Best CSS Frameworks in 2021
When we talk about web application development today, it is assumed that for every modern web application, many different technologies and tools are used to improve and facilitate development.
Technologies and tools play a big role in the development of web applications, so it is important to assess which technologies and tools will be used before the start of web application development. This is not always easy to assess, and in this article, we will focus only on one part concerning the CSS framework that serves as tools that will make it easier and faster for front-end developers to create user-friendly and browser-compatible websites and web applications.
What is a framework?
A framework is a software or platform that helps develop applications. The main benefit of using the CSS framework is that it saves time and that a new project does not need to start from scratch.
Why use CSS frameworks?
The use of the CSS framework is essential and comes as an integrated part of professional web development. This is because:
- Speeds up the development process.
- Helps make a website or web application cross-browser compatible.
- The implementation of the CSS framework increases productivity in the development workflow because it is much easier for developers to continue someone else’s projects because everyone uses the same code writing rules.
- It makes it easier to create clean and professional layouts.
- Enables good web design habits.
Tailwind CSS is not a classic CSS framework because it works differently from standard CSS frameworks such as e.g. Bootstrap or Bulma. The idea is that the Tailwind CSS framework provides utility classes with which the developer can create various custom designs. In other words, this framework allows the developer to make the design he wants using already defined classes that serve as a utility, rather than as ready-made classes that represent components. This eliminates the need for certain styles to be overridden and thus provides a unique look for each component, which is not the case with standard CSS frameworks. With Tailwind CSS it is possible to create a complete site without writing your CSS code. Tailwind does not have its built-in UI component like other frameworks.
Benefits that Tailwind provides:
- After mastering the syntax, Tailwind is very easy to use.
- Custom design, each design can look different, there is no default theme that everyone will use and why every website or web application will look similar.
- It does not force a certain style that would have to be changed later.
- Utility-first framework. It offers an advantage at the outset due to a custom design that allows for a unique identity.
- It comes with a large number of already designed widgets that can be used to create a website or web application.
Available at: https://tailwindcss.com/
Bootstrap is the most popular and best CSS framework for developing responsive and mobile-first projects as it has great community support. The focus on responsiveness and the mobile-first concept makes it usable for devices of any screen size, making it also developer-friendly. Bootstrap makes front-end web development faster and easier. It contains a large number of ready-made components and utility classes that make Bootstrap one of the best CSS framework choices for web developers. It also has great JS components that can be changed and provides a CDN (Content Delivery Network).
Benefits of Bootstrap:
- Bootstrap offers a large number of different examples and ready-made layouts to start with.
- All components use the same style so developers can fit all the components and easily make a good design for a website or web application.
- It provides very detailed documentation for each component and layout so users can easily understand how to use them.
- Bootstrap is completely free to use.
Available at: https://getbootstrap.com/
Materialize is a responsive front-end framework that is based on Material Design and offers a collection of UI components. Material Design is a popular design trend developed by Google. It is easy to learn and provides excellent documentation. Like Bootstrap, Materialize has a large community that supports it. It also allows for customization and provides an impressive set of color collections.
Benefits that Materialize provides:
- Materialize has strong documentation and is very easy to get started.
- This framework has a strong community that supports everything.
- It provides a large number of different components.
- It is responsive out of the box and has a minimal design.
- Cross-browser compatible and can be used to create reusable components.
Available at: https://materializecss.com/
Material Design Lite
Material Design Lite is a lightweight framework based on Material Design, ie it is a UI library of components. This is the most popular CSS framework for adding Material Design looks and feel to your website or web application. It is compatible with cross-device use, has excellent documentation and initial templates. Material Design Lite is completely free to download and use.
Benefits that Material Design Lite provides:
- Material Design Lite was created by Google and is easy to use.
- Can be used in combination with Elm, which is a language for graphical user interfaces (GUI).
- Provides a great out of the box look where there may be no need for customization.
- Provides blogging template which enables you to get a blog started in minutes.
- Material Design Lite provides a rich set of components.
Available at: https://getmdl.io/
Benefits that Bulma provides:
- Free and open-source (MIT License).
- Bulma offers clean and simple settings that are preset which allows the developer a large selection of different themes.
- Bulma offers a large number of web components that can be modified.
- Bulma also has a strong community.
- Easy to learn and has excellent documentation.
Available at: https://bulma.io/
Foundation is an advanced CSS framework. It uses a mobile-first approach and has a similar file structure as Bootstrap, Bulma, and Materialize. All components are fully responsive. This framework is commonly used to build large web applications. It offers initial templates with the help of which it is possible to create awesome websites and attractive user interfaces. It can be completely customized and has excellent supporting documentation as well as video tutorials. Foundation gives a lot of space for designers to show their creativity.
