The great thing about the modern age day and technology is that nowadays there is no need for grueling efforts and time-consuming processes no matter what the task is. Emphasis on making lives easier has made us come up with easier alternatives and options that give us a head start on pretty much everything. And as developers, your version of a solution or head start are frameworks. Instead of spending a huge amount of time and effort coming up with a creative and unique set of CSS framework, you can instead focus on the important details for a better, faster and efficient way to get started with a functional website.
For a better understanding, think of the frameworks as a base or a foundation upon which the developers can start their website. This includes the implementation of grids, buttons, UI patterns, form elements, advanced typographies and pretty much all of the basics one requires. If you are more or less a beginner then, these come in super handy to create a useful product. It is also the fastest and easiest way to create prototypes to present if your deadline is limited.
But there is still the question of which framework is the best for you? So today, we will be taking a glance towards the best contenders or front-runners of CSS frameworks out there. We have compiled the list while comparing both the pros and cons of each one, so you can pretty much get a better idea at what best suits your preference. Without further ado, let’s get right onto it.
One of the most popular and widely used frameworks, Bootstrap was the first framework that introduced or popularized the mobile-first and responsive design. A initiative by Twitter, it was first released as Twitter Blueprint on August 19, 2011. However, it has come a long way until now, and several other versions of it has been releases; the lates being Bootstrap 4. Another release is due soon, and the framework has announced major changes you can find here.
Pros Of Using Bootstrap:
- Responsive Layout: Like we have mentioned above, this framework supports the responsiveness of a website using the grid system. This ensures that overall no matter what browser, or device your users use, your site pretty much looks flawless. It is user-friendly and the graphics and resolutions all adjust according to the devices as well.
- Large Built-In Library: The best part about using this framework is that compared to all of the front-end frameworks, this particular option offers the largest built-in library of resources you can use. This includes variations for website layouts, templates, admin panels, and so much more.
- Easy & Fast Prototyping: Bootstrap also allows the users the option to set up a functional site, prototype or mock-up within a matter of minutes. All you need to do is write the HTML while using the pre-built CSS classes and components to your preference and you are done.
- LESS & SASS Support: Another unique aspect to using Bootstrap as your CSS framework is the support for both LESS and SASS. This was brought into light with the latest of Bootstrap 4 which replaced the use of LESS with SASS. While most developers tend to prefer SASS, there are plenty of projects based on LESS that makes this framework a great choice.
Cons Of Using Bootstrap:
- Monotonous Outlook Approach: The downside of using Bootstrap is that because of such huge range of the built-in options, the end result of the websites all tend to look too similar. Another woe here is the difficulty to override the default settings or the styling it offers. Basically, what we mean by this is that this framework comes with a opiniated framework and if you wish to change any of the aspects, make it behave or present itself a little differently, you can expect a lot of work there. This applies with pretty much all of the components in this particular framework.
Another more widely used framework we would like to mention is Foundation. While it is pretty easy to work with, customize and flexible, it is however, more sophisticated. It is great for creating sites and web apps, and to mention a few of those who rely on these are: Facebook, Mozilla, Cisco and even Disney! As their home page itself claims; Foundation is “The most advanced responsive front-end framework in the world”. And today, we are discussing how much of this claim is actually reliable?
Basically, this was developed to go hand-in-hand with the framework Rails and the similar guidelines. This makes this framework a intuitive and easier approach for developers to work with and memorize; significantly making it time and effort efficient. Comparatively, less popular than Bootstrap, this framework sure is one that comes next in line being the expert’s choice.
Pros Of Using Foundation:
- Easy to Customize with Full Tooling: Like we just mentioned above, Foundation is a much more efficient way to create and customize when it comes to codes. It offers the developers a full control over the UIs, and is designed to be a large and modular collection of amazing tools to aid you with this. There are different frameworks for the purpose of websites, emails and includes the CLI (command-line-interface).
