J Simpson J. Simpson lives at the crossroads of logic and creativity. He writes and researches tech-related topics extensively for a wide variety of publications, including Forbes Finds.

Top 10 CSS libraries to empower your web design

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The CSS logo.

With CSS, there’s no reason to reinvent the wheel every time you undertake a new project or design.

A proliferation of tools and resources for coders and developers is one of CSS’ strongest suits and biggest appeals. It helps you to create stunning designs simply and easily, letting you focus on creativity and productivity instead of getting bogged down in technicalities before you can even get started.

There are a metric ton of amazing CSS libraries to help empower your code and make your life as easy and efficient as possible. We’re going to show you some of our favorites.

Let’s take a moment and clarify what we mean by CSS library, though, before we begin.

What Is A CSS Library?

You’ll often hear two terms for pre-made assets for CSS: libraries and frameworks. They’re both similar but there are some key differences.

To borrow an elegant metaphor from Free Code Camp, they liken a CSS library to a trip to Ikea when you’re looking to furnish a house. Sometimes, you don’t feel like building a table from scratch or designing your own forks.

Frameworks, on the other hand, are like a model home. Sticking with the house metaphor, a framework would be the blueprint and the contractor. You might be able to make slight aesthetic decisions here and there, but the end product is intensely shaped by the framework.

With CSS libraries, you’re more in control. You can choose when to call the library as well as how it’s used. CSS libraries are much more flexible than frameworks.

Now let’s delve into some of the best CSS libraries.

Animate.css

Animations are an easy way to add interest to your web designs. It’s also an easy way to generate interest and favorable impressions are your brand.

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Consumers are 70% more likely to like a product after watching an animated video. They’re also 92% more likely to share that video after they’ve watched it.

Animation can be tricky to pull off in web development, however. It gets even trickier still when it comes to implementing web animations across multiple platforms.

Animate.css is a library of ready-to-use CSS animations that can be implemented across multiple browsers. It’s easy to install and, once instated, it’s just as easy to add an animated element, simply using the animate__animated function.

Animate.css is also widely customizable. You’re not just left with a glorified GIF gallery.

Animate.css can specify the length, delay time, and interactions of an animation. All of this is achieved with native commands that are easy to understand and implement.

CSS Wand

Speaking of web animations, sometimes you just need some simple custom graphics without having to write any code. If you’re looking for a CSS library to add simple animation elements, like floating cursors and drop shadows, CSS Wand is worth a look.

Even better, CSS Wand’s commands simply need to be cut-and-paste into your code to implement. It’s about as close to a plug-and-play CSS library as you could hope for.

Destyle.CSS

You’ll sometimes hear the terms ‘opinionated’ vs ‘non-opinionated’ CSS libraries and frameworks. Destyle.css is an excellent opinionated CSS library that allows you to reset your HTML, giving you a clean slate for your web project.

Destyle.css allows you to reset custom margins and spacing. It lets you return line-height and font-size to their original state. It also prevents you from having to reset your web projects for different types of User Agents.

Destyle.css helps you to easily implement your web projects across multiple browsers. It also allows you to take advantage of style sheets for your main webpage, while still offering you a blank canvas for specific web projects and applications.

Water.css

Speaking of plug-and-play CSS libraries, Water.css is a wonderful tool if you want to simply add a couple of simple CSS functions to a website. It’s called ‘Water’, as in ‘just add water’, making it the programming equivalent of Bisquick.

Water.css makes a number of web development elements easy to implement. Among these are responsive web design and embedded forms, for instance.

Water.css is also exceedingly lightweight, being only 2kb. It also doesn’t feature classes, so it’s very easy to implement universally.

Raisin.css

We go from not having any classes to having lots of classes. Raisin.css describes itself as a ‘CSS utility library’. It features pre-built modules for popular CSS Frameworks like FlexBox and CSS Grid. It’s also fully customizable, lightweight, and easily deployable.

Raisin.css gives you a full suite of building blocks and tools to customize your CSS. There are extensive functions for a wide array of commands, including:

  • Display
  • Float
  • Overflow
  • Cursor
  • Position
  • Opacity
  • Visibility

Customizable margins and cursor libraries might not sound like the most exciting thing in the world at first glance.

