CSS is a crucial part of our regular web design tasks. In fact, we all use CSS in our web design projects at some point. It significantly impacts the appearance of our designs. However, Creating a tidy CSS code can be challenging.
The internet is continually changing, and so are the CSS frameworks that enhance frontend development, making it more efficient and enjoyable. Whether you like them or not, CSS frameworks are here to stay.
Even developers without previous frontend experience can easily create user-friendly interfaces using some of these frameworks. On the other hand, there are more advanced frameworks designed for experienced users.
Regardless of your skill level, these frameworks can help you create visually appealing layouts quickly.
In this article, we’ll explore the top CSS frameworks available, allowing you to choose the one that best suits your requirements.
What’s a CSS Framework, Anyway?
The front is a collection of pre-written, standardized CSS code called a CSS framework. Reactive grid systems, pre-made UI components, and styles for various elements like buttons, forms, text, and more are frequently included in them.
A CSS framework serves as a Foundation for web designers and developers, making it possible for them to create websites faster and more effectively. Additionally, they may significantly improve your front-end designs when used in conjunction with one of the greatest CSS editors.
It is likely that you will gain by enrolling in some of the top HTML courses and incorporating CSS frameworks into your work process if front-end web design is your area of interest.
Over time, Bootstrap has adapted to modern CSS practices, offering a plethora of features to enhance frontend productivity. While it’s widely acclaimed, Bootstrap does face some criticism. Here’s a breakdown of why you might consider using Bootstrap in your projects despite these critiques.
Reasons to Use Bootstrap:
- Popularity: Bootstrap is one of the most widely used open-source projects, ensuring a wealth of solutions and a variety of free and premium templates for diverse projects.
- Feature-Rich: Beyond being a development framework, Bootstrap is a pre-built dynamic template with numerous ready-to-use components. It supports a wide range of elements, making it accessible for developers, even those without prior frontend experience.
- Customizability: Bootstrap is easily customizable using SASS. By installing the project with npm, importing necessary components, and leveraging SASS variables, you can customize almost every aspect, leading to significant time savings in development.
- Maturity and Support: Bootstrap, initially introduced by Twitter, is now supported by a large assembly of developers. This ensures stable releases and long-term support, distinguishing it from smaller projects that might become obsolete.
- Hard to Override: Bootstrap comes with a specific design that’s challenging to override, particularly due to its extensive use of the! important CSS rule.
- Overused Look: The widespread use of Bootstrap has led to a common critique: the distinct look it offers is so prevalent that people often say, “All Bootstrap websites look the same.”
- Heavy to Include: The comprehensive features of Bootstrap come at a cost – it can be quite heavy to include in projects. While parts can be selectively imported, they may not be as lightweight or modular as some other frameworks.
Bulma emerges as a compelling alternative to Bootstrap, offering modern code and a distinctive aesthetic. Its user-friendly nature, easy integration into projects, and a variety of pre-made components contribute to its popularity.
Reasons to Use Bulma:
- Aesthetic Design: Bulma is lauded for its visually appealing design, often considered the best-looking CSS framework. Even without modifications, it can transform a mundane web page into an attractive one.
- Modern Approach: Leveraging CSS’ flexbox layout module, Bulma adopts modern principles for creating responsive layouts. It was among the first frameworks to embrace the flexibility offered by the new module.
- Developer-Friendly: While the primary goal for frontend developers is delivering a great user experience, Bulma’s creators prioritize providing an excellent experience for developers. The framework incorporates straightforward naming conventions that are easy to use and remember.
- Easy Customization: Bulma’s colors, paddings, and default properties are easily customizable using SASS. This enables quick setup of project defaults in a matter of minutes.
- Distinct Style: Bulma’s uncommon style can be a double-edged sword. While it is distinctive, excessive use may result in websites looking very similar, reminiscent of the issue seen with Bootstrap.
- Less Comprehensive: While Bulma competes with Bootstrap in many aspects, it may not be as comprehensive in terms of accessibility and other enterprise-grade features.
Foundation is an ideal choice for seasoned developers seeking flexibility alongside the capabilities of a comprehensive framework. Beyond just a CSS framework, Foundation represents a suite of frontend development tools designed to be used together or independently.
