn about grid. You should deep dive into these resources.

Thanks for reading!

Feel free to reach me on Twitter if you have any questions