Foundation vs UIKit

When it comes to developing responsive, mobile-first web projects, CSS frameworks are indispensable. They provide a scaffolding upon which designers and developers can build beautiful, functional user interfaces with relative ease. Two popular frameworks that often come up in discussions are Foundation and UIKit. Each has its own strengths and philosophies, and in this article, we’ll dive deep into what sets them apart, their core features, and how you can decide which one is best suited for your project.

What is Foundation?

Foundation is an advanced, responsive front-end framework developed by ZURB. It is an open-source project designed to help developers quickly prototype and build responsive sites. Foundation is known for its clean, semantic code and has been a popular choice for developers who prioritize accessibility and compatibility across devices.

Popular Third-Party Addons for Foundation

  • 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.

What is UIKit?

UIKit is a lightweight and modular front-end framework for developing fast and powerful web interfaces. Developed by YOOtheme, UIKit places a strong emphasis on modularity, allowing developers to pick and choose the components they need, resulting in a more streamlined and efficient codebase.

Popular Third-Party Addons for UIKit

  • UIkit Icons: An extensive icon library designed to complement UIKit.
  • UIKit Themes: Various themes and customization options for UIKit-based projects.

Core Features and Differences

Grid Systems

Both Foundation and UIKit offer robust grid systems, but they approach grid implementation differently.

Foundation’s XY Grid

<div class="grid-x grid-padding-x">
  <div class="cell small-6 medium-4 large-2">One</div>
  <div class="cell small-6 medium-8 large-10">Two</div>

Foundation’s XY Grid is a flexbox-based grid system that provides a lot of flexibility and control over layout. It uses a combination of rows and columns to structure content, and it’s fully responsive.

UIKit’s Grid

<div class="uk-grid-match uk-child-width-expand@s" uk-grid>
    <div class="uk-card uk-card-default uk-card-body">Item</div>
    <div class="uk-card uk-card-default uk-card-body">Item</div>

UIKit’s grid system is also responsive and relies on the flexbox layout. It’s simpler and more straightforward than Foundation’s, with an emphasis on ease of use and minimalism.


Both frameworks offer a wide range of UI components, but they each have unique offerings.

Foundation Components

Foundation comes packed with a variety of components such as:

  • Navigation (Top Bar, Menu, etc.)
  • Buttons
  • Forms
  • Callouts
  • Cards
  • Modals

These components are highly customizable and can be easily styled to fit the design of your project.

UIKit Components

UIKit’s component library includes:

  • Navigation (Navbar, Subnav, etc.)
  • Buttons
  • Forms
  • Cards
  • Modals
  • Notifications

UIKit components are known for their elegance and simplicity, providing a clean and modern look out of the box.


Customizing your framework is essential to ensure that the end product aligns with your brand and design requirements.

Foundation Customization

Foundation allows deep customization through Sass variables. You can adjust the colors, fonts, and component styles to match your design guidelines.

UIKit Customization

UIKit also supports Sass and Less, providing variables for easy customization. The framework’s modular nature means you can include only the components and styles you need, potentially reducing the size of your CSS files.


Accessibility is a crucial aspect of web development, and both frameworks have features to ensure that websites are usable by as many people as possible.

Foundation Accessibility

Foundation emphasizes accessibility and includes ARIA attributes and roles where appropriate. Its components are designed to be accessible out of the box.

UIKit Accessibility

UIKit also pays attention to accessibility, with components that follow WAI-ARIA guidelines. However, developers may need to do a bit more work to ensure full compliance.


The performance of a CSS framework can greatly affect the speed and responsiveness of a website.

Foundation Performance

Foundation is a larger framework compared to UIKit, which can lead to a bigger footprint if not properly customized and pruned.

UIKit Performance

UIKit, being modular and lightweight, often results in better performance, especially if you’re only using a subset of its components.

Community and Support

Having a strong community and support system is important for long-term maintenance and troubleshooting.

Foundation Community

Foundation has a large community and is backed by ZURB. It offers professional support, training, and consulting for enterprise needs.

UIKit Community

UIKit has a growing community and is supported by YOOtheme. While it may not have the same level of enterprise support as Foundation, it still has a solid base of users and contributors.


