In one of our recent projects I decided to go with a CSS framework to cut down on development time and simplify work on complex visual grids. Our team already used Blueprint framework on another project and was happy with it, so my choice was obvious.
You may wonder what a CSS framework is. The concept is pretty simple — it is set of frequently used tools and elements that setup conventions across projects, reduce development time and reuse generic styles. The first time this idea was described was by Jeff Croft in his excellent article “Frameworks for Designers” in A List Apart magazine.
The project is almost completed and Blueprint was a good companion. After several weeks of work with this framework I'm ready to share some impressions.
Cut down development time. You can start working on a project with the browser's defaults, pre-defined layout blocks, typography elements and generic styles. Also, you have a stylesheet for printing and set of IE hacks. This is a huge time saver!
Easy-to-use grid layout. Blueprint contains a strong set of rules to work with grids, so you can build a layout from simple bricks. I created a draft of a relatively complex layout in 15 minutes — amazing result.
Consistent naming across projects. Designers usually have their own preferable class names for generic styles, which may lead to problems in collaboration. Have you ever reviewed code just to figure out how the designer named some common style? And what about duplicate styles with different names? CSS frameworks help in setting up consistent naming across projects.
Mixing content with presentation in HTML markup. This is one of my main concerns. To create a grid-based layout you have to use predefined non-semantic class names. This makes your code a bit imperfect, but this is the price of speeding up development.
Never used functionality. For my needs Blueprint is too bloated. All these styles may be useful to quickly create a simple page or prototype from scratch, but in a real project I used only 20-30% of the functionality.
Rewriting default rules. A good practice in working with frameworks is to not modify their code, so you can always upgrade to latest version with bug-fixes and new features. This leads to rewriting most of the Blueprint rules inside your main CSS file. Together with never used functionality this creates additional bloat and longer page loading time.
Blueprint is truly an awesome CSS framework, but I will not use it in our next project. (However, I may use it for prototypes or documentation). For companies like Wildbit with high standards and experience in front-end development, it’s better to come up with internal coding guidelines and even our own framework.