5 Of The Most Popular CSS Frameworks & How To Get Most Out Of Them!

TL;DR: CSS frameworks help web developers build better user interfaces faster and with less effort!

By Julian Wallis
16 min read

No matter how much time your developers spend on coding, there will always be times when they will need a CSS framework. Frameworks help speed up the development time and make the code more organised and efficient.

In this post, we’ll take a look at five popular CSS frameworks and discuss how to get the most out of them.

Introducing ‘Frameworks’ For Cascading Style Sheets! 📝

CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets.” It is the language developers use to style an HTML document. In other words, CSS defines how HTML elements — such as text, semantics, and formatting — should look visually on web pages. You can then format the layout of a web page, control its colour, font, and text, among others — and choose different display styles for different devices.

But what’s a CSS framework? 🤔

CSS frameworks are pre-built style sheets tailored for web developers and designers. They make it easy for you to get great-looking designs up and running quickly, without having to start from scratch, as you can quickly get a detailed view of various style sheets that are prepped and ready to use.

Since CSS frameworks are code libraries that abstract standard web designs use and simplify the process, they save time and effort when creating your website. With one stylesheet to edit, you have all the essential elements set up so that it’s easy for designers or developers — even without much coding experience — to jump right in.

css frameworks

Let’s take a look at why web developers at your company should consider using CSS frameworks to leverage the most out of them — from speeding up the development process to giving you clean and symmetrical web layouts.

Why Should You Use a CSS Framework? 🧮

It’s true that developers can hand-code everything in CSS and get the required formatting to a non-formatted web page that uses HTML. The sad reality is that it takes an awful lot of time and effort!

To style every single element on your website is time-consuming and cumbersome. In turn, CSS stylesheets can be a challenge to organise and manage. Even the tiniest style changes require you to write new rules, which at some point might turn your code into an interconnected mess. That’s where the CSS frameworks come in.

Fortunately, ready-to-use CSS frameworks allow for easy application of pre-defined styling properties like margins and background colours, among others, giving you much-needed relief when designing websites with extensive layouts in mind. The frameworks make your styling workflow productive, clean and maintainable. You’ll save time (and money!) by using one of the following pre-built components to create user-friendly interfaces without a lot of work on your side.

By using a grid of pre-built and themed components, your developers have the luxury of using something that’s already been prepared for them. Besides, the frameworks are user-friendly and come with a drag-and-drop feel. 

Now that you understand why using CSS frameworks is beneficial to your project, let’s take a look at the Top 5 CSS Frameworks, along with their advantages and drawbacks, that your developers and designers can use in 2022.

#1 – Bootstrap

Bootstrap is hands down the most popular CSS framework for developing responsive and mobile-first websites. It contains HTML, CSS, and JS-based scripts for various web design functionality — and provides a collection of syntax for template designs.

Initially released by Twitter developers Mark Otto and Jacob Thronton, the best thing about Bootstrap is that it makes it easy to create responsive websites that look great on all devices. What’s more, Bootstrap is open-source, meaning anyone can use it for personal or commercial use.

The Bootstrap framework contains pre-written code that allows developers to build websites quickly. If your developers are not using Bootstrap, they’re missing out.

Good Things About Bootstrap 🦸‍♀️

  • Popularity & Ease of Use

Bootstrap is the most popular CSS framework available — and it comes with a range of tutorials, how-to guides, and online forums. That means it’s relatively easy to learn, even on your own.

Moreover, Bootstrap has a simple file structure, and the files are compiled for easy access. Your developers need only the basic knowledge of HTML, CSS, and JS to work on those files.

  • Flexibility in Customisation

As Bootstrap comes with a predefined grid system, you don’t have to worry about creating one from scratch. You can simply use the existing one and define custom breakpoints based on your project.

Though the default settings are more than enough, you can still customise and add content to the modified grid. What’s more, the framework helps you better accommodate both desktop- and mobile-based projects.

  • Mature & Fully-Featured

Since Bootstrap has been around for a while, it is also a mature and fully-featured system. The developer portal or API documentation offers code samples for basic practices, especially for those who want to use this framework for the first time. You get to simply copy and paste the code instead of writing everything laboriously!

Being fully featured also means supporting browser compatibility. Since your website will be accessible from any device, this will reduce the bounce rate. Consequently, your website will rank higher in search results.

Limitations of Bootstrap 😟

  • Risk of Creating Similar-Looking Websites

Many developers believe that ‘all Bootstrap websites look the same.’ There’s a reason why: Bootstrap needs heavy customisation and style overrides to make one project different from another. Otherwise, all websites built with this framework will have similar navigation menus and a uniform structure which could be dull for visitors browsing your site.

A consistent design can help create an engaging experience. Still, it also means you need some extra work when creating custom elements that aren’t part of the standard layout provided by default in HTML/CSS files with individual customisation requirements.

  • Relies on jQuery

Bootstrap 4 is more than just a bunch of stylesheets. It relies on jQuery for many interactive features. This makes it more difficult, but not impossible, to use with JavaScript frameworks such as React or Vue — thankfully though Bootstrap 5 will remove that dependency.