Benefits that Foundation provides:
- The most advanced CSS framework that allows users to create large web applications.
- It offers the possibility of customization so that the final website will not look the same as other websites that use this framework.
- Foundation CSS framework has a strong community that supports it.
- The framework is modular and consists mostly of SASS style sheets.
Available at: https://get.foundation/
Skeleton is an extremely light framework for basic UI elements, ie it is a small collection of CSS files that help in the rapid development of websites that look beautiful in any screen size. Skeleton is a tool for rapid development, if your website is small and straightforward then the Skeleton CSS framework is a good choice. It is easy to learn and has a good grid structure that allows easy customization for mobile devices. It is great for beginners who want to learn CSS and quickly start making beautiful yet straightforward websites.
Benefits that Skeleton provides:
- Lightweight and minimal framework with only 400 lines of source code.
- Easy to learn and mobile-focused.
- Responsive grid.
- Vanilla CSS.
- It is more like a boilerplate than a full-fledged framework.
Available at: http://getskeleton.com/
The Semantic UI is a bit different from the others. It is unique because it uses the principles of natural language and aims to create a shared vocabulary related to UI. Its main advantage is that it helps developers and designers by making the code clearer to read and easier to understand. In addition, it offers the possibility of debugging, as well as many other things. The Semantic UI has a small community but the members are full of enthusiasm and loyalty. Semantic UI is a production-ready CSS framework and has collaboration for frameworks such as React, Angular, Meteor, and Ember which means it can be integrated with any of these frameworks.
Benefits that Semantic UI provides:
- It offers well-organized documentation, in addition to which there is a separate website where various tutorials are available.
- All classes used are human words written in plain text so this user-friendly approach makes it easier to understand the framework even for beginners.
- Looks like plain English while reading the code.
- Provides a high level of customization.
- It comes with amazing prebuild designs and modern templates that meet most of all the requirements a developer may have for front-end design.
Available at: https://semantic-ui.com/
Pure is a set of small responsive CSS modules for all needs. Minimal and lightweight framework that provides layout and styling for native HTML elements as well as most common UI components. The idea is to provide minimal styles as a background after which custom application styles would be written on top of it. So, it allows you to create your elements and styles on top of existing elements provided by default.
Benefits that Pure CSS provides:
- It is designed so that styles can be easily overridden.
- The minimal look gives designers a great opportunity to create their unique design.
- Easy to learn and to change.
- It is straightforward to learn and maintain.
- Pure CSS is ridiculously small.
- It is responsive out of the box, so elements look great on all screen sizes.
Available at: https://purecss.io/
Lightweight UI design CSS framework that offers almost all possibilities like other frameworks. It comes with many pre-installed components. Helps developers create clean and modern interfaces. It offers impressive capabilities, when it comes to design the UIkit has no competition. The UI kit focuses mostly on application development on Apple platforms and is easy to use.
Benefits that UIkit provides:
- A modular and lightweight framework that allows developers to develop fast and powerful web interfaces.
- UIkit offers a large number of pre-installed components.
- Helps develop responsive, powerful and fast web interfaces.
- Contains a collection of CSS, HTML and JS components.
- UIkit has strong support from the community.
- Easy to change and use.
- Clean and minimal design with a modern interface.
- Free and open-source framework.
Available at: https://getuikit.com/
The list of the mentioned CSS frameworks is arranged in a random order, since the choice is always individual, ie. depends on the project itself. This article is written as a guideline in deciding on choosing a CSS framework for your project. Each framework has unique features which is why you would choose that framework for your web application. To help with the selection, we will divide the listed CSS frameworks into a couple of categories:
Tailwind CSS and Semantic UI
These two CSS frameworks stand out because they use a different approach compared to the others. If the focus is on creating a unique design these two frameworks can be a good choice.
Bootstrap, Materialize, Bulma and Foundation
They provide a large number of different pre-built components that can be used immediately. Customization is also possible however they are better if the UI design is not so important but the priority is the speed of development itself. In such situations these frameworks are the right choice.
Material Design Lite, Skeleton, Pure CSS and UIkit
These are minimal and lightweight CSS frameworks that mostly take up little space and use few files to implement them. In situations where the size of the space is significant and when working on smaller projects these frameworks are the right choice.
In addition to this, here are some things to keep in mind when choosing a CSS framework.
- What kind of UI design did you imagine and do you want?
- Grid system.
- Which license does the CSS framework use?
- Is compatible with all browsers.
- Does the framework have strong community support?
In addition to all of the above, of course there are others such as: Milligram, Spectre CSS, Base CSS, Material Design for Bootstrap (MDB), Tachyons, Tacit, Susy, etc.
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