Reasons to Use Foundation:
- Generic Style: Foundation differs from Bootstrap by avoiding a distinct style for its components. Its array of modular and flexible components features minimal styling, allowing for easy customization.
- Fully-Featured: The Foundation covers almost every aspect with built-in components, including navigation bars, diverse container types, and a developer-friendly grid system. It provides access to pre-made HTML templates, contributed either by the development team or the community, offering a kickstart for projects tailored to specific needs.
- Email Design: Crafting aesthetically pleasing email templates is often challenging. Foundation for Emails addresses this by facilitating the creation of responsive email templates for various clients, even older versions of Microsoft Outlook.
- Animations: Integration with ZURB’s Motion UI library enhances the Foundation’s capabilities by enabling the creation of transitions and animations with built-in effects, bringing designs to life.
- Learning Curve: The Foundation’s abundance of options can make it challenging to learn. The framework is feature-rich and considerably more complex than some alternatives, offering extensive freedom in frontend layout development but requiring a thorough understanding of its workings.
Tailwind CSS distinguishes itself as a lightweight framework that empowers developers by avoiding excessive pre-defined styles. With a motto of “Most CSS frameworks do too much,” Tailwind offers a minimalist approach, allowing developers the freedom to implement their distinctive styles swiftly.
Reasons to Use Tailwind:
- Atomic CSS: Tailwind simplifies common CSS coding tasks by providing powerful utility classes. This approach, known as Atomic CSS, involves using classes in HTML elements to clearly describe the intended appearance.
For example, <div class=”m-1 text-center bg-black”>…</div> creates an element with a small margin, centered text, and a black background.
- No Design Preconceptions: Tailwind doesn’t come with pre-made components or a specific design language. This means developers can avoid overriding existing styles, facilitating increased productivity when implementing custom designs.
- Reusable Components: Although Tailwind lacks pre-designed components, it allows developers to create custom components for reuse across projects. The official website also provides some component examples that serve as starting points.
- Powerful PostCSS/SASS Integration: To maximize Tailwind’s capabilities, integration with PostCSS or SASS is essential. This integration enables the use of Tailwind’s features, enhancing the efficiency of CSS writing. The @apply syntax copies rules from Tailwind into SASS or CSS code, providing enhanced functionality.
- Steep Learning Curve: Tailwind may pose challenges for less experienced developers due to its lack of pre-made components. Understanding frontend technologies is crucial, and the framework’s syntax requires a learning curve to become proficient.
- Indirect Usage Requirement: While Tailwind can be added to a project as a bundled CSS file, directly using it in this manner restricts access to many features and the compressed version. To fully leverage Tailwind, familiarity with Webpack, Gulp, or other frontend build tools is necessary.
Milligram stands out as a minimalist CSS framework, boasting a dedicated community of developers. Its appeal lies in the ability to commence interface creation with a clean slate, emphasizing performance and productivity.
Reasons to Use Milligram:
- Minimalist CSS Framework: Milligram is straightforward to set up and start working with. Despite offering robust features for productivity, it maintains a remarkably low weight of 2 KB when compressed.
- Non-Oppressive Design: Milligram stands out by not imposing default styling. Developers are not required to reset or override properties that may not align with their goals when implementing custom styles.
- Ease of Learning: Milligrams simplicity facilitates a quick learning curve. Reading the official documentation is sufficient to get started within a day.
- No Templates: For those seeking pre-made or template-like solutions, there may be better choices than Milligram. However, if your goal is to implement a specific design, it can significantly enhance productivity.
- Small Community: While Milligram boasts a tight-knit community, it is relatively small. Finding community support may be more complex than with more popular CSS frameworks. Nevertheless, Milligrams’ simplicity often negates the need for extensive assistance.
UIkit presents itself as a modular frontend framework, providing the flexibility to import only the needed features. With over 16,000 stars on GitHub, developers choose UIkit for its user-friendly API and streamlined design.
Reasons to Use UIkit:
- Dozens of Components: UIkit offers a rich set of components, enabling the implementation of intricate frontend layouts. Beyond standard utilities and components, it includes advanced elements like navigation bars, off-canvas sidebars, and parallax designs.
