6 Free Material Design CSS Frameworks for 2017 Compared

Material Design Frameworks

It was 2014 when Google introduced Material Design as their design language. Since then it has been adopted and implemented in a plethora of Google products including Gmail, Docs and Drive, to name just a few. Material Design is seen both in native Android and modern web applications – in fact, nowadays it has become increasingly popular.

Those involved with web development may wish to keep up with the latest design trends and implement Material Design in their work. This article sets out to list Material Design CSS frameworks and their specific features, which will hopefully help you pick the best one suited to your project. Choose your partner in crime wisely – you’re going to need help when creating those outstanding web experiences after all!

It should be noted that some of the following details, such as framework polularity and available features, may slightly differ over time. Should you be interested in any framework, make sure to check the original resources for any last minute update.

1. Materialize

Materialize

Materialize is arguably one of the most well-known Material Design CSS frameworks out there. Developed by a team of highly skilled, passionate students, Materialize is widely used with many available third party themes. It provides an ideal opportunity to get started with Material Design for the web without sticking your feet into cold water.

  • Maintainers: Alvin Wang et al.

  • Release: 2014

  • Version: 0.99.0

  • Popularity: 27,000 stars and 3,900 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “A modern responsive front-end framework based on Material Design”

  • Core concepts/principles: Responsive web design and UX focused

  • Framework size: 931 KB (download)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icons: Material Design Icons

  • Typography: Roboto

  • Documentation: Good

  • Browser support: Firefox 31+, Chrome 35+, Safari 7+, IE 10+

  • License: MIT

  • Code sample:

    <a class="waves-effect waves-light btn">Button</a>
  • Pros: Large user base, continuous development, good documentation, third party support (e.g., templates, extensions, etc.)

  • Cons: N/A

  • Ideal for: Getting started with Material Design on the web

2. MUI

MUI Material Design CSS Framework

MUI is quite popular as well. Although an individual effort, it raises the bar by providing out-of-the-box support for Angular, React and WebComponents. The detailed documentation also deserves a thumbs-up.

  • Maintainers: Andres Morey

  • Published: 2015

  • Current version: 0.9.17

  • Popularity: 3,400 stars and 370 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “A lightweight CSS framework that follows Google’s Material Design guidelines”

  • Core concepts/principles: Cross platform support

  • Framework size: 461 KB (download) / 6.7 KB (NPM package, minified)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icons: None bundled

  • Typography: Arial, Verdana, Tahoma

  • Documentation: Very good

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE 10+

  • License: MIT

  • Code sample:

    <button class="mui-btn mui-btn--primary">Button</button>
  • Pros: Default support for Angular, React, WebComponents and HTML Email, extensive documentation

  • Cons: Lack of third party support, e.g., themes, add-ons, etc.

  • Ideal for: Hassle-free integration with Angular, React or WebComponents

3. Surface

Surface Material Design CSS Framework

Surface is a minimal, super lightweight CSS framework adopting Material Design. Don’t expect an extensive documentation – although it is sufficient enough to help you become acquainted with the framework and get the job done. Surface can be ideal for rapid prototyping and experimenting with new projects.

  • Maintainers: Ben Mildren

  • Published: 2015

  • Current version: 1.01

  • Popularity: 190 stars and 40 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “Design philosophy and aesthetics inspired by Google’s Material Design”

  • Core concepts/principles: Minimalism

  • Framework size: 195 KB (download)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: No

  • Icons: None bundled

  • Documentation: Weak

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari 6.1+, IE 10+

  • License: MIT

  • Code sample:

    <button class="btn--raised">Button</button>
  • Pros: Lightweight, minimal

  • Cons: Low user base, weak documentation

  • Ideal for: Rapid prototyping, experimenting, minimalist design

4. Material Foundation

Material Foundation Material Design CSS Framework

Already experienced with the Foundation Framework by Zurb? Material Foundation was pretty much made for you! The bad news? Development seems to be extremely slow (might even be safe to say abandoned), with not even any point releases. The user base doesn’t look big, either. Hopefully somebody might pick it up at some point and resume progress.

  • Maintainers: Mikolaj Dobrucki

  • Published: 2014

  • Current version: N/A

  • Supported Foundation version: 6.2.3

  • Popularity: 300 stars and 60 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “Material Design version of Foundation Framework by Zurb”

  • Core concepts/principles: Zurb Foundation based

  • Framework size: 218 KB (download)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: No

  • Icons: Material Design Iconic Font

  • Typography: None bundled

  • Documentation: Limited

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari 6.1+, IE 10+

  • License: MIT

  • Code sample:

    <a class="raised-button ink">Button</a>
  • Pros: Familiarity with Foundation

  • Cons: Low user base, slow/abandoned development, weak documentation

  • Ideal for: Developers working with Foundation, integration with Foundation

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5. Material Design Lite

Material Design Lite CSS Framework

Material Design Lite was published by Google engineers, therefore you can expect consistency and close alignment with Material Design concepts. Although it had become increasingly popular, it is now on limited support since development has moved to the Material Components for the Web (mentioned below).

