Just like there are frameworks for many programming languages – CakePHP, jQuery, .NET – there are frameworks for CSS. The point of frameworks is to increase productivity and efficiency with CSS code. Many common practices done when using CSS are pre-defined within a framework to save the developer time and effort.
In this article we’re going to take a closer look into some of the most popular CSS frameworks, and see if using one could really live up to it’s reputation. Just like when working with any other framework, template, or application, there can be pros and cons. We’ll look into the good, the bad, and the ugly of using a CSS framework.
Time-Saving Web Development
There is no doubt that a CSS framework can save time when used correctly. After all, a framework’s purpose is to set up a base for developers to work with. Anything from typography and grids, to resets and add-ons are used in frameworks to make the developer’s life easier. The point is not to open up a text editor and start coding from scratch.
The Time-Wasting Learning Curve
In contrast, there is of course a learning curve when using a new CSS framework. This can take up more time than it’s worth. Beyond the learning curve though, when the code is not 100% yours, there can be confusion at some points throughout the development process. As designers and developers, we like to know the complete back-end workings of what we’re dealing with. Without that, a project can actually take longer.
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Finding a Balance
So in respect to time efficiency, is using a framework worth it? For many, probably yes. It does take a good understanding of the framework that will be used before the time saving benefits truly arise, and maybe even a change in how one is used to coding. However, there are certain individuals that may work quicker with their own code completely — it can really just depend on the type of thinker you are.
When using a framework of any kind, including CSS frameworks, you are essentially using someone else’s well thought-out code, and trying to use it to your benefit. If you find it difficult to work with someone else’s code besides your own, then using a framework may not be for you.
Better CSS Efficiency
Many CSS frameworks are also meant to get all the garbage out of the way, standardize code, and keep things short and quick. For many pre-defined features in CSS frameworks, code is condensed using short-hand and eliminating whitespace. Since each browser has to load stylesheets along with other website documents, having smaller CSS files can speed up a website’s load time.
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