Writing CSS from scratch is not only time-consuming but also a tedious task. CSS frameworks have gained popularity among web developers as a tool for speeding up the development process. With a variety of frameworks available in the market, each with its advantages and features, it can be often challenging to determine the best option for your project. In this blog, we’ll explore some of the most popular CSS frameworks in the market and guide you on how to choose the best one that fits the needs and preferences of your project.
What exactly are CSS frameworks?
CSS frameworks are pre-written libraries of CSS code that provide built-in classes and styles that can be directly applied to HTML elements, allowing developers to create layouts and design elements quickly and efficiently. It provides an easier way to create visually appealing, consistent and responsive websites, without having to write every single line of CSS code from scratch.
So why learn CSS? I could directly learn a framework instead!
CSS frameworks are designed to build upon the core concepts of CSS, such as selectors, properties, values, media queries, and the box model. Without the foundational knowledge of these concepts, you might find it challenging to modify the pre-built styles and components provided by the frameworks. Also, understanding CSS helps to identify and fix issues with your code. It can save time and effort when debugging issues that arise.
Learning a CSS framework before learning CSS is like trying to run before you learned to walk!
So, if you’re an absolute beginner, get a solid grasp of those CSS concepts first.
Popular CSS Frameworks
Developed by Twitter, Bootstrap is one of the most widely-used open-source and well-established CSS frameworks. Its biggest advantage is its ease of use and its pre-designed components.
Easy Responsive Design: It provides a responsive grid system and pre-designed UI components to easily create responsive web pages
Consistent Design: It has a standardized set of UI components maintaining a consistent design and user experience.
Time-Saving: It reduces the time and effort required to design and develop as it provides a wide range of reusable components.
Lack of uniqueness: It can lead to similar-looking websites.
Compatibility issues with older browsers can lead to unexpected design and layout issues.
It is a newer open-source utility-first CSS framework. Unlike traditional CSS frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation, Tailwind does not provide pre-designed components. Instead, it offers a set of utility classes that can be used to quickly style HTML elements.
Highly Customizable: It offers a wide range of utility classes that can be customized or extended to create unique designs that are not limited by pre-designed components.
Responsive Design: It provides a set of responsive design utilities and prioritizes mobile-first design.
Consistent Design: It offers a standardized set of utility classes and styles that can be used across multiple pages and projects, which helps maintain consistency.
Accessibility: Tailwind includes features like dark mode support and accessibility-focused utility classes that can improve the accessibility of web applications.
Large file size: Styling using utility classes can result in large CSS files and bloated HTML code, which can slow down page load times.
Limit Design Flexibility: It can limit design options for developers used to designing with custom CSS
Code readability: Tailwind's use of utility classes can make the code less readable and harder to maintain, especially for larger projects.
Customization complexity: Customising or extending Tailwind can be more complex than with traditional CSS frameworks, as it requires modifying the framework's configuration files and recompiling the CSS.
Responsive design: Bulma is designed to be mobile-first, which means that it prioritizes smaller screen sizes and ensures that designs are optimized for all devices.
Flexibility: Bulma is highly modular and customizable, allowing developers to modify the framework to meet their specific needs.
Lightweight: Bulma's CSS files are relatively small, making it a lightweight option for developers who want to minimize page load times.
Limited pre-designed components: Compared to other CSS frameworks, Bulma provides a more limited set of pre-designed UI components, which can require more custom design work.
Smaller community: Bulma has a smaller community of developers compared to some other popular CSS frameworks, which can result in less support and fewer resources available for troubleshooting and customization.
Responsive and mobile-first design
Modular and customizable: Foundation CSS is modular, which means that developers can easily pick and choose only the components they need.
Comprehensive documentation: Foundation CSS has extensive documentation and resources available, including a range of tutorials and examples.
Large community: Foundation CSS has a large community of developers, which means that there is a wealth of resources available for troubleshooting, customization, and support.
Limited pre-designed components: Compared to some other CSS frameworks, Foundation CSS provides a more limited set of pre-designed UI components, which can require more custom design work.
MaterialCSS is a popular CSS Framework created and designed by Google. It provides a range of pre-designed UI components that can be easily customized and used to build responsive and mobile-first websites.
Material Design principles: Materialize CSS is based on Google's Material Design principles, which provide a modern and clean design that is easy to use and navigate.
Pre-designed UI components: Materialize CSS provides a range of pre-designed UI components, such as buttons, forms, cards, and more, that can be easily customized to fit the needs of a project.
Responsive grid system: Materialized CSS includes a responsive grid system that can be used to create layouts that work well on all screen sizes and devices.
Modular design: The framework is modular, allowing developers to pick and choose only the components they need, resulting in smaller CSS files and faster loading times.
Large community: Materialize CSS has a large community of developers, which means there are plenty of resources and support available.
Limited customization: While Materialize CSS provides a wide range of pre-designed components, they may not fit every project's specific design needs, which can require more customization.
Large CSS file sizes: Depending on the number of components used, the resulting CSS file sizes can be quite large, which can impact website performance.
Overreliance on Material Design: While Material Design provides a modern and clean design, some may argue that it can be limiting and may not fit every project's aesthetic or branding requirements.
Which framework to choose for your project?
Each framework has its strengths and weakness. The best choice depends on the specific needs of the project and your personal preferences.
I would recommend researching deeper into the advantages and disadvantages of each framework and getting an understanding of working with them before choosing one for your project.
Here are some factors to consider when choosing a CSS framework:
For Example, for a large-scale project with complex design requirements that contains more backend then Bootstrap can be a better option. Whereas TailwindCSS is a better choice if your project has more frontend work.
File size and performance
For Example, Bulma is lightweight and highly performant, while Bootstrap and Foundation have comparatively larger file sizes and can be somewhat slower in terms of performance.
Customization options and modular design
For Example, TailwindCSS is highly customizable and includes a set of configurable options and a built-in CSS customizer tool that makes it easy to customize the framework. Bootstrap and Foundation are both highly customizable options as well but owing to their large size it can be more difficult to fully customize and may require more time to optimize.
Bootstrap and Foundation have a large and active community of developers. TailwindCSS, Bulma and Materialize also have a growing community of developers.
Most of these frameworks are designed to be compatible with all modern web browsers. However, some of them may have limited support for older browsers. For Example, some features of Bootstrap may not fully function on outdated browsers like Internet Explorer 11.
Ease of use, personal preference, and experience with particular frameworks
Bulma is easy to learn but some developers may find it lacking in certain features or components. TailwindCSS provides a flexible and easy approach to building a project but its extensive use of classes might feel overwhelming. It is better to try out these frameworks by yourself to understand which ones better suit your preferences.
Documentation and official sites:
Some YouTube videos for guidance:
CSS Frameworks can be very helpful in speeding up the development process of web applications. There is a wide variety of frameworks available in the market, each with its features, advantages and disadvantages.
The decision to choose a CSS framework depends on the specific needs of the project and the preferences of the development team.
As a beginner, you can start learning any of the above-mentioned frameworks once you have learned the core concepts of Vanilla CSS.
The best way to learn is by exploring yourself! Learning a CSS framework is a guarantee to improve your learning curve and help you in developing efficient web applications in a short time.