  • Maintainers: Addy Osmani et al.

  • Published: 2014

  • Current version: 1.3.0

  • Popularity: 27,800 stars and 4,700 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “Lets you add a Material Design look and feel to your websites”

  • Core concepts/principles: Cross device use

  • Framework size: 205 KB (download) / 62 KB (NPM package, minified)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icons: Material Icons

  • Typography: Roboto

  • Documentation: Very good

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Opera, Safari, IE 10+

  • License: Apache License 2.0

  • Code sample:

    <button class="mdl-button mdl-js-button mdl-button--raised">Button</button>
  • Pros: Large user base, maintained by Google developers, close alignment with Material Design

  • Cons: Limited support, ceased development

  • Ideal for: Simple websites with a sure-fire adherence to Google Material Design look & feel

6. Material Components for the Web

Material Components for the Web CSS Framework

Material Components for the Web is the successor to Material Design Lite and is maintained by Google engineers and designers. Its high-level goals include modularity, adherence to the Material Design guidelines and seamless integration with other JavaScript frameworks and libraries.

  • Maintainers: Addy Osmani et al.

  • Published: 2014

  • Current version: 0.13.0

  • Popularity: 5,000 stars and 480 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “Create beautiful apps with modular and customizable UI components”

  • Core concepts/principles: Modularity and integration with JS frameworks/libraries

  • Framework size: 117 KB (NPM package, minified)

  • Preprocessors: Sass

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: None

  • Icons: Material Icons

  • Typography: Roboto

  • Documentation: Very good

  • Browser support: Firefox, Chrome, Safari, IE 11/Edge

  • License: Apache License 2.0

  • Code sample:

    <button class="mdc-button mdc-button--raised">Button</button>
  • Pros: Maintained by Google developers, close alignment with Material Design, integration with JavaScript frameworks

  • Cons: Slightly lower user base

  • Ideal for: Consistency with Material Design Guidelines

Bonus: Material-UI

Material UI Material Design UI for React Components

Although, strictly speaking, not a CSS framework, Material-UI is an interesting approach to implementing Material Design using React components. Developed by Call-Em-All, who have been using it in one of their projects, Material-UI now has thousands of stars and forks on GitHub.

  • Maintainers: Olivier Tassinari, Hai Nguyen et al.

  • Published: 2014

  • Current version: 0.18.5

  • Popularity: 26,700 stars and 4,700 forks on GitHub

  • Description: “A Set of React Components that Implement Google’s Material Design”

  • Core concepts/principles: Cross platform support

  • Framework size: 429 KB (NPM package, minified)

  • Preprocessors: Less

  • Responsive: Yes

  • Modular: Yes

  • Starting templates/layouts: Yes

  • Icons: None bundled

  • Typography: None bundled, designed to work with Roboto

  • Documentation: Good

  • Browser support: Not specified, any modern browser should work

  • License: MIT

  • Code sample:

    <RaisedButton label="Button" primary={true} style={style} />
  • Pros: Extends React

  • Cons: Knowledge of React, Node and/or Single Page Applications (SPAs) required

  • Ideal for: Developers working with aforementioned technologies and methodologies

Conclusion

It would be almost impossible to declare a winner among available Material Design frameworks. End users may choose which one to use according to their own needs and requirements. Think of operating systems – there is no right or wrong choice, each one arrives with its own unique pros and cons. When looking for CSS frameworks, however, you may want to take the following aspects into account:

  • User base: How many people are using the framework? Larger user bases not only indicate the software has been thoroughly tested, but also that there is the possibility of third party support in the form of templates and extensions.
  • Contributor base: Who is developing the framework – is it company and/or individuals working together? Frequent changes in the code, including bug fixing and acceptance of pull requests indicate that developers and interested parties strive to make the framework even better.
  • Development: How frequent are new releases? Some frameworks are constantly on the bleeding edge, while others prefer to keep up at a lower pace. If you’re into creating prototypes and trying out new things, you might want to opt for the former.
  • Documentation: How detailed and clear is the official documentation? Good docs are helpful especially for people who are just getting started. Code samples and even default templates are going to help you develop quickly without much hair pulling.
  • Learnability: Are there any prerequisites before getting started? If you are merely into deploying web applications in no time and don’t wish to experiment with technologies you haven’t previously worked with, you’re probably better off with a framework which doesn’t require you to know or learn additional technologies in order to be able to use it.

In the end, based on your personal skills, preferences and requirements, the selection is entirely yours.

Oh, are you perhaps curious to see what’s out there besides Material Design? Make sure to read Ivaylo Gerchev‘s comparison of The 5 Most Popular Frontend Frameworks of 2017.

Happy tinkering!

Have you used any of the material design CSS frameworks listed in this article for your projects? Which one and why? If I’ve missed your favorite CSS framework, please let us know in the comments!

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