Top 10 Front-End Frameworks of 2016

front-end frameworks

Front-end frameworks let you hit the ground running when developing a new website. Due to their popularity, a wide array of front-end frameworks are available, and new ones emerge on a regular basis.

Because there are so many to choose from, pinpointing the right front-end framework can be tricky. Like many developers, you may be drawn to wildly popular, tried-and-true options like Bootstrap and Foundation. Then again, a newer but less widely known framework may more effectively suit your needs, so it’s worth it to get up to speed about today’s most popular options.

Things to Look for in a Front-End Framework

Before starting your search for a front-end framework for your next project, it’s important to educate yourself about the top things to look for in one. By keeping these considerations in mind, you will have an easier time weighing the pros and cons of the most popular front-end frameworks:

  • Skill Level – Consider your skills when choosing a front-end framework. If you’re a beginner, a more robust framework like Bootstrap may be in order, as it comes prepackaged with many useful widgets and requires minimal coding skills. If you’re more experienced, you may be better off with a simpler framework that gives you lots of wiggle room for customization. These frameworks are typically leaner and less bloated too, which is a plus.
  • Responsive Design – Any site that you develop should render properly across all devices, as more and more people access the internet via mobile devices. According to Similar Web’s State of Mobile Web US 2015 report, an estimated 56 percent of consumer traffic to the leading US websites is now from mobile devices. Therefore, stick with front-end frameworks that support responsive web design, so that you have one less thing to worry about.
  • CSS Preprocessors – If you use CSS preprocessors and prefer one or another in particular, typically Sass vs LESS, make sure that the framework that you use supports it.
  • Appearance – Choose a framework that allows you to achieve the appearance that you want with as little effort as possible.
  • Prototypes – The ideal front-end framework allows you to quickly produce wireframes and prototypes to speed up the overall design and development process.

More than anything, the right front-end framework simplifies, streamlines and speeds up the website design and development process while still giving you the flexibility and features that you need to produce exceptional results.

Top 10 Front-End Frameworks in 2016

Without further ado, here are the eight most popular front-end frameworks for 2016.

1. Bootstrap

This list would be woefully incomplete without the inclusion of the wildly popular front-end framework, Bootstrap. Created by Twitter developers and initially released in 2011, it’s the most used open-source framework in the world.

Like any effective front-end framework, Bootstrap includes CSS, HTML and JavaScript, or JS, components. It adheres to responsive web design standards, allowing you to develop responsive sites of all complexities and sizes.

Because it is updated continually, Bootstrap typically includes the latest and best features. For example, it added themes that met Google’s material design guidelines shortly after they were published, and it was also upgraded to use Sass as a CSS preprocessor.

Pros:

  • Responsive web design support (can also be disabled if required)
  • Extensive documentation

Cons:

  • Out-of-the-box file size of 276kB due to excessive number of rarely used styles
  • Excessive number of HTML classes and DOM elements can be messy and confusing

Ideal for: Beginners and those who prefer a robust front-end framework.

2. Semantic-UI

A relative newcomer on the scene, Semantic-UI stands out in a number of ways and is poised to become one of the most popular front-end frameworks out there.

This framework’s main claim to fame is its simplicity. Because it uses natural language, the code is self-explanatory. Even those with very little coding experience will feel fairly at home working with this framework.

Another notable feature of Semantic-UI is that it is integrated with a dizzying array of third-party libraries. So much so, in fact, that you probably won’t need to use any others. Therefore, the development process is a bit easier and more streamlined.

Pros:

  • Semantic class names make for a low barrier of entry, so even beginners can hit the ground running
  • Small file sizes and minimal load times because you can load only the components that you need; each has its own JS file and stylesheet
  • Versatile elements make for easy customization

Cons:

  • Very large packages when compared to Foundation and Bootstrap
  • Those with more complex design and development needs may find this framework lacking

Ideal for: Beginners and those who want a lightweight, nimble framework.

3. Foundation

Created by web design company Zurb, Foundation is a highly advanced, enterprise-grade front-end framework that is ideal for developing nimble, responsive websites. Used on sites like Facebook, eBay, and Mozilla, it is also fairly complex and may not be suitable for newbies.

