Foundation vs Tachyons

When it comes to building modern, responsive websites, developers have a plethora of CSS frameworks to choose from. Among the many options, Foundation and Tachyons stand out for their unique approaches to styling and layout. This article will delve into the details of both frameworks, comparing their philosophies, features, and use cases to help you decide which might be the best fit for your project.

Foundation: The Professional’s Choice

Foundation is a responsive front-end framework developed by ZURB, a product design company. It’s designed to be a comprehensive toolkit that allows developers and designers to create complex, responsive layouts with ease.

Key Features of Foundation

  • Responsive Grid: Foundation offers a flexible, mobile-first grid system that can be easily customized for any screen size.
  • UI Components: It comes with a range of pre-styled components such as navigation bars, buttons, forms, and modals.
  • JavaScript Plugins: Foundation includes a set of JavaScript plugins that add dynamic functionality to components.
  • Customizability: With the help of a settings file and the SASS preprocessor, developers can fine-tune the styles to match their design requirements.

Documentation and Installation

The documentation for Foundation is extensive and includes everything from installation guides to component usage instructions.

To install Foundation, you can use package managers like npm or yarn:

npm install foundation-sites

Or, you can include it in your HTML via a CDN:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="">

Popular Add-Ons and Libraries

  • Motion UI: A library for creating custom CSS transitions and animations.
  • Foundation Building Blocks: A set of pre-made components that can be dropped into any Foundation project.

Code Sample

Here’s a simple example of a responsive grid layout in Foundation:

<div class="grid-container">
  <div class="grid-x grid-margin-x">
    <div class="cell small-6 medium-4 large-2">
      <!-- Your content here -->
    <div class="cell small-6 medium-4 large-2">
      <!-- Your content here -->
    <!-- More cells... -->

Tachyons: Functional CSS for Humans

Tachyons takes a different approach to styling websites. It’s a functional CSS framework that focuses on creating designs quickly by applying small, single-purpose classes to HTML elements.

Key Features of Tachyons

  • Atomic Classes: Tachyons consists of small, composable classes that do one thing and do it well.
  • Responsiveness: The framework includes responsive modifiers that make it easy to adjust styles based on the screen size.
  • Minimalist Approach: Tachyons encourages a “less is more” philosophy, resulting in smaller file sizes and potentially faster load times.
  • No JavaScript: Tachyons is purely CSS, which means there are no JavaScript dependencies.

Documentation and Installation

Tachyons prides itself on its simplicity, and this extends to its documentation. The documentation is clear and concise, with examples for each utility class.

To install Tachyons, you can download it from the website or use a package manager:

npm install tachyons

Alternatively, you can link to it via CDN:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="">

Popular Add-Ons and Libraries

While Tachyons itself is quite minimal, the community has created tools to enhance its functionality:

  • Tachyons-Generator: A tool for customizing and generating your own Tachyons build.
  • Tachyons-CLI: A command-line interface for working with Tachyons in your projects.

Code Sample

Here’s an example of a responsive card component using Tachyons:

<article class="mw5 center bg-white br3 pa3 pa4-ns mv3 ba b--black-10">
  <div class="tc">
    <img src="avatar.jpg" class="br-100 h3 w3 dib" title="Photo of a kitty staring at you">
    <h1 class="f4">Kitty Cat</h1>
    <hr class="mw3 bb bw1 b--black-10">
  <p class="lh-copy measure center f6 black-70">
    Meow meow, hiss hiss, purr purr.

The code samples provided illustrate the distinct philosophies of Foundation and Tachyons. Foundation offers a more traditional approach with a focus on comprehensive UI components, while Tachyons emphasizes utility-first, atomic classes for rapid development. Each framework has its strengths, and the choice between them will depend on the specific needs and preferences of your project.

Foundation vs Tachyons: Usage and Best Practices

While both Foundation and Tachyons provide robust solutions for styling web applications, their usage and best practices differ significantly due to their contrasting philosophies. Let’s explore how each framework is best utilized and what practices can help you get the most out of them.

When to Use Foundation

Foundation is best suited for projects where a complete, out-of-the-box solution is desired. It’s particularly beneficial when:

  • Building complex user interfaces: Foundation’s pre-styled components can save time.
  • Working in a team environment: The standardization of components can enhance collaboration.
  • Seeking browser compatibility: Foundation is designed to work well across all modern browsers.
  • Need for accessibility: Foundation has built-in features to ensure your site is accessible.

Best Practices with Foundation

  • Customize with SASS: Use the SASS files to customize the look and feel to match your brand.
  • Utilize the grid system: Take advantage of the mobile-first grid system for responsive design.
  • Leverage JavaScript plugins: Enhance UI components with Foundation’s JavaScript plugins for additional interactivity.
  • Follow semantic markup: Use appropriate HTML5 elements along with Foundation classes for better SEO and accessibility.

When to Use Tachyons

Tachyons shines in projects that require a high degree of customization with minimal styling overhead. It’s ideal when:

  • Rapid prototyping is needed: The atomic classes make it easy to iterate designs quickly.
  • Performance is a priority: The small file size of Tachyons can contribute to faster page load times.
  • You prefer a functional CSS approach: This methodology can lead to more maintainable and scalable CSS over time.
  • You want to avoid JavaScript dependencies: Tachyons is purely CSS, making it simpler to manage.

Best Practices with Tachyons

  • Compose classes in the HTML: Build components by combining atomic classes directly in your markup.
  • Keep CSS out of JavaScript: Since Tachyons is all about utility classes, avoid mixing styles in your JS logic.
  • Reuse classes to maintain consistency: Reusing utility classes helps ensure a consistent design language.
  • Use responsive modifiers: Apply Tachyons’ responsive prefixes to adjust styles at different breakpoints.

Community and Support

The community and support around a framework can be just as important as the framework itself. Both Foundation and Tachyons have active communities and resources that can help you get started and troubleshoot issues.

Foundation Community and Support

  • Forums: Foundation has a dedicated forum where users can ask questions and share knowledge.
  • Training: ZURB offers training and certification for those looking to become Foundation experts.
  • GitHub: The Foundation GitHub repository is active, and the maintainers are responsive to issues and pull requests.

Tachyons Community and Support

  • GitHub: The Tachyons GitHub repository is a place to contribute and raise issues.
  • Gitter: There’s a Tachyons Gitter chat for real-time discussions and support.
  • Twitter: Following the #tachyons hashtag can keep you updated on the latest news and tips from the community.


Foundation and Tachyons offer two distinctly different approaches to CSS styling in web development. Foundation provides a full suite of UI components and a traditional CSS framework experience, while Tachyons advocates for a functional, atomic approach with a focus on performance and rapid development.

Ultimately, the choice between Foundation and Tachyons will depend on the specific needs of your project, your workflow preferences, and the size and scope of your development team. By understanding the strengths and best practices of each framework, you can make an informed decision that will shape the user experience and effectiveness of your web projects.

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