The design of the web has no doubt changed from its adoption in the wider public throughout the late 80s and early 90s. One of the catalysts for this change was the introduction of CSS (or Cascading Style Sheets) roughly 2 decades ago. In more recent times, the programming language has seen drastic improvements and capabilities like flexbox to name just one.
The constant strive for improvement has seen talented communities of developers take CSS and create what is commonly known as web UI design frameworks. In other words,
Talented groups of developers have taken CSS and built what is commonly known as web UI design frameworks. These framewokrs or “front-end responsive CSS frameworks” are both a powerful tool for developing flexible, scalable websites and a valuable resource for beginners learning how to design a website.
Without spoiling too much, let’s dive into the best 5 best responsive CSS frameworks for 2019.
Bootstrap is one of the most popular and widely used responsive CSS frameworks. Bootstrap allows you to build web applications, websites and even mobile apps with their framework. It’s a pretty extensive framework with a ton of included components and utilities including Sass variables and mixins, responsive grid system, flexbox, carousels, modals and heap of powerful plugins built on jQuery.
- Easy to learn
- Fast prototyping
- Large online support community
- Flexibility and Scalability
- Fantastic documentation
- With so many options it can sometimes create complexity
- Often lots of style overrides are required
- Non-compliant 3WC HTML out of the box
Foundation is a responsive CSS frameworks which in size of popularity rivals Bootstrap as the two most-used frameworks currently in existance. Created by Zurb, it’s currently on version 6 and comes feature-packed with a ton of components. Foundation is mostly used with websites, however Zurb offers versions of the framework which is optimised for email templates and application development.
- Simple UI and more straight-forward design than other options
- Foundation uses REMs by default, no need to define heights and widths
- Build for mobile-first or the other way around
- Very clean markup without sacrificing the utility and speed
- Beginners should have prior experience with vanilla CSS and/or other frameworks
- Design elements aren’t as attractive out-of-the-box
- Lack of wider support like QA sites and forums for fixing issues
While UIKit is a lesser-known responsive CSS framework, it’s one of the most powerful options to consider for your next project. Overall, it offers a streamlined, modern look yet still packs a punch. Out of the box, it’s a light and intuitive framework that’s scalable; making it perfect for beginners through to advanced users. Currently in version 3, UIKit offers a ton of valuable components out of the box including Grids, Modals, Off-Canvas, Slideshows, Scrollspy, Parallax, Flexbox, Animations and more.
- Attractive modern design out of the box
- A huge variety of components
- Components won’t affect other styles
- Fast prototyping
- Great documentation, but more suited to experienced web designers
- Limited online support community
Bulma is a beautufl, lightweight and styling responsive CSS framework used by more than 150,000 developers. What sets Bulma apart from other frameworks is that its box model is fully based on Flexbox.
Bulma is built with a mobile-first approach, which makes every element optimised for vertical reading. The framework itself weights 21kB minified and gzipped. It’s still not bad but to make it better you can import only the modules you want.
- Clean form controls out of the box
- Tiles and layout options is extensive
- No bloating of code and styles
- Small online support community – However this growing by the day
- Not as component-rich as some other frameworks
- Flexible capabilities
- Attractive design out-of-the-box
- Utilises the latest material design standards from Google
- Large variety of components
- Not a framework for beginners
What is the best CSS framework for my project?
Choosing the best framework for your project comes down to its overall goals and interface requirements. Web applications would more than often benefit from a framework like Material UI or UIKit. Complex [or simple] websites would more than often be suited to Bootstrap or Foundation and Bulma. Frameworks offer a starting point and are there to help achieve the best user experience.