This features-rich framework supports GPU acceleration for smooth, lightning-fast animations and Fastclick.js for fast rendering on mobile devices. It runs on the Sass preprocessor and includes the Foundation-developed data interchange attribute, which lets you load lightweight HTML sections for mobile and “heavier” HTML sections for larger screens. For a comparison between Foundation and Bootstrap, read our complete article, Bootstrap vs Foundation.

Pros:

  • No style lock-in, so you have greater flexibility
  • Uses REMS instead of pixels, eliminating the need to explicitly state width, height and other attributes for each device

Cons:

  • Fairly large file size out of the box
  • A bit too complex for beginners

Ideal for: Developers who have decent amounts of experience and who are primarily concerned with developing fast, attractive, responsive websites.

4. Materialize

The Materialize responsive front-end development framework also implements Google’s material design specifications and is loaded with ready-to-use buttons, icons, cards, forms and other components. It is offered in both a standard version and in one that runs on SASS.

Materialize includes a convenient IZ column grid feature that can be used for website layouts. It is also loaded with CSS that’s ready to use out of the box for material design shadows, typography, colors and other features.

Additional features include ripple-effect animation, drag-out mobile menus, SASS mixins and more.

Pros:

  • Huge selection of components
  • Responsive support ensures that websites are supported across all devices

Cons:

  • Large file size makes this a bulky framework to work with
  • No support for Flexbox model

Ideal for: Less experienced developers who need guidance regarding Google’s material design specifications.

5. Material UI

If you’re looking for a front-end framework that makes it easy to adhere to Google’s material design guidelines, you can’t go wrong with Material UI. It is by far the most elaborate framework to implement these guidelines thus far, but there is one caveat: It isn’t meant to be a starting point for a brand-new web design project.

Loaded with ready-to-use CSS and material design-compliant components, Material UI is built on top of the LESS preprocessor. Because it uses React components, however, a decent grasp of React is a plus.

Highly customizable, Material UI includes styles that are separated into individual files, so you can override LESS CSS variables without affecting framework components.

Pros:

  • Easiest way to meet Google’s material design guidelines when using a framework
  • Highly customizable

Cons:

  • Not intended to serve as a starting point for from-scratch web design projects
  • Need a decent understanding of React to use effectively

Ideal for: Developers who understand and have experience with React and who need an easy way to adhere to material design guidelines.

6. Pure

pure banner

Created by the Yahoo development team, Pure comes with a lightweight array of CSS modules that can be used in just about any project. Using Pure, you can easily create responsive buttons, menus, grids, tables and other features. Because it is purely CSS based, however, it does not support JavaScript or JQuery plugins.

When minified and compressed with Gzip, Pure clocks in at just 4.5kB, making it one of the lightest and nimblest front end development frameworks out there. As a result, it is terrific for mobile website development, and many developers rely on it for precisely that.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight, ensuring fast loading times even on mobile devices
  • Flexible array of CSS modules can be used on just about any web design and development project

Cons:

  • CSS only – does not include JQuery or JS plugins

Ideal for: Developers who are focusing on creating responsive, fast mobile websites.

7. Skeleton

Skeleton is a lightweight responsive boilerplate that contains only 400 lines of code. This framework is meant to include only the minimum requirements to get you started on the development of a web project. It is not meant to be all-inclusive such as other frameworks as mentioned above.

Skeleton is also responsive, based on a 12-column grid system, and includes the bare essentials such as buttons, lists, tables, forms, etc.

Pros:

  • Extremely lightweight
  • Greater simplicity and useful for smaller projects

Cons:

  • Does not include a wide selection of utility / styling components such as larger frameworks do.

Ideal for: Someone who is creating a smaller project that doesn’t require all of the style components of a larger framework.

8. UIKit

uikit banner

UIKit is a highly modular front-end framework stands out among most front end development frameworks for many reasons. Chief among them is the fact that it includes both LESS and Sass CSS preprocessors.

Loaded with an array of nimble, responsive components with consistent naming conventions, UIKit has become one of the most popular front-end frameworks out there.

Its more than 30 extendable, modular components can be combined for even more versatility. It includes navigation components like side navigation bars; elements like HTML forms and tables; JavaScript components like off-canvas bars and modal dialogs; common elements like buttons, badges, and overlays; and layout components, including a fluid, completely responsive grid system.

