Top 5 CSS Frameworks for Developers and Designers
By Shreya Bose, Community Contributor - May 7, 2023
What are CSS Frameworks?
With a CSS framework, the user has a completed CSS stylesheet, and they only have to code the HTML with accurate classes, structure, and IDs to set up a web page. The framework already has classes built-in for common website elements – footer, slider, navigation bar, hamburger menu, column-based layouts, etc.
Advantages of using CSS Frameworks
- Developers and designers can use CSS frameworks to implement various advanced features and visual elements on a website – forms, different buttons, navbars, breadcrumbs, and even clean symmetrical layouts.
- CSS frameworks make creating websites compatible with multiple browsers and browser versions simple. This reduces the likelihood of bugs popping up during cross browser testing.
- Since these frameworks have ready-to-use stylesheets, using them allows faster and more convenient web development. Users don’t have to dive deep into CSS code to accomplish required tasks.
- Developers can quickly generate a user-friendly and visually appealing UI that can be modified throughout a project without starting from scratch.
Top 5 CSS Frameworks for Website Developers and Designers
Bootstrap is known for popularizing the focus on responsive design among web developers. It promoted the now-ubiquitous concept of mobile-first and provided the right tools for its easy implementation. It did so by introducing a grid – partitioning the screen into columns (invisible to the end user’s eye).
With Bootstrap, developers don’t have to build separate projects around adjusting a site for smaller screen sizes. They must incorporate the necessary Bootstrap classes, and the design adjusts itself.
Why Choose Bootstrap?
- Massive Ecosystem: Among front-end frameworks, Bootstrap’s ecosystem is unmatched. It offers a vast library of layouts, themes, UI elements, panels, modals, buttons, alerts, cards, etc., that devs and designers can choose from and implement. Additionally, Bootstrap is backed by best-in-industry community support.
- Accelerated prototyping: Using Bootstrap, designers can write their HTML code, include the relevant CSS classes, and achieve website responsiveness. They don’t have to spend time adjusting for browser incompatibility, CSS positioning, and the like.
- Twitter Support: Unsurprisingly, when a significant commercial player backs an open-source project, users can be assured that it is here to stay and carries high confidence among people who know the industry. The fact that Bootstrap grew out of, and is backed by Twitter, establishes its efficacy.
- Supports SASS and LESS: Although most developers don’t use LESS, significant projects rely on it. SASS support is also highly desirable. Not too many CSS frameworks other than Bootstrap support both.
2. Tailwind CSS
Tailwind CSS’s official documentation describes it as a “utility-first CSS framework” with classes equipped to build custom UI designs directly in the users’ markup. It is handy to implement inline styling to rustle up a stunning UI without writing any CSS.
One of the most popular utility CSS libraries, Tailwind CSS, offers significant benefits for web design. Interestingly, it took Adam Wathan (the creator of Tailwind) to convince the world why utility-based CSS trumps semantic CSS. But eventually, enough developers believed him enough to start using Tailwind, and now it is used frequently enough to be on lists like this.
Why Choose Tailwind CSS?
- Highly Customizable: Tailwind CSS has a default configuration but can be overridden with a tailwind.config.js file. This enables easy customization of styling, themes, spacing, palettes, etc. Use Tailwind’s utilities to enable easy project management and develop a website that delights customers.
- Carries Commonly used Utility Pattern: With Tailwind CSS, users can cut down on having to name too many classes. It comes with common utility patterns for standard requirements: specifying and organizing classes, cascading classes, etc. In simple terms, creating custom components become so much easier. Instead of hard coding, derive values from configuration files using the theme() function.
- PurgeCSS Optimization: PurgeCSS reduces file size by scanning HTML code and eliminating unused classes. In combination with Tailwind CSS, this is particularly useful. As a project expands, so does the size of accompanying CSS files. Optimizing via PurgeCSS reduces and cleans up CSS file size, making it infinitely more manageable, especially before deployment.
- Responsiveness Made Easy: By default, Tailwind CSS utilizes a mobile-first approach. To quote the website, “Every utility class in Tailwind can be applied conditionally at different breakpoints, which makes it a piece of cake to build complex responsive interfaces without ever leaving your HTML.”Utility classes simplify the creation of complex responsive layouts but allow them to be used across multiple breakpoints. The result? Hassle-free implementation of responsive design.
Read More: What are CSS and Media Query Breakpoints?
Remember to check website responsive design with BrowserStack FREE responsive checker online.
- Effortless Community Interaction: Tailwind’s active community is an excellent place for users to get their questions answered, especially when dealing with stubborn issues. Get CSS-related queries solved and create excellent websites faster.
Formerly managed by ZURB, Foundation is open-source project volunteers have run since 2019. It also operates with a mobile-first approach and is particularly useful for building large web apps requiring a design host.
Why Choose Foundation?
