What is a CSS Framework or other type of framework? In the word of web development, frameworks such as PHP and CSS framework systems, if you will, that are already coded to a certain point. The purpose of the initial coding in the frameworks is to allow for a more speedy development process by the developer. Codeigniter, one of our favorite PHP frameworks saves an abundant amount of time versus coding from scratch.
Do we at BlueLayerMedia use PHP frameworks? Yes, absolutely. Do we use a CSS framework? Absolutely not. For a good reason as well.
Using a CSS Framework definitely has its purpose. As most of them tout, they can provide for a quicker and cross browser compatible development experience. Let me touch on the first aspect, which is a CSS Framework will provide a quick development process. Using a CSS Framework can speed up development if you are cranking out multiple sites which have the same appearance or if you are working within a development team and need to keep coding practices consistent.
As far as a CSS Framework creating a cross browser compatible experience, I have to heartily disagree. A site coded from scratch and using readily available tools such as CSS resets and CSS normalizations can be just as cross browser compatible. Even when using a CSS Framework, you are bound to run in to some type of issue on some browser due to the multitude of browsers and their versions that exist. While people are dropping support for IE6 like the plague (thank goodness), browsers such as IE7 and IE8 still have a myriad of issues to contend with in CSS.
I looked at several different CSS Framework including some of the more popular ones and some of the example sites they had listed looked simply like a newspaper. I’m aware that they are simply examples and much more styling can be rendered with CSS however, they just seem to look like a cookie-cutter template. There are WordPress theme developers that also use a CSS Framework.
We do a great deal of site recodes where people have an existing site, perhaps one coded in outdated tables and want to move to a tableless design. Trying to integrate a CSS Framework in to a design that already exists would prove much more time-consuming than it would to code the CSS from scratch.
There is also something to be said for coding a site from scratch and not using a CSS Framework. You have a much more intimate knowledge of your code and what is going on behind the scenes. I’ve found that usually makes debugging a certain issue or rendering a site more cross browser compatible, that much easier.
In conclusion, I’m sure using a CSS Framework has its place in web development. Are they as useful as a PHP framework? Not quite. Are their use or lack thereof going to make or break your site? Absolutely not. In the end, the importance is that your site is coded well.