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Simple.css – A classless CSS framework (simplecss.org)
351 points by ecliptik on Jan 14, 2022 | hide | past | favorite | 103 comments

Simple.css is a well done classless 'framework'. I stumbled on it a while back and started using it and thought this can be my go-to styles for tit-bits of websites that I do for landing pages, family websites etc. However, this is pretty opinionated (including some animations) and I had to abandon it. But I remained inspired by its simplicity and forked my own[1] broke it down. I broke it down to the most basic, but then can be built on top of it -- progressively get a website "designed" far enough but not further.

If you are into these simple classes, check out Drop-in Minimal CSS[2] and choose the one that fits your need.

Simple.css is from an interesting guy, Kev Quirk[3], whose 512kb[4] website was on Hackernews a while back (don't recollect if it was a story or a comment). Hi Kev, if you are around.

If you are spinning up a simple website with classless styles, perhaps it is a good idea to add a print styles and I like Gutenberg[5] for that.

1. https://oinam.github.io/oinam-jekyll/

2. https://dohliam.github.io/dropin-minimal-css/

3. https://kevq.uk/about/

4. https://512kb.club

5. https://github.com/BafS/Gutenberg

Wow! https://dohliam.github.io/dropin-minimal-css/ is amazing.

I had absolutely no idea that you can have such a color picker with pure HTML. When I click on it, my browser's color picker comes up. This is amazing. I always had issues picking the right color picker or implement my own. I love the date input as well! Thank you!!!

The MDN docs on inputs are worth a look, there's really good coverage now of the sorts of things that used to need custom JS https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/in...

If you give the colour picker a little more height than the one in that link then it'll display the selected colour as well, which you can see in the MDN one.

Kev also runs Fosstodon [1] which is an awesome Mastodon instance focused on free & open source software.

1. https://fosstodon.org/about

I see a ton of cool fedi people from that site. Rock on!


Creator of Simple.css here.

Thanks for all the feedback and comments here, folks. It really is appreciated.

I’m not a professional web designer - this just started off as a personal project that I ended up publishing as people I shared it with seemed to like it.

I’m taking on board the various feedback from people much more knowledgeable than I here, again I really appreciate it.

If you do have feedback/changes I’d urge you to log an Issue or a PR on Github[1].

Also great to see so many other minimal CSS projects that I wasn't aware of. I’ll have to add an alternatives page to the site, I think.

[1] https://github.com/kevquirk/simple.css

I was looking for something just like this two weeks ago and came up empty due to Google being filled with just the huge frameworks like bootstrap or with SEO listicles with no content. It's disappointing how hard it can be to find stuff like this. (I guess "classless" is the keyword I wasn't aware of.)

Anyway, I'm confused about what makes something a CSS 'framework'. I feel like I just want decent defaults more than a framework, and that seems to be what this basically comes down to. Is there anything else to it?

You can have a look at https://github.com/troxler/awesome-css-frameworks which is an extensive collection of CSS frameworks. Check out the "Class-less" section for similar projects.

There is also an open PR to add Simple.css to the list: https://github.com/troxler/awesome-css-frameworks/pull/85

That’s what I see a framework as being - sane defaults. It’s a way to get started quickly without having to write everything from scratch.

I would argue that “frameworks” like Bootstrap, Tailwinds and their ilk are more ecosystems than frameworks, but that’s just me. :)

Forms should support the required attribute, and :optional, :invalid, :valid


Client-side form validation - https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/Forms/Form_va...

Nice work.

ive been collecting a list of alternatives if you wanna pick https://github.com/sw-yx/spark-joy#drop-in-css-frameworks (or point to it)

Hey kevq, thanks for simple.css. I started using it last year on my blog and love it. After some modifications, maintenance work on styles has reduced considerably. Love it, thanks.

Really glad you’re enjoying it! :)

Could you make the navigation look more like Bootstrap's NavBar with a simple flat items? The button menu looks weird.

I saw someone had a massive list of similar CSS frameworks here:


Edit: also in here it’s a tool to quickly compare them all. I don’t know if one can mention a user so I’ll just link the comment.

  <button onclick="window.location.href='https://example.com';">I'm a button with a link</button>

This code from the demo shows, why not using classes to style a website is a misguided idea.

Maybe something like this would be a better idea if you absolutely must avoid classes:


  <strong><a href="#">Button</a></strong>

  strong > a:first-child:last-child {
    display: inline-block;
    background: red;
    color: white;
    padding: 10px;
    font-weight: normal;

I can't understand why so many websites use an onclick handler on a button to redirect to websites. It's not hard to even find something like <a href="#" onclick="location.href='https://example.com';">click here</a>

The worst part is that it's not just random websites doing this, this can be found on most FAANG websites as well.

why not just use

  <form action="https://example.com"><button type="submit">Link button</button></form>
no need for JS

Because you cannot make `form` `inline-block` for only this instance without classes.