- Extensibility: UIkit is easily customizable and extensible using the LESS or SASS preprocessors, providing developers with flexibility in adapting the framework to their needs.
- UI-Based Customizer: UIkit features a web-based customizer that facilitates real-time design customization. This unique aspect allows users to modify the design interactively and then copy SASS or LESS variables into their projects, streamlining the project initiation process.
- Complexity for Smaller Projects: UIkit may be overly complex for less experienced developers, as it demands a deep understanding of frontend development. While well-suited for advanced applications, it may be perceived as excessive for smaller projects.
- Smaller Community: Despite its npm package being downloaded 27,000 times a week, UIkit is less widely adopted than some other frameworks. Consequently, finding answers or hiring individuals with UIkit experience may not be as straightforward as with more popular frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation.
Materialize CSS stands as an open-source CSS framework tailored to effortlessly implement the popular material design look and feel into various projects. Material design, developed by Google, is widely adopted across websites and admin themes, making Materialize CSS a convenient choice for developers.
Reasons to Use Materialize:
- Material Design: Leveraging the widely recognized material design language ensures that your creations are intuitive and user-friendly for the target audience familiar with this design paradigm.
- Mobile-Friendly: The framework facilitates the creation of progressive web apps through mobile-like components, including a floating navigation bar and swipe interactions, enhancing mobile user experience.
- Strict Design Language: Materialize CSS adheres strictly to the material design language. If your project deviates significantly from material design principles, using Materialize may not be the most suitable choice.
- Independent Project: While Materialize CSS boasts an active community, it operates as a small and independent project without corporate support. This can impact the scale of resources available compared to frameworks backed by larger organizations.
Tachyons is a lesser-known CSS framework that includes advanced utility classes and provides you with dozens of ways to use them.
The project’s documentation explains the development principles, with the most important one being reusability. Tachyons help you understand your project’s design patterns and promote reusability throughout your project.
Reasons to Use Tachyons
- Ready-to-use components: Even though Tachyons focuses on offering great utility classes to boost productivity, the official documentation includes many ready-to-use components, too.
- Diverse: Tachyons offers functional templates that can be used in different setups, such as static HTML, Rails, React, Angular, and others.
- Reusable: Tachyons are a great choice for creating scalable design systems. These systems usually break as they scale because more and more variants start appearing. This framework allows you to create reusable properties to build diverse and flexible components.
- Primarily for PostCSS: PostCSS, which is the main way of using Tachyons, is less widely used than LESS or SASS. Tachyons does offer integration with SASS, but it needs to be more widely used and supported.
Choosing the right CSS framework is crucial for efficiency, productivity, and achieving the desired design. The variety of frameworks available caters to different preferences, skill levels, and project requirements. From popular choices like Bootstrap and Materialize CSS to minimalist options like Milligram and Tachyons, each framework brings unique features and advantages to the table.
Ultimately, the best CSS framework for developers depends on the specific needs of the project, the desired design language, and the developer’s familiarity with the framework’s syntax and structure. Whether it’s a comprehensive framework like Bootstrap for rapid development or a more lightweight option like Milligram for a minimalist approach, the right choice enhances the development process and contributes to the overall success of a project.
FAQs on CSS Frameworks
Why use a CSS framework?
CSS frameworks provide a foundation for consistent styling, layout, and design across web projects. They save time by offering pre-made components, improving code organization, and often coming up with responsive design features.
Which is the best CSS framework?
The best CSS framework depends on project requirements and developer preferences. Bootstrap is widely popular for its comprehensive features, while other frameworks like Tailwind CSS and Bulma offer more flexibility and customization.
Are CSS frameworks suitable for all projects?
No, CSS frameworks may not be suitable for every project. While they offer convenience, they can be overkill for simple projects. In some cases, a lightweight framework or custom styling might be more appropriate.
What is the learning curve for CSS frameworks?
The learning curve varies depending on the framework. Some, like Milligram, are designed to be simple and quick to learn, while others, such as Foundation or UIkit, may have a steeper learning curve due to their extensive features.