- OnlineTraining: As this is a pretty flexible framework, offering access to more options than others, it might come as a challenge for beginners to work with. Especially, if you are trying to reach the advanced level. However, ZURB; the founding company offers solution to this. It offers training courses, webinars and consulting for large customers who are willling to pay for the skill and knowledge offered.
- UI Components & More: While this framework does offer the basics and usual of all the UI elements one requires, it takes it a step further. Alongside these, users will also get access to advanced imaging system, pricing table components, form-validation, vertical timeline layout, RTL support, responsive embeds, and so much more.
Cons Of Using Foundation:
- Comparatively Smaller Community & Contributors: Unlike Bootstrap, Foundation lacks in numbers. This applies to the resources available, whether you are looking to get help, start a project or relevant options. While it might be possible for basic tasks and orders to be achieved, it might be a hassle if you are stuck when trying to get something unique and exotic out there.
- Sophistication: It might be a breeze to use and work with once you get the hang of it, however, that might possibly take a while. And especially, if you are used to other simpler frameworks like Bootstrap that comes with all the things pre-built, this will come as a huge puzzle piece when you get started. While this option sure has it’s pros, the ease of customization comes with the con of being super complex in itself.
Although being around for relatively shorter period of time; Bulma sure has managed to gain a popularity for itself. The unique thing about this particular framework is that it offers a CSS-only approach unlike the ones competing against on our list. It is responsive, light-weight and mobile-first making it another widely used frameworks alongside Bootstrap and Foundation. Most of the momentum it features is based off Laravel community, and this framework is great for those designers looking for a fresh and unique approach to their websites (unlike Bootstrap which as we mentioned before features pretty similar looking end-results).
Pros Of Using Bulma:
- CSS Based Structure: Bulma is created with Pure CSS which means that there are no .js required. Basically, alll a developer needs to modify and personalize the components is a .css file. Thus, it is pretty easy to add custom looks via classes and variables. Not only this, but as it is purely CSS based structure, it provides the users readable and ready-to-use components that enables a mobile friendly interface. Each of the name of the classes are named logically for easier reading.
- Large Community: Unlike Foundation, this framework has a huge user base and community contributing to it. Users can easily communicate, ask questions and solve their quiries when required.
- Easy to Learn: All Bulma requires is a basic background in CSS and you have pretty much a great idea of how this works. It is designed to be modular and quite frankly aimed at solving everyday problems developers come across.
- Modular: As Bulma is a CSS framework that is built on SASS, you can design the overall interface step-by-step adding or removing features that you require. It comes with a large range of components like vertical alignment solution, layouts as well as media objects you can use to your benefit.
Cons Of Using Bulma
- Early Development Phase: All of that said, Bulma is still in it’s development phase, which means that there are much improvements yet to be made. The final version is yet to come which we are sure will be an upgrade for the version now.
- Slow On Web Browsers: Another downside to using Bulma is that this front-end CSS framework runs pretty slow on IE web browsers. It basically uses the auto prefixer to make it compatible with the earlier browser versions. While it is compatible with other browsers like Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Opera and Safari, it tends to only partially support Internet Explorer.
UIKit is a powerful yet minimal front-end CSS framework that offers a variety of features enabling the users to create amazing web interfaces. To sum up, this is a lightweight, minimal and elegant design based framework offering most of the features that other competing frameworks offer. A whole package including UI components like SVG icons, progress bars, image maker and more, this sure is one great way to get started. Additionally, it also allows you to design complex flexbox layouts using HTML if you prefer to do so as well.
Pros Of Using UIKit:
- Minimal But Powerful Structure: The design here is simple, minimal yet impactful at a first glance. This makes for a professional feel to the site while also making it content-oriented and elegant. It is also responsive and adds to the flexiblity when it comes to various device screen sizes.
