How soon should flexbox replace float in the web education curriculum?

Is anyone teaching flexbox for layout as a regular part of the web design curriculum? I’m thinking probably not a lot of classes are doing it now because it isn’t supported in all browsers yet.

I’m telling students about CSS layouts using floats. But I’m starting to mention flexbox to them as something they need to watch because it’s going to change everything.

When do we switch from teaching one layout method to another? When browser compliance is complete? Before that? After that? What are you doing? Do we teach both side by side?

I’m just wondering what everyone is doing and what I should be recommending to my institution about when to update the curriculum.

See also: Flexbox Tutorials from Web Designer Depot and a number of Useful Link posts.

15 thoughts on “How soon should flexbox replace float in the web education curriculum?”

  1. I teach both (and tend to do that with any approach or solution). It’s a great way to further demonstrate browser/agent differences and highlight design/code patterns and decision making.

  2. My position (ha HA!) is that both should be taught now, because right now flexbox layouts usually require float fallbacks. There are JS polyfills for flexbox, but they’re a little bit behind the latest version of the specification.

    The reason I’d start teaching flexbox now is that it is going to be central to layout for a while, and students need to be ready for that even if they’re not using it everywhere right now. Teaching just floats at this point is a little bit like teaching just table layout in the early 2000s instead of teaching both tables and floats (or just floats).

    In other words, show them the tunnel we’ve been traveling all these years (and why it was necessary in the first place), but show them the fast-approaching end of that tunnel and what will be possible beyond it. As they enter the workforce, they’ll be well-prepared to excel.

  3. I refrain from diving too deeply into cutting-edge things, like flexbox, with students. Unless the class/students are significantly advanced, it seems presumptuous to immerse students in something that is not widely embraced and could change! I do share a bit of information and some demonstration of new things, like flexbox, but avoid any in-depth exploration. However, I do encourage students to keep an eye open for news and to take their own time to experiment with new techniques. I hate it when I teach things that soon change — like the use of hgroup — and then have to go into this long explanation about why that wasn’t a waste of their time (and mine). The historical perspective is also important. I do emphasize the importance of my “read up to keep up” philosophy for new things in our craft.

  4. My take is that it depends on what classroom it is. Students should generally learn the skills that they use after graduation. So if it’s a classroom with student that graduate tomorrow after a short course, floats are what they are going to use tomorrow and flexbox should be mentioned. If it’s a classroom filled with students that will graduate two years from now, go for flexbox!

  5. Those video tutorials are great resources — thanks for sharing them! I’ve been on the fence with whether or not to introduce flexbox, also. After reading your post and the comments I’ve decided to push forward. I’m currently writing my next textbook, the 7th edition of Web Development & Design Foundations with HTML5, which will include a brief introduction to flexbox! Thanks for the inspiration!

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