Both Foundation and UIKit offer powerful tools for web developers looking to create responsive and modern websites. Foundation is feature-rich and highly customizable, making it suitable for complex projects that require a high degree of flexibility. UIKit, on the other hand, is sleek, lightweight, and great for projects where performance and elegance are priorities.

Choosing between Foundation and UIKit will largely depend on the specific needs of your project and your personal preference as a developer. It’s worth experimenting with both to see which one aligns best with your workflow and the goals of your project.

In the next section, we’ll delve deeper into advanced usage, community resources, and real-world case studies that highlight the capabilities of each framework. Stay tuned for the second half of this comprehensive article.

Advanced Usage and Best Practices

When you’ve gotten comfortable with the basics of Foundation and UIKit, it’s time to explore the more advanced features that can take your project to the next level. Both frameworks offer a suite of advanced tools and techniques that can help you fine-tune your designs, optimize performance, and enhance user experience.

Advanced Features in Foundation

Foundation is not just about the grid and basic components; it also provides advanced functionality such as:

  • Interchange: This feature allows you to load appropriate images, HTML, or entire sections of the page based on the device or screen size.
  • Off-canvas: A versatile component for creating off-screen slide-in panels, perfect for mobile menus.
  • Orbit: A powerful, accessible slider for creating image or content sliders.

To truly harness the power of Foundation, it’s recommended to use its Sass mixins to create semantic, maintainable code. Here’s an example of using a mixin for creating a button:

.my-custom-button {
  @include button-style($color: #ff0000, $radius: 5px);

Advanced Features in UIKit

UIKit’s modular approach doesn’t mean it lacks in advanced options. Some of its notable advanced features include:

  • Dynamic Grid: Create powerful, complex grid layouts without the need for predefined classes.
  • Sticky: Easily make elements stick to the viewport as you scroll past them.
  • Sortable: Add drag-and-drop sorting capabilities to your lists and grids.

Leveraging UIKit’s JavaScript components can also add interactivity to your site. Here’s an example of how to create a modal with UIKit:

<!-- This is a button toggling the modal -->
<button class="uk-button uk-button-default" type="button" uk-toggle="target: #my-modal">Open Modal</button>

<!-- This is the modal -->
<div id="my-modal" uk-modal>
    <div class="uk-modal-dialog uk-modal-body">
        <h2 class="uk-modal-title">Headline</h2>
        <p>Here is some content for the modal.</p>
        <button class="uk-modal-close" type="button" uk-close></button>

Community Resources

Both frameworks benefit from vibrant communities that contribute a wealth of resources, such as plugins, extensions, and tutorials.

Foundation Community Resources

  • Foundation Forum: An active community forum where users can ask questions and share tips.
  • Building Blocks: A collection of UI components shared by the community that can be easily integrated into any Foundation project.

UIKit Community Resources

  • UIKit Discord: A community chat where developers can discuss UIKit, share ideas, and get help.
  • Custom Components: Since UIKit is modular, many developers create and share their custom components that can be easily plugged into any UIKit project.

Real-World Case Studies

Examining real-world applications of Foundation and UIKit can provide insights into how each framework performs under different circumstances.

Foundation Case Studies

Many large companies and organizations have used Foundation to build their sites. For example, Disney, Hewlett Packard, and National Geographic have all leveraged Foundation to create responsive and accessible user experiences.

UIKit Case Studies

UIKit has been used to create sleek and modern websites for brands, startups, and personal portfolios. Its lightweight nature makes it particularly popular among designers who prioritize aesthetics and performance.


Foundation and UIKit are both excellent choices for front-end development, each with its own set of strengths. Foundation is ideal for developers looking for a comprehensive, flexible framework that can handle a wide variety of use cases. UIKit is perfect for those who prefer a lightweight, modular framework with a focus on simplicity and elegance.

Ultimately, the decision between Foundation and UIKit will depend on the specific needs of your project, your team’s expertise, and your personal development preferences. Both frameworks have extensive documentation, active communities, and a plethora of resources to help you succeed in your web development endeavors.

By understanding the features, best practices, and real-world applications of Foundation and UIKit, you can make an informed decision on which framework will best serve your project’s goals. Whether you choose the feature-rich Foundation or the minimalist UIKit, you’ll be well-equipped to build responsive, modern, and user-friendly websites.

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