- Large Collection of Components: As we mentioned before, UIKit pretty much covers all of the features one might possibly require. Backed with a huge range of components like Accordion, Drop, Animations, Paddings, Buttons, Patterns, Progress bars and more; it covers pretty much all your needs.
- LESS & SASS Support: Just like with Bootstrap, this framework too supports both the latest of LESS and SASS. This ensures that no matter what your project is based on, this framework is compatible with it.
Cons of Using UIKit:
- Opinionated System: As this CSS framework comes with it’s own contained system, modifying certain elements to your preference isn’t easy. It takes a considerable amount of effort an knowledge when it comes to making a certain component behave or present differently.
Another one of the CSS framework based purely on CSS is Pure; as the name pretty much sums it up. It is a lightweight and responsive framework created by Yahoo and released in 2014. Making use of the Normalize.css, it allows users to create responsive layouts using grids and menus. It consists of various CSS modules that you can import and use to your own preference and need. However, unlike Bootstrap, this framework is not responsive by default. While it is mentioned less times than the other competitors, we definitely think this was worth a mention here.
Pros of Using Pure:
- Mobile Friendly: The framework basically features a design that is designed more applicable and easy for mobiles to access. Thus, if you are looking into that for your next project, then this definitely ticks the box.
- Easy To Learn: Just like with the Bulma, this CSS framework is also based only on CSS. This means that it is highly customizable, easy to read and work with. Not to mention, that just a basic knowledge of CSS is all you need to get started.
- Flexibility: When it comes to the grid and column system, it offers variations from 5 point, 2 point, 24 point etcs. This allows for a more flexible interface you can work on avoiding unnecessary problems in the UI.
Cons of Using Pure:
- Simple Interface: While comparing the ones that the other framework offers, we can say that the default layout in itself is pretty plain and not that visually impressive. However, if a straightforward and easy way to get started is what you are looking for, then this is it.
Pros Of Using Tailwind CSS:
- Easy To Personalize: Just like we mentioned, this framework gives the users access to pretty much configure each aspect of the UI. This includes options for colors, border sizes, widths, breakpoints, shadows and any of the other site properties.
- Utility Classes: While this framework is component friendly, it focuses majorly on utility classes. This enables the users to creare custom widgets making it a truly unique way to add that custom touch.
Cons Of Using Tailwind CSS:
- Experience Needed: While we have mentioned the utility classes as a pro; you do need experience with utility classes. Without the basics covering Atomic CSS; this framework is pretty confusing to start with.
Materialize is a CSS framework that is based on the Google’s material design; as the name implies. It was released in 2014 and is a great solution for those looking to design websites and Android apps. The best thing about this framework is that it comes with only a few components and classes to learn. Thus, it tends to achieve the end result faster and effortlessly. You can pretty much start your project using it’s pre-built starter templates for a head start as well.
Pros Of Using Materialize:
- Material Design: For the lovers of material design, this framework is pretty much an essential. Whether you are a beginner or a admirer of the simple, straightforward design it features then surely as one of the essential Google Product, we are sure you will love this.
- Bootstrap Grid: The great thing about this framework is that it also makes use of the Bootstrap 12- column grid structure. This allows the users to easily create responsive layouts. Basically, if you are familiar with the Bootstrap interface, then this will make things much easier to work with.
Cons Of Using Materialize:
- Limited Components: While there is the pro factor that those handful of components will lessen the stress of removing unnecessary clutter from your UI, it still might miss out on those basics of components you might find necessary. This framework backfires on this; limiting access to add elements to your requirements.
- Similar Interfaces: Just like with Bootstrap, Materialize focuses pretty much on a similar looking design. This also limits the possibilites one can come up with facing the similar all-websites-look-alike problem.
Another CSS framework competitor we would like to mention here is Semantic UI. A responsive HTML, responsive frameworks that allows you to create bold, beautiful and unique websites each time. It has a huge variety of custom components including over 3000 theming variables, and over 50 UI components. This pretty much braodens the horizon of the outcomes one can come up with. Another great thing here is that it features third-party libraries like React, Meteor, Ember, React and more. However, Bootstrap 4 has pretty much all of these covered, leaving out only a few features to be standalone and unique to Semantic UI.
