CSS Framework or CSS Grid: What Should You use for your Web Project?

flexbox vs grid

Image Courtesy – flexbox-vs-grid

The process of coding a web page layout has become a comparatively easy process these days, courtesy cutting edge CSS standards. In terms of approaching the web design layout, the primary options which CSS offers (i.e. tables, floats and inline blocks) falls short in terms of speed and complexity and thus for front end developers, third party frameworks such as Foundation and Bootstrap have made it faster and easier to create better layouts. CSS is therefore catching up with it’s native specification i.e. CSS Grid.

CSS Grid is a grid system which allows you to define rows and columns in your CSS without defining them in your markup. Web developers are able to build page layouts with native CSS code without depending on the HTML markup, except for the presence of the containing grid.Over the years, CSS Grid has constantly improved it’s role as a visual language adding features which allow it to do more without Flash scripting or additional JavaScript. CSS Grid is visual tool for a layout module. It lets the users change the document layout without interfering with the source order. If used appropriately, CSS Grid will have no effect on the content communication of the document.

Below are a few reasons why CSS has more preference to Frameworks.

1. Simpler Markups
Your HTML will be cleaner if you use CSS Grid. While this might not be the most important benefits, this could be one of the first differences you notice.

2. More flexibility
CSS Grid lets you make HTML into what it was supposed to be. Layouts can be rearranged with ease with CSS Grid without worrying about the way the HTML is written. This is popularly known as source order dependence and makes the job much easier for web designers and developers.

3. No Column Limitation
With CSS Grid, your grid can have exactly the number of columns you want.

4. Browser Support

browser_support
More than 80% of the global website supports CSS Grid. In an old browser, the absence of CSS Grid does not affect the experience of the visitors, however it’s presence simply enhances it by virtue of a better layout.

As mentioned above, the alternative to writing your own CSS is to use predefined frameworks. A CSS Framework is essentially a third party component such as BootStrap or Foundation which are developed externally. These frameworks or component libraries ( as they are referred) are not direct reference to your specific coding issues.
CSS Frameworks give developers a basic structure for designing consistent solutions and tackle recurring issues across front end web development. The generic functionality readily provided by CSS Frameworks can be overridden to suit customized requirements which in turn greatly reduces the time needed to create webpages.

Bootstrap is the most popular CSS Framework to create mobile first and responsive websites. It is an open source toolkit for developing with CSS, HTML and JS. With Bootstrap you can prototype your ideas quickly or build your app with responsive grid system, extensive prebuilt components, sass variables and mixins and powerful plugins. With Bootstrap, you can not only create layouts which was not possible without introducing JavaScript, but it is more convenient to understand and maintain your codes.

With CSS Grid, it is easier to create web layouts. The natively available layout in the browser renders numerous benefits. The use of Grid cannot be completely replaced by Framework as neither of them is a complete drop-in replacement for the other.

However, the reasons of using frameworks are multiple and not only about the containing grid system. Listed below are some of the most common reasons for using framework.

1. A Framework provides readymade documentation
Creating documentation required skill and time. If you are working on a project with other web developers, then any internal system you create will also need documentation so that the other can use it. A Framework gives your team ready made documentation.

2. Easy Starting Point available
When you attempt to build a certain component, seeking assistance using Grid can be difficult however, using a framework can get you moving and should you require assistance, it will be about how to style or modify a particular component, the answer to which can be readily available on the web.

3. Practicality
You can deliver your projects sooner if you opt for a framework as it does not need a lot of customization. When you develop MVP for something new, a framework is a preferred choice. This way, using the framework you can prepare the first version more quickly and deliver it to your clients and have some time to work on the feedback. Otherwise, you might just burn yourself out.
Also when you are developing the backend admin system for an app or a site and need to create additional admin screens. A set of ready built components can reduce a lot of work and increase your speed of work. Predefined themes for dashboard and admin screens can serve as a useful starting point for your design and development.

4. Designing Assistance
If you have to both design a develop a website and you do not have the necessary qualifications or the budget to hire a designer, CSS Framework should be your choice.