- Massive toolkit: Foundation offers more than a CSS framework requires. Its extensive, modular collection of tools helps solve issues for most front-end developers. For example, it offers separate framework elements for websites and emails; each prepped for functioning in those domains. It also provides a command-line interface (CLI), handy for devs working with module bundlers like Webpack.
- Greater Flexibility: Foundation is built to offer front-end devs complete control over their UIs. For example, it doesn’t force devs to use a particular style or language. This makes it a preferred tool for a much wider range of developers.
- UI components and beyond: Along with offering the standard UI components, Foundation also has a responsive image system, a pricing table, responsive embeds, form validation, right-to-left support, and much more. This gives web developers a lot more to play with.
- Training Options: ZURB offers multiple training courses and consulting options for Foundation, which is especially helpful for companies that want to work on big projects and pay for it.
Bulma is an open-source, responsive CSS framework based on Flexbox. It has an impressive range of built-in features that facilitate faster turnaround and minimal CSS coding by hand. It implements tiles to create Metro-style grids, resulting in smooth page layouts. Additionally, users can import only the elements they will use, simplifying the process even further.
Bulma has been highly adopted within the Laravel community, which has helped with its increasing popularity.
Why Choose Bulma?
- Easy to use: Bulma’s modular design approach and highly customizable nature make it a preferred tool among devs and designers. Its responsive templates cut down on design effort, and it has a rich catalog of components to choose from – nav bars, tables, panels, dropdown menus, etc. Bulma also comes with starter templates and interactive tutorials. It also has a robust Stack Overflow community that is greatly helpful for having questions answered.
- Easy to learn: Bulma’s modular nature is meant to solve practical problems that individual developers may encounter. Bulma is designed to be easily navigable, and individuals can quickly figure out how it works.
- Browser-Agnostic: Bulma-designed websites are compatible with most major browsers. This makes life easier for testers, especially when conducting cross browser testing.
- Robust Update Schedule: Bulma might be new on the scene, but new features are constantly added. Additionally, updates are implemented to address existing bugs or issues users may be dealing with.
Read More: How to Create Browser-Specific CSS Code
Skeleton doesn’t even call itself a CSS framework but a “dead simple, responsive boilerplate.” Its minimalism is beyond question: it has only 400 lines of source code!
This lightweight tool is built to create CSS elements compatible with both larger screens and mobile devices. It contains all standard components for responsive design and splits the page into multiple 12-column grids with a maximum width of 960px – something that fits small, medium, and large screens. Of course, if required, the max-width can be changed with a single line of CSS code. The syntax is quick to implement, simple, and makes putting together responsive design a relatively effortless task.
Why Choose Skeleton?
- Lightweight and therefore easy to store, manage and handle.
- Built with a mobile-first approach, the tool is perfect for designers to get started with.
- With only the essential components and HTML elements (including Grid support, Skeleton is the perfect tool for supporting small projects.
- Since it comprises basic CSS building blocks and components, it is easy to learn and implement, even for beginners.
Criteria for Evaluating CSS Frameworks
Evaluating and comparing multiple frameworks based on your specific requirements is essential before deciding. In 2023, when evaluating and choosing the best CSS framework, you can consider the following criteria:
- Features and Components: Assess the framework’s offerings in pre-designed components, responsive grid systems, typography, icons, form elements, and other UI elements. Look for a comprehensive range of features that align with your project requirements.
- Customizability: Evaluate the framework’s flexibility and ease of customization. Consider whether it allows you to easily modify styles, colors, and layouts without compromising maintainability.
- Responsiveness: Verify the framework’s robust support for creating responsive web designs. Look for features like responsive grids, breakpoints, and utility classes that simplify building responsive layouts.
- Performance: Consider the impact of the framework on website performance. Look for frameworks prioritizing optimized CSS and minimizing file size, reducing page load times for improved user experience.
- Browser Compatibility: Ensure the framework supports major web browsers and their versions. Compatibility with older browsers may be necessary, depending on your target audience.
CSS grid frameworks are essential in web developers’ and designers’ toolkits. For any project to run smoothly, devs must choose a framework that they are comfortable operating and one equipped with all features to fulfill project requirements. Naturally, research into and comparison between different leading frameworks is of utmost importance before making a choice.
However, no matter which framework is chosen, all websites must be tested on real browsers and devices. Emulators and simulators do not offer the real user conditions that software must run within, making the results of any tests run on them inaccurate. Consider testing websites and apps on a real device cloud, preferably one that offers the latest devices, browsers, and OS versions. This applies to both manual testing and automation testing.
- BrowserStack’s real device cloud provides 2000+ real browsers and devices for instant, on-demand testing.
- It also provides a cloud Selenium grid for automated testing, which can be accelerated by 10X with parallel testing.
- The cloud also provides integrations with popular CI/CD tools such as Jira, Jenkins, TeamCity, Travis CI, and more.
- Additionally, in-built debugging tools let testers identify and resolve bugs immediately.
- BrowserStack also facilitates Cypress testing on 30+ browser versions with instant, hassle-free parallelization.