Semantic UI vs Tachyons

When it comes to building modern web applications, the choice of CSS framework can significantly influence the ease of development, design consistency, and performance of your project. Two such frameworks that often come up in discussions are Semantic UI and Tachyons. Both offer unique approaches to styling, but they cater to different needs and preferences. In this article, we’ll dive deep into the features, philosophies, and practical usage of Semantic UI and Tachyons to help you make an informed decision for your next project.

What is Semantic UI?

Semantic UI is a comprehensive UI component framework that uses human-friendly HTML for its development philosophy. It provides a wide range of pre-designed components that are both responsive and themable, making it an excellent choice for developers who want to build rich interfaces quickly.

  • Homepage: Semantic UI
  • Documentation: Semantic UI Docs
  • Installation: You can install Semantic UI via NPM (npm install semantic-ui), Yarn (yarn add semantic-ui), or by including a CDN link in your HTML.

Semantic UI offers a plethora of components such as buttons, menus, loaders, and forms that are designed to work harmoniously together. It also comes with a theming system that allows for extensive customization.

Popular Third-Party Add-ons for Semantic UI:

Semantic UI Code Sample:

<link rel="stylesheet" type="text/css" href="//">
<script src="//"></script>

<div class="ui menu">
  <div class="header item">Brand</div>
  <a class="active item">Home</a>
  <a class="item">About</a>
  <a class="item">Contact</a>

What is Tachyons?

Tachyons takes a different approach to styling web applications. It’s a functional CSS framework that focuses on small, single-purpose classes that can be combined to create complex designs. It emphasizes the principle of composition over inheritance and encourages a more functional approach to styling.

  • Homepage: Tachyons
  • Documentation: Tachyons Docs
  • Installation: Tachyons can be installed via NPM (npm install tachyons), included via a CDN, or downloaded directly from the website.

Tachyons is lightweight and fast, with a file size of around 14KB minified and gzipped. It’s designed to be highly scalable and performance-focused, making it an excellent choice for projects that need to be lean and fast.

Popular Third-Party Add-ons for Tachyons:

  • Tachyons-Extra: A set of additional classes and components for Tachyons. Tachyons-Extra
  • React-Tachyons: An npm package that allows you to use Tachyons classes as React components. React-Tachyons

Tachyons Code Sample:

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

<nav class="pa3 pa4-ns">
  <a class="link dim black b f6 f5-ns dib mr3" href="#" title="Home">Home</a>
  <a class="link dim gray f6 f5-ns dib mr3" href="#" title="About">About</a>
  <a class="link dim gray f6 f5-ns dib" href="#" title="Contact">Contact</a>

Philosophies and Design Approaches

Semantic UI and Tachyons differ significantly in their design philosophies and approaches to styling.

Semantic UI:

Semantic UI’s philosophy is to provide meaningful, semantic class names that reflect the purpose of the element rather than its appearance. This can make the code more readable and maintainable, as the class names describe what the element is rather than how it looks.


On the other hand, Tachyons focuses on composability and utility. Its classes are meant to do one thing and do it well. This leads to a more functional approach to styling, where you build up the appearance of elements by combining many small, purpose-specific classes.

Design Customizability and Theming

When it comes to customizing the look and feel of your application, both Semantic UI and Tachyons offer flexibility, but they do so in different ways.

Semantic UI Theming:

Semantic UI is built with theming in mind, providing an extensive set of variables and structures that allow you to tweak the design to fit your brand’s aesthetic. Theming in Semantic UI involves adjusting global variables, overriding styles, and even extending the framework with custom components if needed.

Semantic UI Theming Code Sample:

// theme.config file
@import "default";
@import "my-custom-theme";

// site.variables file
@primaryColor: #329bff;
@secondaryColor: #ff6a00;

Tachyons Customization:

Tachyons, by contrast, encourages a more hands-on approach to theming. Since it’s composed of small, composable classes, you have the freedom to define your own styles and create a custom build using the Tachyons generator. This can result in a highly optimized stylesheet that contains only the styles you need.

Tachyons Customization Code Sample:

/* Custom Tachyons build */
.bg-custom-blue { background-color: #329bff; }
.b--custom-orange { border-color: #ff6a00; }

Scalability and Performance

In terms of scalability and performance, both frameworks have their merits. However, their approaches to managing large-scale projects differ.

Semantic UI Scalability:

Semantic UI’s component-based architecture makes it well-suited for large-scale applications. The framework’s comprehensive collection of components can significantly speed up development time. However, this comes at the cost of a larger file size, which can potentially impact load times if not managed properly.

Tachyons Performance:

Tachyons shines in performance due to its minimalistic approach. The small footprint of its CSS file ensures that styles load quickly, which is crucial for performance-sensitive applications. Additionally, the use of single-responsibility classes can lead to better reuse and more efficient style management in large projects.

Community and Support

Both Semantic UI and Tachyons have active communities and support systems, but the size and engagement level can vary.

Semantic UI Community:

Semantic UI has a large user base and community support, with many developers contributing to its ecosystem. This can be beneficial when seeking help or looking for resources and third-party extensions.

Tachyons Community:

Tachyons, while smaller in comparison, has a dedicated following of developers who advocate for the functional CSS approach. The community is active and supportive, especially for those looking to adopt a more functional and atomic design methodology.


Choosing between Semantic UI and Tachyons ultimately depends on your project requirements and personal or team preferences. If you prioritize a comprehensive, ready-to-use component library with a focus on semantic class names, Semantic UI is likely the right choice for you. On the other hand, if you value a lightweight, performance-oriented approach with a focus on composability and functional CSS, Tachyons may be more in line with your needs.

In any case, both frameworks offer unique advantages and can be used to build beautiful, responsive, and maintainable web applications. By understanding the core principles and strengths of each, you can make a decision that aligns with your development philosophy and project goals.

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