Materialize vs Semantic UI

When it comes to front-end development, CSS frameworks are invaluable tools that help developers create responsive, consistent, and visually appealing designs with minimal effort. Among the plethora of options available today, Materialize and Semantic UI stand out as two of the most popular and widely-used frameworks. Both offer a rich set of features and components, but they have distinct philosophies and design principles. In this article, we’ll conduct an in-depth comparison of Materialize and Semantic UI to help you decide which framework best suits your project’s needs.

Introduction to Materialize

Materialize is a modern front-end framework based on Material Design by Google. It is known for its clean and functional design language that aims to create a visual language that synthesizes classic principles of good design with the innovation of technology and science.

Materialize provides a responsive grid system, pre-styled components, and powerful JavaScript plugins which make it a comprehensive solution for web developers looking to implement Google’s Material Design principles.

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries for Materialize

  • MaterializeCSS Addons: Collection of third-party components and enhancements.
  • Material Icons: The official icon set from Google to complement Materialize designs.

Code Sample: Materialize Navigation Bar

<!-- Materialize Navigation Bar -->
  <div class="nav-wrapper">
    <a href="#" class="brand-logo">Logo</a>
    <ul id="nav-mobile" 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>

Introduction to Semantic UI

Semantic UI, on the other hand, is a development framework that helps create beautiful, responsive layouts using human-friendly HTML. Its core philosophy is to allow developers to describe the UI in a declarative manner, with all the power and flexibility of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript.

Semantic UI offers a wide array of elements, collections, views, modules, and behaviors that give you the freedom to develop varied components for your web projects.

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries for Semantic UI

  • Semantic-UI-React: The official React integration for Semantic UI.
  • Semantic-UI-Forest: Themes and templates to extend Semantic UI.

Code Sample: Semantic UI Button

<!-- Semantic UI Button -->
<button class="ui button">
  Click Here

Design Philosophy and User Experience

Materialize and Semantic UI approach design from different perspectives. Materialize is heavily influenced by Material Design, which is reflected in its components and interactions. It emphasizes the use of animations, depth effects like lighting and shadows, and responsive transitions to create an intuitive and engaging user experience.

Semantic UI, in contrast, focuses on the use of human-friendly HTML to create a self-explanatory and intuitive interface. It aims to use natural language principles to make the code more readable and maintainable, which can be particularly beneficial for teams and projects where clear communication and code readability are priorities.

Responsive Design and Grid System

Both Materialize and Semantic UI offer a responsive grid system, but they implement it in slightly different ways.

Materialize Grid System

Materialize uses a 12-column grid system that adapts to the screen size of the device, ensuring that layouts are scalable and responsive. The grid is based on flexbox, which provides a powerful way to align and distribute space among items in a container, even when their size is unknown or dynamic.

<!-- Materialize Grid Example -->
<div class="row">
  <div class="col s12 m6 l4">Column 1</div>
  <div class="col s12 m6 l4">Column 2</div>
  <div class="col s12 m6 l4">Column 3</div>

Semantic UI Grid System

Semantic UI’s grid system is also based on a 12-column structure and uses flexbox to create complex layouts that are fluid and easily maintainable. It employs a different class naming convention that reflects the natural language approach of the framework.

<!-- Semantic UI Grid Example -->
<div class="ui three column grid">
  <div class="column">Column 1</div>
  <div class="column">Column 2</div>
  <div class="column">Column 3</div>

Both grid systems are robust and offer developers the flexibility to create intricate layouts that work across devices. However, the choice between them may come down to personal preference or the specific requirements of the project.

Components and Customization

One of the key factors in choosing a CSS framework is the range and quality of components it offers, as well as how easily they can be customized to fit the design requirements of your project.

Materialize Components

Materialize provides a comprehensive suite of components that are in line with Material Design guidelines. These include buttons, cards, forms, navigation bars, and many others. Each component is designed with interaction and transition effects to provide a tactile experience.

Customization in Materialize can be done through SASS variables, allowing developers to change the look and feel of components to match their branding without having to override too many styles.

Code Sample: Materialize Card

<!-- Materialize Card -->
<div class="card">
  <div class="card-image">
    <img src="image.jpg">
    <span class="card-title">Card Title</span>
  <div class="card-content">
    <p>I am a very simple card. I am good at containing small bits of information.</p>
  <div class="card-action">
    <a href="#">This is a link</a>

Semantic UI Components

Semantic UI boasts an equally impressive array of components, which it refers to as “elements”, “collections”, “views”, and “modules”. The framework provides detailed documentation for each component, making it easy to implement complex UI patterns.

Customization in Semantic UI is also straightforward, thanks to its theming system. You can use predefined themes or create your own to style components, and the use of human-friendly classes makes it easy to understand what each style does.

Code Sample: Semantic UI Card

<!-- Semantic UI Card -->
<div class="ui card">
  <div class="image">
    <img src="image.jpg">
  <div class="content">
    <a class="header">Card Title</a>
    <div class="description">
      I am a very simple card. I am good at containing small bits of information.
  <div class="extra content">
      <i class="user icon"></i>
      This is a link

JavaScript Integration

Both Materialize and Semantic UI come with their own set of JavaScript plugins to enhance the functionality of components. These plugins can be used to add dynamic behavior like modals, dropdowns, tabs, and more.

Materialize JavaScript

Materialize’s JavaScript is based on jQuery and initializes components through simple jQuery methods. For developers familiar with jQuery, this will feel quite natural.

// Materialize Modal Initialization

Semantic UI JavaScript

Semantic UI also relies on jQuery for its JavaScript components. It provides a unified and consistent API across different components, making it easy to learn and use.

// Semantic UI Modal Initialization

While both frameworks use jQuery, there is a trend in the development community towards frameworks like React, Vue, and Angular. If you’re working with these, you might need to consider how each CSS framework integrates with these modern tools.

Community Support and Resources

The strength and activity of a framework’s community can be a critical factor, especially when you need help troubleshooting or staying up-to-date with the latest developments.

Materialize Community

Materialize has a strong community with a good number of contributors on GitHub. It also has a vibrant community on platforms like Stack Overflow, where developers can seek and offer help. However, it’s worth noting that the core team behind Materialize announced in 2020 that they would no longer be actively maintaining the project.

Semantic UI Community

Semantic UI has a larger community and more contributors on GitHub compared to Materialize. Its community is also active on various forums and platforms, providing ample support for new and experienced developers alike.


Choosing between Materialize and Semantic UI ultimately depends on your project requirements, design preferences, and familiarity with the frameworks. Materialize is great for those who want to implement Material Design with minimal effort, while Semantic UI offers more flexibility with its human-friendly classes and extensive customization options.

Both frameworks have their strengths and weaknesses, and it’s essential to consider factors like community support, ease of use, and future maintenance when making your decision. Regardless of your choice, both Materialize and Semantic UI are powerful tools that can help you build beautiful, responsive websites.

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