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6 free CSS frameworks for web development in 2022

CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is the styling language that gives web pages their cozy appearance. While creating web pages with plain HTML is a relic of a bygone era, using CSS to design websites is a constantly evolving practice. It’s tough to picture how web pages would look without CSS — modern application, web, and software design as we know it today wouldn’t exist without this styling language. 

CSS has a long, rich history that lets us better understand how the web’s structure evolved. It also provides insight into the evolution of responsive website design and what web designers have accomplished using CSS-enabled responsive web design. These days, developers and designers can take advantage of sophisticated features to use CSS3, similar to a functional programming language: developers and designers can even use CSS3 (the modern iteration of CSS) to integrate things such as filters into the web pages directly.

Although there’s no denying that CSS is integral to web design that’s well done, learning and mastering CSS3 takes a long time. Thankfully, CSS3 frameworks exist to make the lives of web designers a whole lot easier. These frameworks provide the tools necessary to put together user interfaces that designers can later modify and iterate upon during the lifetime of a design project. 

So, without further delay, let’s quickly cover the best CSS3 frameworks designers and developers can use for their next project.

box of css tools

1. Bootstrap 5

Easily the most widely used and popular among CSS3 frameworks, Bootstrap 5 is a framework for front-end web development. It’s often the go-to framework to create and prototype web pages as well as mobile web designs and web design concepts. 

Bootstrap 5 is not, strictly speaking, a CSS3 framework. However, one must constantly work with CSS3 to use Bootstrap. Bootstrap 5 includes multiple aspects of CSS that allow web designers to create things such as buttons, grid systems, forms, and more. It also allows designers and developers to build responsive web designs, and its CSS aspects allow for nearly endless sub-category possibilities that modern web design demands. 

2. Material Framework

For teams of designers and developers that would rather apply scientific concepts to their web design instead of investing countless hours of planning, Material Framework is one of the best CSS3 frameworks out there. Developed by Google, Material Framework is predicated on the belief that apps and web pages can be created with a single, unifying style. 

Material Framework has grown in popularity since its original specification became publicly available. Shortly after this framework’s origination, countless other frameworks and tutorials have appeared that allow developers and designers to embrace Material’s full potential and apply it to projects on web pages, applications, and even software. Imagine, for example, using a CSS framework to improve something sensitive and complex like patient communication software or apps. 

Material Framework exclusively uses CSS, which means all you need to do is use a CSS library and its corresponding documentation to understand how Material’s syntax operates and how to best use its design elements as part of your projects. 

3. TailwindCSS

TailwindCSS is a CSS3 framework nearly as popular as Bootstrap 5, and it has taken the world of web, application, and software design by storm. TailwindCSS offers all the characteristics necessary to become the leading CSS3 framework and potentially surpass Bootstrap 5. The framework is thoroughly and straightforwardly documented, allowing designers and developers to take advantage of a dizzying number of elements and ready-to-use design templates. 

To top it off, TailwindCSS is intuitive to use, extremely lightweight, and completely modular, allowing you to pick and choose only the components you immediately need for your project while ignoring other unnecessary parts. 

The ease of use with TailwindCSS makes it ideal to apply to projects for which you are paying freelance web developers and designers. You can combine the efforts of your freelancers with TailwindCSS to rapidly build and rebuild your web pages without requiring them to make changes to your HTML5.

graphic of different CSS frameworks

4. Semantic UI

Semantic UI is another CSS3 framework whose popularity has skyrocketed in recent years. It’s not uncommon to spot the Semantic design approach applied to separate tools and frameworks that use guides taken from third-party styles. Semantic UI offers a host of elements that designers and developers can build using Semantic exclusively. Dividers, buttons, and loaders are just a few that come to mind, although you can leverage Semantic to create more advanced features such as breadcrumbs and forms and even modules such as sticky boxes and popup windows. 

Another key attraction of Semantic is its approachable nature. Web designers and developers of nearly any skill level can start using Semantic within the styles that they already use.

5. Foundation

Among the world’s leading frameworks for front-end web development is Foundation. It is a CSS3 framework that’s highly responsive and offers solutions for rapid web design that are perfect for creating new web pages and mobile apps without needing to invest a massive amount of funds toward an entire team of professional developers. 

The Foundation framework is simple to learn and use and even offers a huge section of tutorials that make it possible for nearly anyone to become a Foundation master in a matter of weeks. Foundation is particularly useful for designers and developers who like to apply typeface basics as well as fundamental website layout and navigation concepts to their projects. This is thanks in no small part to Foundation’s extensive documentation that covers its style guide and available components.

6. Sculpt

Sculpt is a lightweight CSS3 framework perfect for teams of designers and developers working on mobile, responsive designs. Sculpt was introduced to specifically address mobile devices with certain screen sizes while allowing for extensive customization made possible via media queries. 

If you’re interested in rapidly fleshing out a concept of your new mobile site that’s intuitive to navigate and full of functionality, Sculpt may be the best framework for you. Plus, Sculpt promotes cleanly designed typography thanks to its included stylesheet based on a 25-pixel typography baseline.

Using CSS

CSS is a styling language that is constantly evolving, which means that choosing the CSS framework that’s best for your next project isn’t always straightforward. Thankfully, all of the best modern CSS3 frameworks make it easy to include design patterns that promote responsiveness and tackle common compatibility problems across different devices. With your chosen framework, you can enable your team of designers and developers to work together on a common project and ultimately save precious development time and, of course, funds from your budget.

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Gary Stevens avatar

Gary Stevens

Gary Stevens is a web developer and technology writer. He's a part-time blockchain geek and a volunteer working for the Ethereum foundation as well as an active Github contributor. More articles written by Gary.

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