Pros:

  • Highly customizable
  • Exceptionally modular, so you can add components to the stylesheet without negatively impacting overall style
  • Create advanced user interfaces using components like nestables

Cons:

  • Very few resources out there due to relative newness

Ideal for: Fairly experienced developers due to the current lack of available resources. Otherwise, it is great for simple and complex projects alike.

9. Milligram

Milligram is another extremely lightweight framework similar to Skeleton. When Gzipped, it comes out to just 2kB in size and is used to provide developers with a simplistic and convenient starting point.

Milligram’s grid system is different than most because of its use of the CSS Flexible Box Layout Module standard. It also includes a few key components for getting you started including typography, buttons, forms, lists, tables, blockquotes, etc.

Pros:

  • Very lightweight, only 2kB when Gzipped
  • Uses CSS Flexbox as the grid system

Cons:

  • Few resources available due to relative newness
  • Minimal styling components available compared to other larger frameworks

Ideal for: Developers who are creating a small project that doesn’t require many styling components and want to use a CSS Flexbox grid system.

10. Susy

Some would argue that Susy isn’t a front-end framework in the truest sense of the term because it is focused on solving complex layout needs. In fact, many classify Susy as a grid maker more than anything, but it can be an indispensable tool for those who have specialized layout needs.

Susy arms you with mixins that can be used to create grids. The framework does all of the calculations for you, saving a lot of time and effort.

With Susy, you can create any kind of grid layout imaginable. If you have been looking for a way to do this, Susy may be the answer.

Pros:

  • Superior flexibility, so you can create any kind of grid layout that you need
  • Automatically performs all calculations

Cons:

  • Does not cover all aspects of website design, so you still need another framework solution
  • No pre-built grids

Ideal for: Anyone who has unique or specialized layout requirements.

Front-End Frameworks Statistics

The decision for which framework to use should not be based on their popularity but rather on which one suits your development needs best. Having said that, it may still be of some interest to know how each framework in this list stacks up against one another in terms of stars / trends. The following list shows the amount of Github stars each project had at the time of writing this article (listed from most-starred to least-starred).

Additionally, through comparing the top 5 most starred front-end frameworks on Google Trends, we can see that Bootstrap is still quite ahead in terms of mentions.

front-end frameworks trend comparison

Conclusion

As you can see, different front end development frameworks bring different benefits to the table. What works for one developer or project may not work for another, so it is imperative to research a wide selection of solutions before committing yourself to one.

Therefore, before selecting a front-end framework, consider your skill level as well as the basic requirements of the project that you are tackling. Chances are that one or more of the solutions on this list will fit the bill nicely.

Top 10 Front-End Frameworks of 2016 was last modified: June 6th, 2017 by Cody Arsenault
  • Benoit Adam

    Good presentation of useful frameworks. I’ll certainly dig into some of these.
    I also wish to present inuitcss, a css framework from Harry Roberts. Inuitcss is a little bit like Pure, without any design consideration, just trying to give guidance, OOCSS, sass-based and very extensible.
    You obviously need a bit of experience to build upon it but the idea of it is very interesting. No JS, not forcing any HTML, just the basics of a solid CSS base.
    I’ve been using it for about 2 years and apart from the fact that it didn’t move for a long time, it’s been reactivated and is still very promising. Something I love about it, it uses BEM.

    Pay a visit to it!
    https://github.com/inuitcss/inuitcss

  • Sebastian

    The most honest comparison I’ve read, congratulations, I currently use UIKit and it’s great, and version 3 promises even more.

  • Piotr Bender

    Nice set and good descriptions!

    Just for those who are torn between Bootstrap and Materialize – there’s a kit called Material Design for Bootstrap combining best of these two.

    Here’s a link:
    https://mdbootstrap.com/material-design-for-bootstrap/

  • Angelos Chalaris

    mini.css is another front-end framework that came out in 2016, trying to pack a lot of features within less than 7KB and using only CSS. It’s based on flexbox and it’s written in Sass: https://chalarangelo.github.io/mini.css/

  • Hybeki Hyuga

    Foundation, Bootstrap e Materialize.

  • Nice article, however I still haven’t chosen any framework. I don’t like any of them :(

  • masao_utsumi

    I like UIKit especially when building UI components. If you just want ready-to-drop-in components for quickly spinning-up sites, go with Bootstrap and Foundation.

  • stcatz

    This is very helpful, thanks

  • Thanks for this. Helpful and clearer than other articles online on the same topic.

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