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Alternatives to Bootstrap:
The Best Frameworks for Frontend

Designing a creative front-end is a challenging task to do at first glance. As it requires the right visual appearance and quality aspects that the user needs. The best designs differentiate itself by offering multi-platform support via different devices and the visual and technical elements both must work well on all the chosen platforms.

Bootstrap alternatives

Accessibility, as well as a set of SEO best practices, are tasks that cannot be overlooked when programming applications for users.

Why Bootstrap Is Not Always the Best Solution

Those programmers who don't want to start developing a web interface from scratch often use UI frameworks or user interface work environments.

Many usually opt for Bootstrap, a solution developed by Twitter whose components are optimized for mobile devices and the main browsers, and with which, besides, it is easy to make an idea. You can also use Bootstrap Templates to get what you want within no time.

However, its wide distribution has also ensured that there is a variety of web pages created with Bootstrap's standard code and that they are therefore very similar. A small criticism is also its complexity, since it is based on a large amount of CSS and JavaScript and makes HTML markup much more exhaustive, which can be reflected, among other things, in the loading times of the web.

Although it is possible to download the script and the reduced CSS files, so that they only contain the necessary Bootstrap components, it will be necessary to deal with it intensively.

The intention might lead many us to use a framework, that is, easy to use and time-saving. As a consequence, some developers do not think that this UI framework is always the best option and therefore they opt for some alternatives to Bootstrap. But that’s not the case for all developers.

A Portrait of the Best Bootstrap Alternatives

Below, we present five front-end work environments that can be useful as an alternative solution to the Twitter framework to create a complete and functional web interface. Besides, we expose its advantages and disadvantages, as well as study the breadth of code collections and what work they are most relevant for.

Finally, we analyze how web development works with each alternative.

ZURB Foundation

The Foundation modular framework was born as a style guide produced by the web design agency ZURB for its clients' projects. Subsequently, ZURB released its numerous HTML, CSS, and JavaScript components as an open-source framework.

Its core, a twelve-part GridLayout, makes responsive web design easy, so it automatically adapts to the screen sizes and resolutions of different devices. In addition to this grid system, Foundation offers, among others, the following templates: 

  • Sliders
  • Buttons
  • Typography
  • Media containers
  • Menu lists and bars
  • Integrated float and visibility classes

In the same way that Bootstrap, since its fourth version, Foundation is based on Sass, a simplified style language for creating and editing CSS files, but it does not support Less (another style sheet language that Bootstrap is compatible with). While, at first glance, differences in the JavaScript plugins, the CSS fragments are no longer evident, the Foundation offers one significantly fewer templates and reduced support for other platforms.

The ZURB framework significantly outperforms Twitter's solution when it comes to the individuality of each developer's front end, as the underlying CSS code provides access to a compact design that can be easily adapted to individual needs.

Unlike Bootstrap, some classes are implemented directly, thus saving time and effort when adding them. Another advantage: ZURB offers different courses and personal support for your front-end project as well as a special version of the framework for designing newsletters.

Pure.CSS

In mid-2013, Yahoo launched Pure.CSS, a basic structure for developing web interfaces that are considered a high-quality alternative to Bootstrap, but that can also be used in conjunction with this framework.

Pure is based on the modular and scalable architecture for CSS SMACSS (Scalable and Modular Architecture for CSS), which makes sure to separate those repetitive elements (tables, buttons, or forms) from the basic design (font, design, etc.) and allows them to have conventions of their own.

The Yahoo framework assigns each module (regardless of whether it is the regular design or specific rules) a standard class name with the prefix "pure" and interprets them as sub-modules. Thus, for example, to insert a form in which the elements are one below the other, the class “pure-form” and the class “pure-form-stacked” will be specified by default to denote the subclass.

This front-end framework, which can be downloaded in a responsive and non-responsive version, contains six modules that, in their compressed form, have a size of 4 GB (unzipped, 16 KB):

Base (base-min.css): base of the framework, including its set of rules
Grids (grids-responsive-min.css): flexible and responsive grid system
Forms (forms-min.css / forms-nr-min.css): forms
Buttons (buttons-min.css): different buttons
Tables (tables-min.css): tables
Menus (menus-min.css / menus-nr-min.css): menus

All these modules are based, in the same way as the Bootstrap components and other CSS frameworks, on the open-source style sheets Normalize.css, which replaces the standard style of HTML elements with styles optimized for different browsers.

Compared to Twitter's front-end framework, Yahoo's solution does not contain all JavaScript applications, although, as they can be implemented manually at all times.

It should be noted that Pure.CSS is not so much a finished front-end that only needs to be adjusted to personal needs, but rather, the starting point for a project and, therefore, associated with a significantly greater degree of freedom when it comes to design.

Yahoo! hosts Pure.CSS in its own Content Delivery Network (Yahoo CDN), in such a way that, to integrate your project, you only need to make a simple reference in the header (<head>). Logically, it is also possible to download Pure.CSS and host it on your own. The current link for the CDN and for downloading the files can be found on its official website purecss.io.

Semantic UI

In 2013, the developer Jack Lukic published a framework as a solution for front-end development under the name of Semantic UI. The great advantage of this code collection lies in the way it seeks to simplify the writing of HTML code through intuitive and easy-to-use conventions.

For this purpose, Semantic UI has more than 3,000 CSS classes that aim to optimize the development process. While Bootstrap only contains one theme in the basic pack, Semantic UI has, in its standard version, more than 20 predesigned templates.

However, designing with this framework can be a bit more complicated than with Bootstrap: in addition to the basic CSS and JavaScript files, the standard pack contains fonts, the PHP Composer package manager, the Bower web file manager, and the Gulp tasks.

