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Types of frameworks


From:

CSS: Frameworks and Grids

with James Williamson

Video: Types of frameworks

As I mentioned earlier, there's an incredible amount of diversity among CSS frameworks. This is largely due to the circumstances that lead to their creation. Most frameworks are the result of a studio or an individual creating a starting point and system that allow them to build their sites more efficiently. Of course, we don't all work the same way or even have the same focus. So part of what you'll need to do when deciding on a framework is to find the one that best fits your workflow. In preparation for this course, I researched dozens of frameworks, and categorize their features and their focus.
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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

Types of frameworks

As I mentioned earlier, there's an incredible amount of diversity among CSS frameworks. This is largely due to the circumstances that lead to their creation. Most frameworks are the result of a studio or an individual creating a starting point and system that allow them to build their sites more efficiently. Of course, we don't all work the same way or even have the same focus. So part of what you'll need to do when deciding on a framework is to find the one that best fits your workflow. In preparation for this course, I researched dozens of frameworks, and categorize their features and their focus.

In doing so, I came to regard most frameworks as falling into one of three different types: User Interface frameworks, comprehensive frameworks, and minimal frameworks. In many ways, you can't really classify UI frameworks as a CSS framework because they contain so much more than just CSS. Bootstrap, for example, comes with a collection of CSS, JavaScript, files and images, and even optional HTML templates and demo files. UI frameworks are typically fully-functional development tools for building complete user interfaces.

This means that the structure and styling for form elements, UI components, page layout, and even scripting for site functionality is often included. While these frameworks typically add the most overhead to sites, they also give authors the most complete set of tools to build the entire front end of projects. Comprehensive frameworks are similar to UI frameworks in that they try to provide a full set of tools, but rather than focusing on developing the entire front end of a project, they instead focus on controlling as many aspects of styling as possible.

These will typically include a set of styles to ensure cross-browser consistency as well as styling for common elements, forms, typography, and layout. The goal of these frameworks is to cover as many aspects of page design as possible in the hopes of reducing the overall time required to produce finished sites. As you can imagine, these frameworks can add a fair amount of overhead to sites as well, and it's not uncommon to find yourself only using a portion of the entire framework. However, from a capability standpoint, a comprehensive framework can save you a tremendous amount of time when starting a new project, and can often address styling issues that you may not have even considered.

Minimal frameworks take a decidedly different approach, rather than trying to encompass every aspect of site design, they focus on establishing a stable base for projects to start from and leave the bulk of the styling up to the designer. While they might include basic styling for site typography and layout, they are more concerned with creating consistency with the smallest footprint possible. Obviously, this is a very different strategy from comprehensive frameworks, and you'll probably find yourself drawn to one over the other, based on your own personal styling philosophy.

Of course, these are merely arbitrary categories that I have created to try to describe the different types of frameworks available. In reality, many frameworks are a mixture of types and capabilities, others might have a specific focus, such as creating responsive sites or working with HTML5. While it's helpful to have a specific scope in mind when choosing a framework, you'll still need to examine any framework carefully to make sure that it's the right tool for the job. It's also worth noting that many frameworks are designed to work exclusively with CSS Preprocessors like Sass and LESS.

Because they are outside the scope of this course, I won't be covering those frameworks. However, if you're currently using Sass or LESS, be sure to explore their associated frameworks as well.

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