Why not use use an anchor tag?

Yep that's a pretty fundamental accessibility failure.

I can see straight away from the home page that there isn't enough margin before h1 > p in the case of the title, and the vertical rhythm is a bit off.

Aside from that, the semantic styling for `header` and `nav` is really clever and well done. Looks good.

I wish more designers would look at these minimalist frameworks and add helpful feedback like this. I feel like the aesthetics of a lot of them could be improved with more attention from designers.

It seems intentional. H1 and paragraphs placed in headers don't have any margin.

header h1, header p {

    margin: 0;


Interestingly, there is margin there.

A nitpick perhaps, but I was surprised to see `cite` used to enclose the author's name in your `blockquote` example. I was under the impression that `cite` is meant to be used to mark up titles of books and similar, not author names, and MDN[1] seems to agree with me here.

That aside, nice work! This could surely be useful as a default stylesheet for Markdown documents and the like.

[1] https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Web/HTML/Element/ci...

The recommendations on markup for citation sources has changed significantly over time. Originally they said something like <blockquote>… <cite>…</cite></blockquote>, then they changed it to <blockquote>… <footer><cite>…</cite></footer></blockquote>, now they seem to be saying <figure><blockquote>…</blockquote><figcaption><cite>…</cite></figcaption></figure> Similarly what should be included in the text inside a <cite> element has changed over time.

Frankly, since the cite element has no implicit ARIA role and is normal flow and phrasing content, it’s roughly just another spelling of <i>. Don’t worry too much about its nominal semantics, they’ll probably tweak them again before long.

That’s good to know, thanks. I always (incorrectly it seems) assumed that a citation was valid within a blockquote too.

Haven't seen bamboo mentioned here yet: https://rilwis.github.io/bamboo/demo/

Another great classless css framework is new.css (https://newcss.net/).

new.css developer here, thank you :) Happy to see people still enjoying it. I've been meaning to update it for a very long time, but have been working through a lot of coding-based anxiety and burnout for a while.

It's encouraging to see people still using new.css though, and I hope to work on upgrades soon!

new.css is my default classless css. Thanks for your work!

Thanks for the support!

A lot of people like the larger, more thorough frameworks because:

1. they think it makes newer devs can feel safer

2. dev teams can simply agree on an pre-made modus-operandi for all css without having to have discussions/evolutions on it.

But for 1, it also gives newer devs a steeper learning curve, and it gives older devs Yet Another Framework to learn and then possibly discard in a few years. It's also often used like a crutch, where yes the newer dev may feel safer, but they're also not exposed to as many discussions or reasoning around well-organized styling, cleaner semantics, etc.

And for 2, it can also add overhead to dependency audits and often for the large frameworks with pre-made components you can end up spending significant resources fighting/working around the framework components when the inevitable unforeseen use-cases come up

I see a bit of straw man here -- thorough frameworks are often liked _because_ they're thorough. Simple.css looks fantastic and I'll reach for it next time I make a simple personal site, but for a professional website with a hundred pages and design considerations that go way beyond "it should look pleasing", I need more levers, leverage, and turnkey components.

I certainly see your point that any unsatisfactorily complete benefit-drawback list is going to seem like a strawman. I meant to point out some of the more commonly stated benefits and contrast them to the less commonly considered drawbacks, but I would also enjoy seeing this thread evolving into a more complete list.

I also agree with your other point that that is a benefit for having more bells and whistles in a single branch of dependencies.

Nice. Comparing with MVP.CSS, another class-less CSS framework, this has less feature (MVP has a way to create cards), but also seems to avoid two things that I don't like about MVP: centered block quote, and links without underline.

Too right! I want my links to look like links, something to identify that it's a clickable.

Im a firm believer in links being underlined. I also wanted it to be a little opinionated, as to started life as a personal project, yet easy to customise.

Similar to MVP.css: https://andybrewer.github.io/mvp/

But always happy to see more classless CSS options.

Disclosure: Author of MVP.css

Love these simple classless frameworks. Inspired me to create my own:


This is pretty great!

Very cool project !

I created my own classless CSS framework[1] in the same vein. It adapts to your system’s dark/light mode and is under 1kb minzipped.

I would recommend to check out the drop-in minimal CSS page if you want do discover new projects like these.

