When creating websites in this day and age, it's crucial to remember that people access them via all kinds of different devices. Those devices have different screen sizes, and sites that aren't properly designed and optimized won't render correctly across all of them. With more people accessing the Internet via smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices than desktop and laptop computers, it's more important than ever to develop sites that look and function as intended regardless of device. The most effective way to accomplish this is by using front-end frameworks. In the past few years, dozens have been developed. Needless to say, this has caused a lot of confusion among website owners who are eager to create responsive sites but unsure about which framework is right for them.
Top Benefits of Front-End Frameworks
In many ways, front-end frameworks simplify the web design and development process by allowing you to get the front end of a site up and running quickly and dealing with the back-end stuff at a more leisurely pace. The code has been tested extensively, so you can rest assured that it functions perfectly. In fact, many frameworks support very old browsers, ensuring that virtually anyone can access your site. Also, frameworks eliminate the need to puzzle over every last detail of a site's development. All kinds of small decisions have been handled already, allowing you to focus on the broader picture. Think of front-end frameworks as shortcuts that let you prioritize creativity over mindless, mind-numbing work.
The 5 Best Front-End Frameworks
Now that you are hopefully sold on the merits of front-end frameworks, you would probably like to know which ones to use. First, keep in mind that all of the frameworks on this list are modular, which means you can pick and choose what you need and ignore what you don't. Also, you can often mix and match components from different frameworks to achieve a custom design that suits the needs of your site. Today's best front-end frameworks are:
1. Bootstrap – When asked which framework they use, most website owners are likely to say Bootstrap. Without question, it's the most popular one out there. Its very popularity makes it a wise choice because there's tons of support for it, and the community at large has created all kinds of extensions, themes, plugins and other add-ons for it through the years. This impressive toolkit provides an HTML, CSS and JS framework that supports all of today's most popular browsers, including fairly old versions of many of them. It is loaded with plenty of starting templates as well, allowing you to hit the ground running on your project.
2. Knockout.js – First, please note that Knockout.js is technically not a full-fledged framework. Rather, it's a data-binding library/MVVM framework. However, it functions very similarly to a framework and provides many of the same benefits. Unobtrusive in its design and functionality, Knockout is among the most intuitive frameworks out there. Although HTML is the default, it supports other string-based templating engines like Handlebars. Its best features include UI bindings and automatic UI refresh.
3. Pure by Yahoo! – For many, this framework is too "bare bones" to do the trick. However, if you just need a few, specific components and don't need to rely on a full-fledged front-end framework, this is a quick, simple solution. Its lightweight design makes it a breeze to use. Naturally, it is also modular in nature, allowing you to choose the components you need quickly and easily. Backed up by extensive amounts of documentation, Pure is easy to get the hang of and supports the vast majority of browsers. It's also loaded with a nice array of starting templates. If you just need a few components to get the front end of your site up and running, this is a sleek, simple option to consider.
4. Foundation by Zurb – Some of the biggest names online, including Facebook, Yahoo! and eBay, rely on Foundation, which is produced by Zurb. Indeed, it is probably the most advanced front-end framework of its kind at the moment, and it's ideal for massive sites that require huge amounts of coding and work. The framework includes a nice selection of Foundation icon fonts and an extensive selection of add-ons. Foundation also boasts a variety of unique touches, including Icon Bar, Flex Video and Pricing Tables. No GUI customizer is included, so manual customization is the only option. Still, Foundation includes extras like training and business support, so you are never on your own when using it.
5. Semantic UI – With its emphasis on natural language principles, Semantic UI produces code that's incredibly clean, readable and easy to understand. Unlike most other front-end frameworks, no templates are provided. However, the framework is backed up by an entire separate support website that includes exceptional documentation and guides for getting started and even for creating your own themes. Only manual customization is available, as there is no GUI customization. Robust, full-featured and incredibly innovative, Semantic is also continually being improved and optimized to bring developers and website owners the latest and best tools. Some of its most unique offerings include Rating, Rail, Divider and Step. The semantics of its classes are superior to almost anything out there as well. All told, this is a very solid front-end framework that allows you to create responsive websites that appear and function as intended across all devices and on all screens. If you want the best reach possible–and what website owner doesn't?–you can't go wrong with Semantic UI.
When it comes to front-end frameworks, choosing one at random is a recipe for disaster. You simply can't afford to rely on a framework that isn't going to support all devices. By sticking with one or more of the options above, you're sure to have a smooth, easy time with your next project. You can rest assured too that it will look and perform perfectly regardless of which devices are used to access it.