File Under: CSS, HTML, UI/UX, Visual Design

Simplify Responsive Design With ZURB’s ‘Foundation’ Web Toolkit

Foundation 4. Image: Screenshot/Webmonkey.

ZURB has released a major new version of its popular Foundation framework, a web development toolkit for quickly building responsive websites. The new Foundation v4 is a ground-up re-write that sees ZURB taking a mobile-first approach.

Like its erstwhile competitor Bootstrap, Foundation offers a set of HTML and CSS building blocks you can use to quickly develop basic site structure and design — layouts, typography, forms and other common design elements are all available.

There are three ways you can try out Foundation 4. You can download the straight compressed CSS and use that as a starting point for your own customizations. Alternately you can customize your build of Foundation, including only the elements you need; or you can install the SASS version of Foundation and customize it within your SASS code.

If you’re upgrading from Foundation 3 be sure to read through ZURB’s migration guide as the syntax for the grid and other elements has changed.

The real power of Foundation 4 doesn’t really come into play unless you go with the SASS option. Thanks to SASS’s “mixins” concept you can now use the grid tools in Foundation 4 without littering your HTML with the various (purely presentational) grid class names. Using Foundation 4 within your SASS project also makes it dead simple to use only the components you need, for example, you can include the grid mixins, but skip the typography if it’s not to your liking.

Be aware that the new mobile-first approach in Foundation 4 means browsers which don’t support media queries will only get very basic styling for the grid and other UI elements. Yes, that pretty much only affects IE 8. But, if your project needs more robust support for IE 8, there is a modified version of Foundation 4 with support for IE 8 (alternately, you could stick with Foundation 3).

It’s also worth noting that, because Foundation 4 is such a departure from the previous version, ZURB plans to continue supporting Foundation 3 for some time.

If you’ve got questions about Foundation 4, head on over to the official site and check out the documentation. You can also explore the code on GitHub — Foundation is one of the top 20 most-starred projects on the site.