CSS frameworks, good or bad?

Monday 19 November 2007

Jeff Croft wrote What's not to love about CSS frameworks, asking for debate over CSS frameworks like Blueprint, and got tons of it. Then he followed it up with some summary (and apology).

I don't do a whole lot of CSS work, but I've got some opinions anyway(!):

  • Calling them frameworks may be a bit much. "Libraries" seems to fit the scope a bit better.
  • Some designers complain of presentational class names. It's true that Blueprint encourages you to use class names like 'span-15'. The problem here is that CSS isn't rich enough to avoid it. It has no indirection capabilities. I'd like to be ables to say "style span-15 like this, and then style big-figure just like span-15", but I can't.
  • People are starting to write tools to improve the expressiveness of CSS, like Moonfall, which provides variables and some simple margin math. Christian Montoya has a proof-of-concept of a tool called Semantify that lets you start with presentational Blueprint class names, and then fix them up to be pure semantic names.
  • Some designers complain of inflexibility in Blueprint, but again, tools like Blueprint Grid CSS Generator help there too.

In the end, the biggest issues about the CSS frameworks seemed to be that many CSS designers simply prefer to do it all themselves. That's to be expected when sophisticated technologies are made simpler by providing simplifying libraries. The experts have climbed the learning curve, and can do more with the raw technology, they find the framework limiting. Non-experts find the raw technology baffling, and appreciate that the framework simplifies and organizes their work.

tagged: » 4 reactions

Comments

[gravatar]
Jan 10:26 AM on 19 Nov 2007

> The experts have climbed the learning curve, and can do more with the raw technology, they find the framework limiting. Non-experts find the raw technology baffling, and appreciate that the framework simplifies and organizes their work.

I beg to differ :-) CSS is not one of core technologies I know, but it crosses my desk more than once a day. I find it extremely annoying to keep up with all the tricks and hacks and whatnot. While I could, I prefer to get work done and let the framework deal with all the cross browser hackey. For fine-tuning I can always override styles.

Bottom line: I love Blueprint :-)

[gravatar]
Ned Batchelder 8:43 PM on 19 Nov 2007

In an email, Armin Ronacher sent me a link to his CSS syntax sugaring project: CleverCSS. Looks pretty interesting.

[gravatar]
Phil 7:09 AM on 10 Sep 2009

Try Sass and Compass

[gravatar]
Gareth 7:44 AM on 17 Dec 2010

@Jan, I don't know why you disagree with that quote because it seems to describe you perfectly - "Non-experts find the raw technology baffling, and appreciate that the framework simplifies and organizes their work"

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