Skeleton vs Primer

CSS frameworks have become an indispensable part of web development, offering a structured, standardized approach to styling web pages. Two such frameworks that have gained popularity among web developers are Skeleton and Primer. In this article, we will delve into an in-depth comparison of Skeleton and Primer, exploring their features, use cases, and how they differ from one another.

What is Skeleton?

Skeleton is a lightweight CSS framework that provides a simple and responsive grid system along with basic styling for common HTML elements. It is designed to be a starting point for web projects that do not require the full-fledged features of larger frameworks like Bootstrap or Foundation. The minimalistic approach of Skeleton makes it an excellent choice for small projects or for developers who prefer to add additional styling on their own.

Key Features of Skeleton

  • Responsive Grid: Skeleton includes a fluid grid system that easily adapts to different screen sizes.
  • Typography: It offers basic styling for typography, including headers, lists, and more.
  • Buttons: Simple button styles are provided, which can be easily customized.
  • Forms: Skeleton comes with basic form styling.
  • Media Queries: Pre-written media queries for common device breakpoints.

Documentation and Installation

Skeleton’s documentation is straightforward, reflecting the framework’s simplicity. You can find the documentation and installation guide on the Skeleton homepage.

To get started with Skeleton, simply download the Skeleton CSS file from the Getting Started section of the website and include it in your HTML file:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/skeleton.css">

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries

As Skeleton is a minimal framework, there isn’t a large ecosystem of addons or libraries. Developers typically extend Skeleton by writing custom CSS or integrating it with other tools as needed.

What is Primer?

Primer is GitHub’s CSS framework, which is used in its own interface. It is a more comprehensive framework compared to Skeleton and includes a wide range of components and utilities that are designed to be scalable and maintainable.

Key Features of Primer

  • Systematic Design: Primer follows a systematic design approach that ensures consistency across GitHub’s web interface.
  • Utility Classes: It comes with a plethora of utility classes for spacing, typography, and color.
  • Components: Primer includes pre-styled components like buttons, navigation, and octicons (GitHub’s icon set).
  • Responsive Design: The framework provides a responsive grid system and utilities for building responsive interfaces.
  • Accessibility: Primer is designed with accessibility in mind, ensuring that interfaces are usable by everyone.

Documentation and Installation

Primer’s documentation is comprehensive and includes detailed guidelines on how to use the framework effectively. You can access the documentation on the Primer homepage.

To install Primer, you can use npm:

npm install --save primer

Alternatively, you can include the Primer CSS directly in your HTML:

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

Popular Third-Party Addons or Libraries

Primer is designed to be used as-is, and GitHub maintains a set of related packages, such as:

  • Primer Components: A React component library that implements Primer’s design system.
  • Octicons: GitHub’s icon set, which is included with Primer.

Code Samples for Skeleton

Skeleton’s grid system is based on a 12-column grid. Here’s an example of how to create a responsive layout with Skeleton:

<div class="container">
  <div class="row">
    <div class="one-half column">
      <p>This is a half-width column.</p>
    <div class="one-half column">
      <p>This is another half-width column.</p>

For buttons, Skeleton provides basic styles that can be applied like so:

<a class="button" href="#">Standard Button</a>

Code Samples for Primer

Primer’s utility classes allow for quick layout and design adjustments. Here’s an example of using utility classes for spacing and typography:

<button class="btn mr-2 mb-2">Button with margin-right</button>
<p class="text-bold">Bold text</p>

Creating a navigation bar with Primer might look like this:

<nav class="UnderlineNav">
  <div class="UnderlineNav-body">
    <a href="#url" class="UnderlineNav-item selected">Item 1</a>
    <a href="#url" class="UnderlineNav-item">Item 2</a>
    <a href="#url" class="UnderlineNav-item">Item 3</a>

In the next half of the article, we will continue to explore more in-depth comparisons, including customization options, community support, and real-world use cases for both Skeleton and Primer.

Customization Options

One of the key considerations when choosing a CSS framework is its ability to be customized to fit the specific needs of your project. Here’s how Skeleton and Primer stack up in terms of customization.

Skeleton Customization

Skeleton is minimal by design, which means that it doesn’t come with a built-in theming system or extensive customization options out of the box. However, its simplicity is also its strength when it comes to customization. Because it provides just the bare essentials, developers can easily write their own CSS on top of Skeleton without having to override a lot of pre-existing styles.

To customize Skeleton, you can create a new CSS file and include it after the Skeleton CSS file in your HTML document:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/skeleton.css">
<link rel="stylesheet" href="css/custom.css">

In your custom.css file, you can define your styles, colors, and fonts to override the default Skeleton styles.

Primer Customization

Primer is more complex than Skeleton and includes a variety of components and utility classes. Customization can be achieved through SCSS variables, which allow you to change the design tokens such as colors, spacing, and typography to suit your brand’s guidelines.

To customize Primer, you’ll need to install it via npm and include the SCSS files in your build process. Then, you can override the SCSS variables before importing Primer’s SCSS files:

// custom.scss
$blue: #1f77b4;
$gray-900: #222;

@import 'primer/index.scss';

This allows for a high degree of customization while maintaining the structure and consistency of the Primer framework.

Community Support

Community support is an important factor, as it can determine the longevity and reliability of a framework. It also dictates the availability of resources, tutorials, and third-party extensions.

Skeleton Community Support

Skeleton has a smaller community compared to larger frameworks. It has not been actively developed for some time, but due to its simplicity, it remains a stable choice for small projects. The community around Skeleton is relatively small, and you may find fewer resources and discussions online compared to more popular frameworks.

Primer Community Support

Primer, being developed and maintained by GitHub, has a strong community and is actively developed. The documentation is extensive, and there are many resources available, including a discussion forum on GitHub where developers can ask questions and share tips. Additionally, because Primer is used by GitHub, it benefits from real-world testing at a massive scale.

Real-World Use Cases

When considering a CSS framework, it’s helpful to understand the types of projects for which it is best suited.

Skeleton Use Cases

Skeleton is ideal for small projects, personal websites, and simple web applications where a full-featured framework would be overkill. Its lightweight nature makes it a perfect choice for projects with minimal design requirements or for developers who want to write most of their CSS from scratch but need a responsive grid system to start with.

Primer Use Cases

Primer is suitable for larger, more complex projects that require a robust design system. It’s especially beneficial for teams looking for a scalable and systematic way to design web interfaces. Given its origin at GitHub, Primer is also a great choice for projects that aim to have a similar look and feel to GitHub’s UI.


Both Skeleton and Primer serve different needs in the world of CSS frameworks. Skeleton’s appeal lies in its simplicity and ease of use, making it an excellent choice for developers who need a lightweight starting point for their projects. Primer, on the other hand, offers a comprehensive design system with a wide range of components and utilities, suited for larger projects and teams seeking a scalable and consistent UI framework.

When choosing between Skeleton and Primer, consider the size and complexity of your project, your customization needs, and the level of community support you’re looking for. Both frameworks have their merits, and the right choice will depend on your specific requirements and preferences.

Remember to explore the documentation and communities of both frameworks to gain a deeper understanding of what they offer:

Ultimately, the best framework is the one that aligns with your project goals and helps you build efficient and beautiful web interfaces.

More Skeleton Comparisons


What do you think?