  • Heavy File Size

Bootstrap is an excellent tool for building websites, but it’s far from perfect. The framework can be heavy on your site and slow things down heavily in some cases (especially when you have large files). So if the file size is something that concerns you or would like to avoid them altogether, reconsider before using this framework.

#2 – Foundation

Foundation is a beautiful, customisable set of frameworks that make it easy to design websites and emails with responsive front-ends. It offers semantic HTML5 code, so your content will always be understandable no matter what device or browser someone uses to navigate your website.

Maintained by ZURB since its development several years ago, Foundation is a bit more lightweight than Bootstrap. The framework has some great features that make it perfect for responsive and mobile-friendly design.

Good Things About Foundation 🦸‍♂️

  • Fully-Featured Framework

Foundation is a beautiful, mobile-first framework with all the tools you need to create modern websites. It’s built on an easy percentage fluid grid system and comes packaged in jQuery for quick input design inspiration!

With Foundation, it’s never been easier or more natural than these days — just take advantage of its unique features like custom forms that allow your developers to perform actions efficiently by reusing existing HTML elements from jQuery plugins.

  • Modular & Flexible Components

Foundation is a more modern, minimalist CSS framework. The wide range of customisable components means that your developers can easily create the look for your site without relying heavily on pre-made templates or styles. However, they can help them initially to get the ball rolling.

  • Aesthetic Email Design

Sometimes developers are forced to write 1990s-era HTML code when building email templates. This makes it hard for them and the end-user who wants modern features like responsive design and aesthetic look and feel.

Using Foundation For Emails, a unique offering of the Foundation framework, developers can create an excellent looking email interface according to any client’s needs. They can simply use the easy drag and drop functionality that supports all email platforms, including the earlier versions of Gmail or Microsoft Outlook.

Limitations of Foundation 🙅

  • Difficult to Learn

Foundation comes with a steep learning curve. It is an often-overlooked framework that offers almost too many options. It has countless features, and it’s considerably more complex than other frameworks!

You’ll indeed get a lot of freedom when developing front-end layouts with this one, but you will need to invest plenty of time and effort to understand the ins and outs of the framework.

  • Relies on JavaScript

Foundation is designed for use with JavaScript and jQuery, but it also supports Zepto. This small footprint library can be used in addition to or instead of jQuery depending on your needs; however, most developers are not familiar enough with this lesser-known option that suits Foundation’s functionality better than traditional libraries.

#3 – Semantic UI

Semantic UI is a CSS framework that helps you create stunning layouts using human-friendly HTML code. In other words, it is based on semantic HTML, making it easy for developers to create beautiful websites in various themes.

Created in 2013 by Jack Lukic, Semantic UI is similar to Bootstrap. The good thing about Semantic is it integrates with React, Angular, Ember, and many more frameworks.

Good Things About Semantic UI 🦸‍♂️

  • Ease of Use

If you’ve ever been frustrated trying to figure out how a framework best fits your use case, the answer might be Semantic UI. This intuitive framework makes it easy for anyone — no matter their technical skills or knowledge about programming languages like JavaScript and beyond — to use Semantic.

  • Less Time Consuming

To shorten the learning curve and develop projects more creatively, Semantic UI comes with intuitive JavaScript that uses simple phrases and trigger functionality. Developers can modify the arbitrary components from the code easily. In turn, using the framework saves coding time and speeds up the website development process.

  • Availability of Themes

Semantic UI has a much wider variety of layouts than Bootstrap. There may be something specific you are looking for in the Semantic store for your project. Since it comes equipped with high-quality themes, your developers/designers have complete freedom to develop the UI once and deploy it with the same code as many times as they want.

Limitations of Semantic UI 🙍

  • Less Browser Compatibility

Internet Explorer 7 has been around for a long time, and it’s not uncommon to see sites that only work in Internet Explorer 11 or higher. Semantic UI doesn’t support the IE browser while Bootstrap does.

  • A Smaller Support Community

Bootstrap has more than 50,000 followers on GitHub, while Semantic UI only counts only 1,000. Meanwhile, there are 2,500 questions about Semantic UI on Stackoverflow, with 25% of them unanswered.

This shows how small the support community is compared to other popular CSS frameworks. It can cause trouble if developers get stuck somewhere in their projects.

  • Less Responsive Design

Unlike the issues with Internet Explorer, this can be a bigger problem, considering that web designers are increasingly forced to think about a wide variety of devices. You will have to wait for development to grow to find better solutions.

#4 – Materialise

Developed by Google, Materialise is an open-source CSS framework that makes it easy to implement the material design’s look and feel. It makes it easy to create websites that look great on all devices, and it has some great features like parallax scrolling and carousels.

The framework includes many interactive components, like animations or motion UI — all designed specifically for developers who want quick turnaround time on their products but still need some creativity when working within the limitations of mobile device screens.

Good Things About Materialise 👍

  • Material Design

Materialise includes material design components such as buttons, grids, and forms. The large selection of features is a plus point of this framework. What’s more, while the default design is aesthetically pleasing, you can still customise it, albeit keeping it in line with the material design philosophy.