Until you’ve had to manually set the margins for different sections of the same website, then you’ll likely be overjoyed having a tool like Raisin.css in your toolkit.

Font Awesome

There’s no second chance to make a first impression. Your website is going to be someone’s first impression of your brand, most likely. What impression are you leaving them with?

A distinctive, customized web design broadcasts what a brand is all about.

Having a generic, boilerplate website conveys a lack of imagination, a feeling of being generic and interchangeable. Considering that 94% of consumer impressions are based on web design, web designers should really be investigating every opportunity to make their websites and digital assets sparkle, pop, and shine.

Font Awesome is a CSS library of vector icons and logos you can customize for your web designs. Each of these icons comes in multiple variants, as well, with each asset coming in light, regular, or solid styles. It also features over 1,000 free web fonts to include in your web design.

Font Awesome is extremely light as well as being easy to install and use. It also has native support for nearly any development you could think of, from Javascript to Vue.js to React. You won’t have to mess around writing code to get your projects on the same page. Working with Font Awesome is almost as simple as cutting and pasting lines into your code.

Ionic

Websites aren’t the only things that can be built with CSS. Sometimes you need a CSS library for app developers, specifically focusing on UI development.

Ionic features a full array of CSS utilities and components, featuring everything from Headers to Buttons to Customized Text. That’s one reason Ionic is currently fueling almost 10% of the apps on the market.

Ionic features native integration with most popular development environments, including Angular, React, and Vue.

It also allows for cross-platform development, so you won’t have to constantly switch between systems if you’re developing an app for multiple environments. 

Ionic makes rapid prototyping easy, quick, and painless, letting you re-use frontend modules. It’s also responsive by nature, making that one less design feature you need to implement yourself when it comes time to start development.

If you’re looking to develop an app for multiple platforms, you should absolutely audition Ionic to be part of your stack.

Semantic UI

Semantic UI is a CSS library that streamlines your development process in a variety of ways.

First of all, with a series of shared UI components for frontend development. Semantic UI is intended to give developers and designers a common vocabulary to make sure that everybody’s on the same page.

Secondly, it’s built around natural language, making it easier to engage with for developers with less experience. Its classes are clear and easy to understand. All of its components are ready to go, out of the box, as well. There’s no need for additional JavaScript implementation.

Semantic UI also integrates easily with popular development environments like React and Angular. Considering that Semantic UI is still completely Open Source, it’s no wonder that Semantic UI is one of the most popular CSS libraries out there. It’s even used for major apps like Snapchat.

Pure.css

Mobile developers need to stay very aware of the resources they consume. Mobile apps need to be as lightweight, compact, and efficient. It’s good to have a lightweight, no-frills CSS library in your toolkit if you’re developing for mobile.

Pure.css is an almost ridiculously lightweight CSS library. The entire library clocks in at only 4.0kb, when it’s zipped.

Pure.css offers a complete suite of CSS tools, however, despite its small size. It’s got CSS tools for everything from tables to buttons to grids and forms.

Pure.css can be made even lighter by only installing the components you need. If you need a simple, lightweight, barebones CSS library that is still powerful and capable, get Pure.css.

Voxel.css

Voxel.css is a CSS library for 3D rendering. Using CSS for 3D has a number of unexpected advantages. Using the Voxel library means that there’s no ray tracing for mouse events, for instance.

It also means that your all0image types can take advantage of mesh. CSS also ensures that your 3D graphics can take advantage of GPU acceleration and transitions.

Voxel is flexible enough to be used for everything from 3D web animations to full-on video games. With four different classes — Scene, World, Editor, and Voxel — the CSS library also offers almost as much customizability as a full 3D animation suite.

Conclusion

Working with CSS libraries will make your life exponentially easier when creating your web designs.

There’s no need to re-code the wheel over and over and over again. CSS libraries also help create a continuity across all of your development projects, giving a cohesive visual aesthetic to your digital projects.

While some of the CSS libraries we’ve compiled might not seem that exciting at first glance, they’ll make your life easier, more efficient, and more productive, letting you focus on what really matters — creating great web design and stunning apps.

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J Simpson J. Simpson lives at the crossroads of logic and creativity. He writes and researches tech-related topics extensively for a wide variety of publications, including Forbes Finds.

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