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Popular CSS grid systems

From: CSS: Frameworks and Grids

Video: Popular CSS grid systems

While most frameworks come with a built-in grid system, there are a multitude of independent grid systems that you can use either on their own or in combination with your preferred framework. Let's take a look at some of the more popular grid systems. I want to start with a 960 grid system. This is one of the first grid systems out there, and it's also one of the most popular, even today. Now it's a fixed grid, and it's based off of 960 pixels wide, which when we were targeting 1024x768 would made a lot of sense. Since screen sizes are a little bit larger now, people have been sort of expanding grid systems, but 960 is extremely popular, and what's really interesting about this is that its syntax has been adopted by many other grid systems.

Popular CSS grid systems

While most frameworks come with a built-in grid system, there are a multitude of independent grid systems that you can use either on their own or in combination with your preferred framework. Let's take a look at some of the more popular grid systems. I want to start with a 960 grid system. This is one of the first grid systems out there, and it's also one of the most popular, even today. Now it's a fixed grid, and it's based off of 960 pixels wide, which when we were targeting 1024x768 would made a lot of sense. Since screen sizes are a little bit larger now, people have been sort of expanding grid systems, but 960 is extremely popular, and what's really interesting about this is that its syntax has been adopted by many other grid systems.

So if you are familiar with using the 960 grid system, it's really easy to move on to some of the other ones. Next, I want to talk about the 1140 grid. This is a fluid grid system, so unlike 960 which is fixed, this is a fluid grid that's based off of 12 columns, and it targets a maximum width of 140 pixels, so it's moving up a little bit from the 960 grid. It's designed to look good on bigger monitors and remain fluid all the way down to mobile screens. Next up, I really like this 1Kb CSS grid. This thing is really, really neat.

It takes a really minimal approach to designing a CSS grid. You simply choose the number of columns that you want, all the way from 9 to 16 columns, you determine what the width of each of the columns is going to be, how much gutter you want, and then over here on the right-hand side, it tells you exactly which screen resolution you're going to be targeting, and then all you need to do is download it and start using the grid. So it's a very, very lightweight grid that you can download and you use that's customized to fit your specific needs. Now, I am a pretty big fan of the Golden grid system.

This is a minimal grid system, and what's neat about this--I am just going to scroll down to kind of show you this--it has what they call folding columns. So essentially what that means is that at a smaller screen size, your 16 columns, say, folds down to 8, which then folds down to 4, and that makes it a lot easier for you to modify your layouts at smaller screen sizes, because you already have those classes built into it. This site also has a really useful grid Overlay Widget and resource links for creating responsive design. So this is definitely a grid system you want to check out.

Next up is Columnal, and Columnal is kind of a mash up of different grid systems. Now it uses concepts from both the 960 and 1140 grid systems, but it uses them to basically create a responsive grid that features nestable columns. The site also includes a PDF template that you can download and some wireframing templates to help you plan out your layouts and get started. Now next, I want to talk about Baseline. Now this is a grid system that focuses mainly on typography. I am going to go up and turn on this little Baseline grid to show you what I'm talking about. So it attempts to create a Baseline grid for type in addition to giving the designer control over the page layout as well.

There's also a little bit of styling built in for forms and basic typography, so baseline is really close to being a stand-alone framework instead of just a grid system, but because it focuses so much on the grid and on the Baseline for type, I wanted to include it here with the rest of the grid systems. In a similar vein, we have the Fluid Baseline grid. The Fluid Baseline grid is similar to Baseline in that it has a really heavy focus on typography and establishing a baseline grid, but it features a fluid grid instead of a fixed one like baseline does.

It also has default styles for forms and typography, JavaScript files, and sample HTML files, so it really is closer to being a total framework instead of just a grid system. Now there are two specific responsive grid systems that I want to end with. Both of them are responsive fluid grid systems. Now one of them--and this one which is available at responsive.gs-- comes in either with 12-, 16-, or 24-column varieties. Now the other one which you can find at responsivegridsystem.com, this is probably my favorite grid system.

Now the thing that I love about this is that you get to specify exactly how many columns you want to use at any given time, so there's a little example here. Now this allows you to create an incredibly diverse amount of layouts, because you can actually use 16 columns in one part of the layout and 24 columns in another and 12 yet in another; however, it does add a little additional weight to the overall code, so that's something that you need to be aware of. So, much like our overview of the frameworks that we did a little bit earlier, we have only scratched the surface of available grid systems. Later on, I am going to give you some additional resources that will contain links and information on many other stand-alone grids.

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CSS: Frameworks and Grids

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James Williamson
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