A protracted discussion about CSS frameworks like Blueprint has broken out over at Jeff Croft’s blog. I respect everyone contributing to it, but the energy spent on that topic seems ridiculous with a capital R.
One of the only comments which spoke to me was by Jon Hicks:
I mentioned CSS frameworks on The Rissington Podcast, and my words were â€˜make your own frameworksâ€™. I think its a great idea to use and pick apart existing frameworks, but better when you make up you own.
Yes. Study the others, but create your own. That is airtight logic that should apply to nearly everything in the creative process. Hicks simply came out and said it.
But in all seriousness, what professional developer in 2007 doesn’t already have his own “framework”? Whose idea of an efficient workflow involves starting CSS completely from scratch for every new project?
Back in May, I’d seen Eric Meyer’s writing on “baseline stylesheets” and decided to publish and document my own (which later got a sweet mention in Smashing Magazine). As you can see, it includes specifications that I use in every single website. The global resets, the browser fixes, the basic header declarations. It’s all I’ve ever needed and it works in every browser. Little did I know it constituted a “framework” until Blueprint caused a sensation.
I’ve looked through Blueprint, and about 20% of it is useful to me. That 20% I’ve since adapted to my own baseline stylesheet, ahem, framework. It’s what Hicks was saying: make it your own. If Blueprint, et al, have gotten flack it’s because CSS specialists don’t want to spoon-feed mediocre developers who don’t actually know CSS very well. Point taken. But developers will always use shortcuts and tools in this fashion — not everyone using Rails is a master of Ruby.
Back in March, Khoi Vinh published a bit about using typographic grids to design websites. Khoi Vinh does a fantastic analysis. But to me, this was like hearing an architect like Norman Foster give a big speech about how buildings should have bathrooms and fire-exits while the international architecture community loudly applauds. For awhile, every blogger was discussing “grids” as though it was a new layout concept, as they’re discussing CSS frameworks now. Without even realizing I was doing it, I began describing Mimbo as “a grid-based layout” just because that terminology had suddenly become inescapable.
My point isn’t that the discussions should stop. I’m just surprised by the sensation they create and the disagreements they spark. The best you can do is use what tools benefit you personally. It doesn’t matter what they’re called or how they’re characterized.