Is There an Alternative to CSS in Web Development?

Wondering whether there’s an alternative to the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) standard? Here’s everything you need to know.

Published Categorized as CSS

Tell me if this sounds about right: you’re learning about web development and, for one reason or another, you’re wondering if there’s an alternative to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) or not.

When it comes to styling HTML documents, there’s no real alternative to CSS stylesheets. CSS is the only widely accepted stylesheet language, and the only one that’s supported by all web browsers.

However, there are alternatives to having to write CSS code to design HTML documents—and those alternatives range from designer-friendly visual website builders to programmer-friendly CSS pre-processors and CSS frameworks.

Visual Website Builders

As the name suggests, a visual website builder is a tool that lets you design websites on a canvas instead of in a code editor. The tool then generates a website with valid HTML markup and CSS stylesheets.

Many years ago, these tools required you to install buggy software on your computer, and the websites you could create with them neither looked good nor had well-written (or should I say well-generated) code.

Nowadays, this is no longer the case.

Thanks to web-based design tools like Webflow, Framer, and Bubble, you can create responsive websites and even web applications in your browser in a visual way, without having to edit a single line of HTML markup or CSS style sheets.

Of course, visual website builders have their pros and cons—and each of them takes a while to learn—but they’re the best alternative to writing CSS if you want to build websites without writing code.

CSS Language Extensions

Now that we’ve covered the designer-friendly options, let’s spend a minute or two talking about the programmer-friendly options. One of those options is a CSS language extension.

When it comes to styling HTML documents, CSS language extensions let you achieve more with less by adding new syntax and capabilities to the regular CSS specification. If you ever wished you could do more with CSS, you probably want to look into a language extension.

By far the two most popular CSS language extensions are Sass and Less. Sass is written in Ruby and is generally the more powerful of the two. Less, on the other hand, is written in JavaScript and has better documentation, especially for beginners.

Learn more: The Difference Between CSS and SCSS, Explained

CSS Frameworks

A CSS framework is a collection of ready-made CSS rules and UI elements that you can use to build better websites faster.

Think of CSS frameworks as templates that you can build on and adapt to your project’s needs. The two most popular are Bootstrap, which positions itself as an “HTML, CSS, and JS library” these days, and Foundation.

Many of the world’s most popular websites are based on Bootstrap or Foundation—and for good reason. Instead of coding all of your CSS rules from scratch, you’re building on top of a standardized and documented code base.

These CSS frameworks can shave hours, days, weeks, and even months off large projects, especially if you’re working in a team. They provide a solid template to build upon, are open source, and are maintained by a vibrant community of contributors.

Don’t miss: How Much CSS Is *Too Much* CSS?

In Conclusion

No, there is no alternative to Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). If you want to give your HTML documents a different look, you have to do it with CSS code.

But here’s the thing that not everyone tells you: You don’t necessarily have to write this CSS code yourself.

You can use a visual website builder that generates it for you. And even if you prefer to use a code editor, you don’t have to write all the CSS code from scratch. With a CSS pre-processor and/or a CSS framework, you can take your productivity (and your CSS style sheets) to a new level.

By Dim Nikov

Editor of Maker's Aid. Part programmer, part marketer. Making things on the web and helping others do the same since the 2000s. Yes, I had Friendster and Myspace.

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