CSS Grid Systems

 07 Dec 2011

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I spend a lot of time the past few days looking into CSS grid systems. My main reason for this was being sick of laying out things myself. There’s so much you have to do and be careful of when laying out css and due to this I often ended up absolutely positioning way too many things. I also was not very careful about clearfixing which leads to problems in many designs. I want layout to be a bit easier which means learning one of these systems.

The main problem with some of the old frameworks (960.gs, Blueprint, etc) is that they force you to put stupid classes on divs. Now your layout is coded into the HTML. This isn’t good and was the reason I was never interested in using these before.

However, a lot of smart stuff goes into these frameworks. They do use the current best methods of floating/clearfixing etc. There’s a lot to learn about good css from looking at these frameworks.

Enter Compass and Sass. Sass lets you write smart css files (with varibles, mixins (functions basically), etc). Now we can just include the blueprint classes into other css rules easily so no more need to put classes for layout into our html! Since rails uses sass by default now this seems like a great solution. Compass is a set of libraries (built in Sass) to do things that I’ve started to do anyway. They include sass mixins to easily do cross browser border radius and other things like that. I currently write my own mixins but I’m going to learn compasses for now. Rails handles compass easily while compass has a gem that can compile stylesheets for you if you are working in another framework or language.

I’ve decided to use Susy as my grid system. It is also built on top of Compass and basically just includes the mixins and functions needed to implement a grid system. It’s one step below blueprint in that it allows you to do any grid system you want. (I realize that blueprint has been ported to Compass in the same way, but honestly I like Susy’s philosphy about things on their homepage so that’s why I’m going to try it first).

Very excited to try this out on my current freelance project. Probably next week :)