Materialize vs Primer

When it comes to web development, the choice of a CSS framework can significantly affect the efficiency of building a user interface and the final look and feel of a website. Two popular CSS frameworks that often come up in discussions are Materialize and Primer. This article aims to provide an in-depth comparison between these two frameworks, covering everything from their design philosophies to their implementation specifics.

What is Materialize?

Materialize is a modern responsive front-end framework based on Material Design by Google. It’s known for its clean design and ease of use, providing a set of CSS and JavaScript components that help developers create interactive and visually appealing web applications quickly.

Key Features of Materialize

  • Material Design: Materialize is heavily inspired by Google’s Material Design, ensuring that the UI components have a modern look and feel.
  • Responsiveness: The framework is fully responsive, making it easy to create web applications that look good on all devices.
  • Pre-designed Components: Materialize comes with a variety of pre-designed components such as buttons, cards, navbars, and more, which can be easily customized.
  • JavaScript Options: It includes a number of JavaScript options for adding interactive features like modals, dropdowns, and tabs without the need for additional libraries.

Documentation and Installation

You can find the official documentation for Materialize here. To install Materialize, you can download the minified CSS and JavaScript files from the website or include them directly from a CDN.

<!-- Compiled and minified CSS -->
<link rel="stylesheet" href="">

<!-- Compiled and minified JavaScript -->
<script src=""></script>

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries for Materialize

While Materialize is a comprehensive framework on its own, there are a few third-party addons that can enhance its capabilities:

  • MaterializeCSS Components: A set of additional components built specifically for Materialize.
  • Material Icons: Google’s Material Icons library integrates seamlessly with Materialize for adding scalable vector icons.

What is Primer?

Primer is the CSS framework created by GitHub. It is designed to be a highly scalable and accessible tool that helps in building consistent web interfaces. Primer reflects the styles used on GitHub, making it a great choice for developers looking for a mature and well-tested design system.

Key Features of Primer

  • GitHub’s Design System: Primer is the heart of GitHub’s design, which means it’s battle-tested on one of the largest platforms for developers.
  • Accessibility: Primer is built with accessibility in mind, ensuring that websites are usable by as many people as possible.
  • Scalability: The framework is designed to be scalable, making it suitable for large projects and design systems.
  • Utility Classes: Primer includes a wide range of utility classes that give developers the flexibility to tweak layouts and components.

Documentation and Installation

Primer’s documentation is available here. To get started with Primer, you can install it via npm or include it in your project from a CDN.

npm install --save @primer/css

Or, include it via CDN:

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

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries for Primer

Primer is a robust framework, but the following addons can be used to extend its functionality:

  • Octicons: GitHub’s icon set, Octicons, is designed to complement Primer’s components.
  • Primer Components: A collection of React components that implement Primer’s design language.

Code Samples

To give you a better understanding of how each framework is used in practice, let’s look at some code samples.

Materialize Sample

Here’s a simple navbar created with Materialize:

  <div class="nav-wrapper">
    <a href="#!" class="brand-logo">Logo</a>
    <ul class="right hide-on-med-and-down">
      <li><a href="sass.html">Sass</a></li>
      <li><a href="badges.html">Components</a></li>
      <li><a href="collapsible.html">JavaScript</a></li>

Primer Sample

And here’s how you might create a similar navbar using Primer:

<header class="Header">
  <div class="Header-item">
    <a href="#!" class="Header-link">Logo</a>
  <div class="Header-item Header-item--full">
    <nav class="UnderlineNav">
      <div class="UnderlineNav-body">
        <a href="sass.html" class="UnderlineNav-item">Sass</a>
        <a href="badges.html" class="UnderlineNav-item">Components</a>
        <a href="collapsible.html" class="UnderlineNav-item">JavaScript</a>

In the above examples, you can see that both frameworks provide a simple way to create a navigation bar, but the class names and structure differ. Materialize uses a more descriptive class naming convention, while Primer tends to be more succinct.

Please instruct me when to continue with the second half of the article, where we will delve deeper into customization options, community support, performance considerations, and more detailed comparisons between Materialize and Primer.

Customization Options

Both Materialize and Primer offer customization options, but they approach them differently due to their distinct design philosophies.

Materialize Customization

Materialize allows for deep customization through Sass variables. Developers can change the default color palette, adjust component padding, or modify other design elements before compiling the CSS.

Here’s an example of customizing Materialize with Sass:

// Customizing Materialize colors
$primary-color: color("blue", "lighten-2");

// Import Materialize
@import "materialize";

By setting the $primary-color variable, you can tailor the look of your site to match your brand or design requirements.

Primer Customization

Primer also uses Sass for customization. It provides a set of variables, mixins, and functions that you can use to build your own design system on top of Primer’s foundations.

A simple example of customizing Primer with Sass:

// Define your custom variables
$blue: #0366d6;
$spacing-1: 4px;

// Import Primer CSS
@import '@primer/css/index.scss';

With these variables, you can maintain consistency across your project while aligning it with your design specifications.

Community Support

The community around a CSS framework can be a crucial factor in its adoption and longevity. A strong community means better support, more plugins, and frequent updates.

Materialize Community

Materialize has a considerable following, with many developers contributing to its development and offering support through forums and social media. However, as of my knowledge cutoff in early 2023, Materialize has not seen as frequent updates as some other frameworks, which might be a consideration for long-term projects.

Primer Community

Being developed by GitHub, Primer benefits from the involvement of GitHub’s own team as well as the broader open-source community. It’s regularly updated and has a growing ecosystem of tools and extensions, such as Primer Components for React.

Performance Considerations

Performance is another important aspect when comparing CSS frameworks. Both frameworks are designed to be efficient, but there are some differences.

Materialize Performance

Materialize offers a lean core with additional JavaScript components that can be included as needed. This modular approach helps in keeping the performance impact low. However, because Materialize relies on jQuery for some of its components, there might be some overhead if jQuery is not already part of the project.

Primer Performance

Primer is built with CSS only, focusing on minimalism and performance. It doesn’t depend on JavaScript for its core styling, which can result in faster load times and better performance, especially on mobile devices.

Detailed Comparisons

When choosing between Materialize and Primer, consider the following detailed comparisons:

  • Design Aesthetic: Materialize follows Google’s Material Design guidelines, which is ideal for modern, clean interfaces. Primer, on the other hand, offers a more conservative, GitHub-like aesthetic that may be preferable for enterprise or developer-focused applications.
  • Learning Curve: Materialize might have a steeper learning curve for those not familiar with Material Design concepts, while Primer’s utility-first approach can be more intuitive for those used to working with CSS directly.
  • Documentation Quality: Both frameworks offer comprehensive documentation, but Materialize’s documentation is more visually engaging with interactive examples. Primer’s documentation is straightforward and thorough, reflecting its professional GitHub roots.
  • Browser Support: Materialize and Primer both support modern browsers, but it’s essential to check the latest browser compatibility for each framework, especially if you need to support older browsers.


Choosing between Materialize and Primer ultimately depends on the specific needs of your project and your personal or team preferences. Materialize is excellent for developers looking for a vibrant, modern design with interactive components out of the box. Primer is better suited for those who want a mature, scalable CSS framework with a focus on accessibility and performance.

Both frameworks have their strengths, and understanding these can help you make an informed decision. Remember to consider the long-term implications of your choice, including community support, documentation, and the frequency of updates.

For more information and to get started with either framework, visit the Materialize homepage and Primer homepage.

By weighing the features and considerations outlined in this comparison, you can select the CSS framework that best aligns with your project goals and contributes to the creation of a successful web presence.

More Materialize CSS Comparisons


What do you think?