CSS: Frameworks and Grids
Illustration by John Hersey

What should I look for in a framework?


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CSS: Frameworks and Grids

with James Williamson

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Video: What should I look for in a framework?

As you begin to look through the dozens of available CSS frameworks, it's easy to feel a little overwhelmed. You might wonder how in the world will you ever figure out which is the right one for you. It helps if you know which questions to ask and what things to look for in a framework. So here are a few of the considerations that I recommend exploring as you start looking for the framework that's right for you. First, make sure that you take the time to clearly prioritize what your main goals for using a framework are.
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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

What should I look for in a framework?

As you begin to look through the dozens of available CSS frameworks, it's easy to feel a little overwhelmed. You might wonder how in the world will you ever figure out which is the right one for you. It helps if you know which questions to ask and what things to look for in a framework. So here are a few of the considerations that I recommend exploring as you start looking for the framework that's right for you. First, make sure that you take the time to clearly prioritize what your main goals for using a framework are.

What are you trying to get out of it and what's more important? Is it development speed, learning best practices, browser normalization, layout assistance, UI styling, or other factors? Once you have identified what your goals are and then ranked them in order of importance, it's a lot easier to match up perspective frameworks using their own focus. Next, take some time to quantify how you like to work. How do you like to structure your HTML? What's your strategy around authoring and deploying CSS and how important is responsive design to you? Once you really understand how you like to design sites, you're more likely to identify the framework that fits your workflow the best.

Finally, you also need to take your experience level into account. Are you an experienced web designer who is likely to be able to quickly scan framework files and figure out exactly what's going on, or are you a someone that will need a little bit of help in understanding how everything works? Based on your experience level, you might need a framework that is heavily documented with lots of example files. Some frameworks are extremely minimal, meaning all you're going to get is this CSS code and some basic guidelines. Others are going to come fully documented, with a few even sporting their own community forums that can help ease the learning curve associated with them.

Figure out what your tolerance level is for digging into a framework and learning stuff on your own and let the framework's level of documentation help make your decision for you. In the end, it will be a combination of factors that lead you to choosing the framework that's right for you. My main advice is not to rush into choosing one just because it has a great reputation or because everyone seems to be using it. What matters is that the framework is the best fit for you and the way that you like to work.

Don't try to fit yourself to a framework based on its reputation, you'll find yourself hating the framework and chained to an inefficient process. Take your time, experiment with multiple frameworks, and make your choice based on your own unique set of goals and preferences.

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