The individual components are distributed in the following six areas:

  • Globals: style definitions based on Normalize.css; typography and basic design
  • Elements: front-end components like buttons, icons, containers and many more
  • Collections: structured content such as the grid, menus, tables or forms
  • Views: interactive elements like comment fields, news feeds or banner ads
  • Modules: widgets such as drop-down menus, pop-ups, or checkboxes
  • Behaviors: programming interfaces for JavaScript

For beginners and users with basic knowledge, the Semantic UI naming system can be initially puzzling and, in each case, tied to a certain practice. In the end, however, this effort is worth it, because reading the HTML code of its interface is much more intuitive than in other frameworks such as Twitter Bootstrap, something that is very useful, especially during subsequent reviews.

UIkit

UIkit is the open-source solution for front-end programming developed by the Hamburg company YOOtheme, with extensive experience in developing web applications, as well as themes for WordPress, Joomla, and its website builder YOOtheme Pro.

The extensive collection of components HTML, CSS, and JavaScript are available under the free MIT license and can, therefore, be used and modified without any problem.

All CSS fragments are available in a Less variant and a Sass. The more than 30 modules of this alternative to Bootstrap, as in the case of its main competitors, are based on Normalize.css, so almost no web browser has problems displaying projects created with UIkit.

The main components are divided into the following six categories:

  • Defaults: basis for normalization of HTML elements, thanks to which multi-browser capability and basic style maxims are achieved
  • Layout: tools for designing the front end, for example, the grid system, content boxes or useful CSS classes for repeating content
  • Navigations: all the elements that make it easier for the user to explore the web page, including, among other things, modules for pagination (page numbering) or the classic navigation bars
  • Elements: styles for autonomous content blocks such as tables, lists, and forms
  • Common: Components that are commonly used within the content, for example, buttons, icons, badges, or animations
  • JavaScript: modules composed mainly of JavaScript to implement interactive elements

To prepare content for different screen sizes, UIkit has several responsive classes. With the help of the online tool Customizer, you can adjust important predefined elements such as 1,200 pixels for large screens or 479 pixels for smartphones with small screens.

To avoid complications with other snippets of the framework or CSS, all its classes are defined with the prefix "UK". Those JavaScript and CSS elements necessary for the creation of more complex web interfaces that are not integrated into the core of the framework can be at any time, for example, when a website requires an administration area. It includes login functions, HTML editor, and file upload.

Despite its impressive functionality, the file size of the individual components, as well as the entire framework, is surprisingly low.

This is complemented by extensive documentation that greatly simplifies the initial work with UIkit, a feature that Bootstrap also excels at, as well as the large selection of themes and tutorial offerings.

Additionally, there are around 1,500 forks on GitHub, where it is possible to find and download all the modules of this front-end framework. Although the complete pack is also available on its main page, this working environment does not allow the installation of modules individually, so those that are not needed will have to be removed later.

Materialize

It's a CSS framework that relies on the basic principles of material design. This a design style that was implemented by Google in 2015, and that is now used in most of its applications.

This design concept is based on graphically card-like surfaces in a flat design style, but at the same time, they implement many animations and shadows. The depth effects produced with this technique allow users to capture elements of information and interaction more easily.

The development of this MIT licensed work environment was in the hands of four students from Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania (Alvin Wang, Alan Chang, Alex Mark, and Kevin Louie).

This Bootstrap alternative, which, like the Twitter framework, has a 12-column grid system, contains CSS and JavaScript components with over 700 material design symbols in an Icon font and Roboto, the default font for your design concept of Google.

In addition to the usual CSS files in normal and reduced versions, it is also possible, as with Bootstrap, to take advantage of the SCSS source files written in Sass to facilitate the process of customizing your web interface.

CSS: The primary function of CSS is, like Bootstrap and other UI frameworks, a responsive grid, which provides the foundation for a web interface to work on all devices. The Materialized grid contains three predefined display sizes: less than 600 pixels for mobile devices, up to 992 pixels for tablets, and around 992 pixels for desktop computers.

Other CSS snippets include a color palette based on the primary colors of the material design, the aforementioned Roboto font, as well as different classes called "helpers" and are supportive when it comes to aligning content.

Components: Components are the essential parts of the front-end framework necessary for the realization of navigation elements and interactive areas. In addition to traditional components such as codes to insert pagination, forms, navigation bars, or icons, you will also find modules of fundamental importance for the application of the concept of material design.

These include, for example, the “Cards” (the typical collections of Google objects for the presentation of content) or the symbolic “Chips” that allow representing labels or contacts. You can consult SEO services in Abu Dhabi for better components' usability knowledge.

JavaScript: When it comes to JavaScript applications, Materialize is undoubtedly one of the best alternatives to Bootstrap. Regardless of whether you want to display your images in a carousel view, add interactive dialog boxes or bring the interface to life with the parallax effect, you will always have JavaScript elements at your disposal to achieve this end.

In this way, users of the framework will be equipped in the best way to design a web interface that, besides, offers great usability both on mobile devices and on desktop computers.

To download the project files you can visit GitHub or its official website, materializecss.com. There you will also find the two available templates: "starter" and "parallax", as well as the dialing code to access the project files through the cdnjs content distribution network.

Conclusion

Despite all the facts, Bootstrap is the most powerful tool in terms of developing a creative and unique website with responsive design, creative styles, and numerous other benefits. This makes him the best among all the other frameworks. This post is about the best alternative to bootstrap despite showing the downside of it. So, you can use the above-mentioned framework if your requirement is to develop a web page without using Bootstrap.

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