Pros Of Using Semantic UI:
- Friendly Classes: The significant pros of using Semantic UI is that it features the human friendly HTML. This basically means that one can code using natural languages making it more easy to read and work with.
- Visually Appealing Layouts: Like we mentioned before, Bootstrap 4 pretty much covers all of the basics and features this framework offers. But where it stands out are the layout options that are more visually attractive comparing to the ones Bootstrap offers. However, that might just be our opinion, so try it out for yourself.
Cons Of Using Semantic UI:
- Lack Of Unique Concept: Mentioning this over again, there are other frameworks like Bootstrap that pretty much covers all of the features this offers. While the human-friendly and consice HTML is a stand-out, it does require a bit of a understanding level and experience to get startedright away.
Skeleton by definition is one of the simplest and minimal CSS frameworks out there on our list today. Basically, it features just 400 lines of codes making the whole package light-weight. While we have mentioned it as a CSS framework, it doesn’t define itself like that. Nor is it s a library or a even a module, but it is a boilerplate. However, it is useful in terms of creating small or even tiny scale of projects and websites. Despite offering a small code source, you will be surprised that it does offer a huge variety of options to use. This includes features for grids, typography, buttons, forms, lists, tables and more that enables one to create even a complex site effortlessly.
Pros Of Using Skeleton:
- Effortless Usage: As it is aimed towards smaller scale of projects, using this framework as a base is perfect for those looking for just that. If one has no requirements of the features that other larger frameworks offer, then the fastest. effective and easiest way to get things done is this. It is pretty versatile and offers a variety of options even though there are limitations. And it is best for beginners and novices getting a better knowledge and insight for future projects.
Cons Of Using Skeleton:
- Limited Resources & Features: The pro itself is a con here depending on your need and requirements. If you are aiming to achieve a larger scale of website that requires more features and options, you need to start looking elsewhere.
The last on our list today is Milligram; the lightest of CSS frameworks you can possibly find. It’s design executes effortless speed and productivity and limits the size to just 2KB in size. However, it is pretty flexible considering the features inside; complete with a set of web-development tools to meet your requirements. It is a fun take on the CSS framework allowing the user to create simple and clean websites. One can also extend this with a few lines of custom CSS if you prefer to do so. Using the CSS3 specification for Milligrapm, one can add additional powers if you ever need to.
Pros & Cons Of Using Milligram:
- Lightweight Framework: Pretty much working both as a pro and a con, the size itself is the biggest concern here. Whether you are looking to limit the feature or extend it, the codes and elements included works on both favors.
So, what exactly is the best CSS framework you can work with to get that perfect end result you are looking for? Well, that is a question that you will need to ask yourself. I know, I know, the age old answer to every question like this. But we have a reason! It all depends on what you are looking to achieve and what type of project you are working on. Thus, we have taken the leverage of answering what all of these CSS frameworks are aimed to do, the advantages and disadvantages, so the decision is yours! Hope this article helped you out in one way or the other!
But before we end this, we wanted to mention a few of our honorable picks that didn’t quite make the list. You never know; these might offer what you are looking for.
- Susy: A little known framework with a pure layout freamework. It is highly modular and lets the users compose as they go; coming up with unique result each time.
- Spectre: A simple, lightweight CSS framework offering a elegant UI based on the flexbox layout. All of the components here are also purely CSS and modified with SASS.
- Base: Mobile-first approach with the design makes this simple clean CSS framework a great way to create solid websites with strong foundations.
- Mustard UI: A creative option for those looking for a front-end framework for starters and novices. Easy to work with and learn, it comes with essential building blocks one needs to start.
Great list! I have been playing with Tailwind and Cirrus CSS lately, both seem very promising.