  • Mobile-Friendly

Progressive web apps are a new and exciting way to build your business online. Using Materialise’s mobile-like components, such as floating navigation bars and swipe interactions, you can create an app that works on any device.

  • Fully-Featured

Materialise has a variety of pre-made components that can be used in your projects, but it also comes with more advanced JavaScript features for customisation.

Limitations of Materialise 🙅

  • No Corporate Support

The most significant drawback of Materialise is it’s not supported by their maintainers anymore. Though the framework is excellent for independent projects, you’ll be at a disadvantage for those who need some corporate support.

That is to say, though Materialise has an active community, it’s a small group with no corporate support.

  • Strict Design Language

The strict material design philosophy sometimes limits customisation flexibility compared to other frameworks. The component layout or structure may fall out of line if your developers happen to customise the components too often.

The strict design language also restricts the flexibility of coding. While Materialise has been known for its minimalist aesthetic, this framework might not be the best choice for you if you’re looking to do something that’s not close to material design.

#5 – Bulma

Bulma is a framework that provides ready-to-use front end components you can easily employ to build responsive web interfaces. It’s 100% responsive and modular, meaning you only import what you need. Besides, it’s a modern framework created on Flexbox — a CSS layout model with automatic adjusting functionality.

First released in 2016, Bulma makes it easy to create responsive websites with a modern design. That’s why it has gained popularity and traction in recent years.

Good Things About Bulma 👍

  • A Modern Flexbox Framework

Flexbox is a CSS layout model that allows elements to be easily resized. It’s designed for web developers who want their sites or apps to look great at any size without having too much work on hand as they develop it!

With Bulma, though, your developers can take advantage of this behaviour with just some classes in HTML5 — so no more worrying about margin settings anymore if your site needs an update in widths often.

  • Aesthetic Design & Easy Customisation

Bulma helps you save time by implementing more dynamic CSS effects — and it’s easy to add and customise using SASS, a scripting language compiled in CSS. Its syntax is consistent, so it’s easy to learn and understand even for people with limited experience in HTML and CSS code.

With Bulma, you can create beautiful front-end websites without worrying about any technical details. The library’s components handle everything from logos and fonts through layouts — all in a few accessible commands!

  • Developer-Friendly

The idea behind Bulma is that developers should be able to use it without feeling overwhelmed. The framework comes with naming conventions that make things easy and memorable for you!

Limitations of Bulma 🙅

  • Chances of Being Overused

Bulma’s unique style can be a good and bad thing to many.

Since it’s pretty distinct, if you use the same design too much, your website visitors might get bored and uninterested in the layout — just like how Bootstrap becomes overused after a while if you don’t customise it.

  • Lacks Enterprise-Grade Features

Though Bulma and Bootstrap have many similarities, they also differ in crucial ways. For example, while Bulma is more accessible than most other frameworks for developers on a budget — or without any experience developing websites before — it lacks some features that make enterprise-grade web apps possible such as security measures to protect data from being compromised by hackers who want access into your system.

So Which CSS Framework Should You Use? 🤔

This obvious question merits an obvious answer:

Choosing a CSS framework depends on your project requirements and preferences.

If you want a widely used framework, Bootstrap is a good option. It has been around since 2011 and comes with a large user base and community support. You’re likely to find solutions to any confusion or problems if you’re using Bootstrap’s community forums. In contrast, if you want a more lightweight framework, Foundation or Semantic UI are good choices — and they give a tight competition to Bootstrap!

If you want a modern CSS framework based on Flexbox, Bulma is a good option. Bulma’s documentation is straightforward, and the developer community is growing steadily. Interestingly, Bulma doesn’t incorporate JavaScript — a scripting language that can intimidate new web developers. If your developers aren’t proficient in JavaScript yet, they can choose to work with Bulma rather than Bootstrap, which relies heavily on JS code.

No matter which CSS framework you choose, be sure to get the most out of it by using CSS preprocessors like SASS or JavaScript. These tools will help you write CSS that’s more efficient and maintainable.

Remember that learning a CSS framework on top of existing web developer knowledge like HTML and JavaScript might seem like an unnecessary added stress at first glance. However, more hours spent perfecting these skills will make your developers’ lives easier in future projects. Not only do frameworks such as Bulma or Bootstrap offer excellent design outcomes, but they also provide support via documentation or tutorials about their features, so no web developer gets lost along the way.

Final Thoughts 💭

So there you have it — a comprehensive article on the basics of CSS frameworks!

CSS frameworks can save you time and money when it comes to web design. They’re easy to use and come with pre-built styles for all sorts of elements on a website. Plus, they’re constantly updated so you can keep your site looking fresh. Whichever framework you choose, it’s far better than wasting hours trying to design your dream website by only relying on HTML and CSS code.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed with too many choices of CSS frameworks, don’t worry — we are ready to help you out. Just reach out to us for a friendly chat about what kind of website design you need, and we’ll do our best to recommend the best CSS framework that best aligns with your business needs.

Published on March 14, 2022

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