CSS: Frameworks and Grids
Illustration by John Hersey

Exploring a comprehensive framework


From:

CSS: Frameworks and Grids

with James Williamson

Video: Exploring a comprehensive framework

Now that we have seen a minimal framework, let's explore a representative comprehensive framework and see how it differs in terms of structure and capabilities. To do that, I'm going to show off one of the more popular comprehensive frameworks out there, and that's Foundation by ZURB. Foundation could also be thought of as a UI framework, so you'll often hear people refer to it as a UI framework as well. But since its primary focus is CSS, I'm really going to list it as a comprehensive framework. This kind of shows you how muddy those waters really are. So now what is Foundation? Well, if I click on Features, the three main focuses of Foundation are its grid for layout, the fact that it really supports Rapid Prototyping, so essentially just getting ideas from paper to mockup very, very quickly by just using a few classes.

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Watch the Online Video Course CSS: Frameworks and Grids
3h 27m Beginner Jan 22, 2013

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Have you wondered if using a CSS framework will speed up your site development? In this course, senior author James Williamson introduces the types of frameworks available—including the most popular choices among working web developers—and provides an honest assessment of the pros and cons to using a framework. He guides you through downloading a framework, setting up a directory structure, and building a framework-based site, such as structuring the HTML and working with forms. A separate chapter explores layout grids, often included with CSS frameworks, which provide a simple system for laying out page content.

Topics include:
  • Understanding boilerplates, grids, and frameworks
  • Choosing a framework
  • Building your own framework
  • Crafting a deployment strategy
  • Modifying files
  • Customizing typography and color
  • Filling in framework gaps
  • Exploring grid-based syntax
  • Nesting grids
  • Using mobile grids
Subjects:
Developer Web
Software:
CSS
Author:
James Williamson

Exploring a comprehensive framework

Now that we have seen a minimal framework, let's explore a representative comprehensive framework and see how it differs in terms of structure and capabilities. To do that, I'm going to show off one of the more popular comprehensive frameworks out there, and that's Foundation by ZURB. Foundation could also be thought of as a UI framework, so you'll often hear people refer to it as a UI framework as well. But since its primary focus is CSS, I'm really going to list it as a comprehensive framework. This kind of shows you how muddy those waters really are. So now what is Foundation? Well, if I click on Features, the three main focuses of Foundation are its grid for layout, the fact that it really supports Rapid Prototyping, so essentially just getting ideas from paper to mockup very, very quickly by just using a few classes.

And then it has a real emphasis on Mobility in terms of making sure that your projects look great across multiple screen sizes and devices. So there is a lot baked into it that allows you to do that. Now of course, there is a whole lot more to this. As a matter of fact, if I go over to the documentation and start looking at some of the different items that's included here, notice that it has integration with Rails, there is Sass and Compass integration, but if we go into the Components, you can see that it focuses on things like The grid. It has different set of media queries, it has UI Styling for things like Buttons and Forms, Tabs, other User Interface Elements.

It has full Navigation features. There is a lot going on in terms of Typography and Form Styling. So right off the bat, you can see the scale of Foundation is much, much larger than Skeleton is in terms of what it handles and to the level of detail that it handles it. As a matter fact, if you were to download Foundation, unpack it and take a look at it-- I'll just switch over to Dreamweaver and show you what I'm talking about. Over here in the Files window, let me expand this out a little bit. So I have had the index file open, and this, again, is another starter file just like the index file in Skeleton is.

But then you have got all this other stuff, this banner, contact, feed, these are templates that basically are sort of preset layouts that you can build off of. You can see there is images directory here, but this one, instead of having preset icons and things like that, it has some support for one of its features, which is orbit, and then there is a slideshow feature which I'll show you in just a moment. They also have a lot going on in the JavaScript folder, so a lot of jQuery action happening here, a lot of different libraries. In the stylesheets, we have three different stylesheets.

Really it's only two; they have one a minified version of the Foundation CSS. Then they have a sort of expanded Foundation CSS that you can work with and modify, and then sort of a blank app.css file that you can add your own stuff to. If I take a look at this index page, and let's just say I preview this in a browser, one of the nice things this does for you is in addition to sort of giving you a starting point, it also gives you an overview of the framework and some of its capabilities. So you can actually see, based on the code examples they have, how to get things like these tabs to work, or things like the Orbit Slideshow that I was talking about, where your users can just slide through different photos, images, or content.

How their default button styling is and even things like a Modal window that gives you that sort of pop-up window functionality that you can add to your sites. So this is a living breathing example of kind of how the framework actually works. If I go back into Dreamweaver and look at the structure of this, you'll see that it's not really commented as well as Skeleton is it does have a few things that kind of let you know what's going on like setting the viewport width. It's got a few things like just using the minimized version of the Foundation CSS, but if you want the actual extended one, you'll just uncomment that out.

And other than that you're just sort of looking through the structure of the page to figure out how they did certain things. You can not only use this as a starter page, but as a reference to come back to it a little bit later on as well. Now I want to just briefly take a look at the actual CSS. Now if we take a look at the default foundation.css, remember, Skeleton, when we took a look at its CSS, is a minimal framework. It really only had 250-300 lines of code in its base styles. Foundation on the other hand, if I scroll all the way down to the bottom of this one, we're looking at around 1200 lines of code, maybe a little bit more than that based on how we have formatted. So there is a lot more going on here.

It has a more comprehensive framework, Foundation has a lot of bells and whistles. You got all those built-in modal windows, things like slideshows, tabs, and the amount of detail in its styles, means that as a designer you're going to get a lot out of the box. However, as with most comprehensive frameworks there's got to be a steeper learning curve for you to figure out kind of how all this stuff works. And it's doubtful that you're going to need every single one of these extensive features that it has. So as with any web development tool, you'll need to decide which features and the level of detail are right for your project.

With frameworks there is no better way to do that, than just to download the framework and experiment with as many of them as possible.

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