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S Alexander18,962 Points
Why 12 columns?
Hi. Why did Guil (and why do grids like Foundation and Bootstrap) choose a 12-column grid as the default? What advantages does it have over others? When would it be more appropriate to choose a 10- or 8-column layout? Cheers, Alex
Websites often present their content in multiple columns, as you know. It's not unusual to find yourself wanting to have those columns evenly distributed and of same size. A 12-column grid will allow you to do that regardless of whether you want 2 (by spanning 6), 3 (by spanning 4) or 4 (by spanning 3) content columns. You can even do 5 columns by skipping one and then spanning 2, 5 times. Being a multiple of 3 and 4, it's fairly flexible.
That's the explanation I came upon years ago, I'd link the source article, but I never bookmarked it.
Matt Campbell9,767 Points
It all depends on your design. A column is obviously a proportion of the viewport width. 12 is a well distributed division as you have a good range of widths you can assign to content. You can have anything from 1 column to 100 columns if you want. All depends how detailed and varied the elements you're building are.
To be honest though, I don't use columns and nor do a huge number of people. They're not compulsory. Columns immediately restrict what you're doing.
I tend to have a number of containers which act as columns and are the reference point for assigning widths to elements within that section of a page.