5. Handling Browser Compatibility
CSS Framework is responsive while grids might make it difficult for you to decide breakpoints for web pages due to bugs or the lack of support for certain features you use.

Following are a few considerations to make against CSS Framework.

1. Customization and Overriding

Many developers maintain that Framework would have been a better choice if they did not need overriding. Especially, if it is a huge team working, the purpose of ease of use can be lost of there are too many customizations and overriding.

2. Stark similarity in the look of the websites

The design choices in CSS Framework is so prevalent that more than often it is easy to identify websites where a custom CSS has been used.This can be detrimental for brands who are trying to build a name with their websites.

3. Inheritance of unrequited CSS Problems

Any framework looking to deliver a seamless user experience, has to solve numerous problems whether at the front end or backend. You might have to limit the complete web experience to only the recent most web browsers and allow for a limited experience on the older versions. A framework with numerous built in support will result in numerous additional codes if it has to run on older web browsers. This will be easier using CSS as compared to Framework.

4. Adapting versatile designs

In popular framework, the Grid System cannot span rows because there is no concept of rows in the layout system. If you have incorporated the BootStrap grid and the web designer introduces a design which span rows, you will not be able to implement it even though your target browsers might support Grid.

5. Performance lag
Instead of using optimized codes, generic codes can affect performance and especially when you are trying to improve it, you might have to battle the decisions of the framework.

6. Learning only Framework vs Learning CSS

Many developers only use framework to write CSS and have often been found to contain limited CSS knowledge. This could be a case of concern for web developing companies if their front end developers do not know how to write CSS. While Framework is here to stay, it is imperative to also be ready for the day it gets out of favour. Lack of CSS Knowledge could limit your career.

Bootstrap: Why is it prevalent and loved by many web designers?

bootstrap

Since it’s inception in 2011 built by a Twitter developer and identified as a Twitter Blueprint, BootStrap has secured it’s place in the front end development and has been considered as one of the most stable, elaborate and trendiest front-end frameworks.

BootStrap is built with Flexbox and easy to use. It is indeed for Bootstrap that developers today can create responsive web pages with much ease. However, the presence of some versatile components such as the card component which can be used to display every type of content images, videos and texts and also the responsive navigation bar. For most components, you also have a ready-made colour scheme to pick from. With the help of BootStrap, adding carousels, dynamic tooltips or dropdown boxes simply involves writing the appropriate markup. It also provides great typography. Basic HTML form elements like radioboxes, checkboxes and select options have also been restyled and rendered a modern feel.
And until you learn to master the CSS, BootStrap can assist you in creating functional and attractive web designs while you are in the learning curve.

When you have to prepare a prototype for your client, with the help of BootStrap, you can create this in little or no time with minimal or zero custom code. As mentioned above, simply add a little markup and you will get a sleek and responsive prototype which can then act as your starting point of work.

It is quite common for web developers to work on old but existing websites created by other developers. Today a number of websites depend on BootStrap for their frontend. If you are to maintain the database and refactor, knowledge of working with BootStrap will be handy. It also includes Sass customization options, and if you are a Sass developer, you can easily create a new web template with BootStrap.

Websites today need to be responsive and ‘mobile first; and need to look sleek and modern. BootStrap helps developers achieve these goals with minimum time and complexity. From introducing newer components and utility classes to the smart use of mixins and maps for customization, great documentation and convenience, BootStrap is here to stay.

Which one should you implement?

The answer lies in the nature of your project and you and your team will be the best decision makers. It might be useful that you not only consider your current requirements but also look into the terms of the initial prototype development and also the longevity of the website. Irrespective of your choice, it is important to keep your skills updated so that you are better prepared to take on the future and deliver the best of products and services in the coming phases of your career.

Hexadesigns is a web design company located in Kolkata, India. We take advantage of the latest trend and technologies to design, redesign and develop websites. This is our blog where we publish information for the general people and web developers for their knowledge enhancement.

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