1. https://concrete.style/

2. https://dohliam.github.io/dropin-minimal-css/

Sometimes folks do things like "The <span> in the <p>aragraph of the <article> will be font-weight: 300" and that stuff is more difficult to keep track of than classes. Beyond the existing HTML tags if everything is a <div> that may end up being more semantic and easier to parse. Web components is an ugly and terse way of achieving it, but too JS dependent and annoying.

Some more over here: https://github.com/sw-yx/spark-joy

Ah there it is! I knew there must already be some awesome-list out there for these types of things, but I didn't know how to search for it

Thank you!

Reminds me heavily of Water.css [0]

[0]: https://watercss.kognise.dev/

My favourite one! Every side project I start includes water.css

When it comes to being minimalist, can you not make TailwindsCSS as minimal as necessary or go crazy with it as you see fit? I found it having the right balance. Especially since it is popular with better support and good documentation.

Just curious about the thoughts since I have never dived the classless CSS train. Also am new to front-end.

A classless CSS framework is a good fit if you’re looking for a simple and lightweight solution that doesn’t require dipping into Node ecosystem or learning an idiomatic class name system.

Why not just use Tailwind? It, for example, essentially requires a front-end build step: it must read your source HTML files in order to know which CSS rules to bundle. (Without that it would have no choice but to serve a multi-megabyte stylesheet with all possible selectors.) Tailwind may be a good choice if you need more control over appearance, you are OK involving Node at pre-build, but you can’t write isomorphic GUI components—e.g., you’re providing server-rendered HTML with a non-JS back-end.

Thanks for clearing my doubt. I appreciate it. :)

A big fan of Simple CSS (I see a lot of personal sites using it, actually). I’ll also share my own minimal, classless CSS framework Vanilla CSS[0]

[0]: https://vanillacss.com

Yes, please.

The emphasis away from semantic HTML and towards component-based frameworks with all the associated utility CSS classes has been a disaster for accessibility, and it's good to see projects that have all users in mind.

I think you're conflating two points there. Component-based frameworks and utility CSS are completely orthogonal to the use of semantic/accessible HTML.

Granted you do see things like divs with click handlers used as buttons by people who don't know what they're doing, but I saw plenty of that in the jQuery days too.

it's more like a CSS reset file than a framework. in that case I don't see adding 4kb is necessary. I'm more a fan from styling everything from scratch rather than using any CSS framework.

we just need better tooling to write better CSS faster not necessarily including prewritten CSS.

I deeply believe this is where CSS going and this why I'm building https://intab.io to push towards that direction myself.

I am a big fan of classless CSS frameworks. I hope that anyone who sells/shares web design templates can learn from this philosophy of using classless framework.

Now, all we need is to get to take these CSS libraries turn into "themes" for https://headlessui.dev/ widgets. Bonus points if we agree onto some standard set for variable names, so frontend developers could then literally just change the "import css" file at the top and have completely different styles.

> just change the "import css" file at the top and have completely different styles.

I'm afraid I don't understand the goal here. This is excatly what classless frameworks like Simple.css are doing, and classless is imo a much better solution than us all agreeing onto standard variable names.

It's not just because these are "drop-in" files that like these libraries can not be extended or have some variables overridden.

For example, TFA says that simple.css uses a variable called "accent" to determine the color of links and buttons. If other styles adopt the same name, then you could just define the "color palette" in one place and have each library working as totally different "design language".

> Bonus points if we agree onto some standard set for variable names

They try: https://www.w3.org/community/design-tokens/

Nice! PicoCSS (http://picocss.com) is another classless css framework I recommended

I called my classless (even though it really wasn’t, just like in politics) CSS library marcssist https://github.com/jacobrask/marcssist Barely even used it myself though, if anyone else likes bad puns feel free to steal the name

Yo: https://github.com/kevquirk/simple.css/blob/main/simple.css#...

    img, video { opacity: 0.6; }
Do not like. Not even for dark mode.

A love style sheets like this that just work with plain, semantic HTML. For a while I used this one on a site of mine: https://github.com/programble/writ

Which I believe I found here on HN some time ago.

I collect a list of similar lightweight/drop in CSS frameworks here: https://github.com/sw-yx/spark-joy#drop-in-css-frameworks


Meta question: I really love this post/framework, but have no use for it right now, so I'm putting it in my bookmarks where my ability to pick it back up relies on my memory of this post. How do you guys manage your bookmarks?

pinboard.in for me.

Good idea, doesn’t look very nice on mobile though. I think the text is too big and the borders on the side too small.

Maybe it’s possible to build something similar based on tailwind (with a lot of @apply), which would allow customization.

  --sans-font: -apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, "Avenir Next", Avenir,
    "Nimbus Sans L", Roboto, Noto, "Segoe UI", Arial, Helvetica,
    "Helvetica Neue", sans-serif;
  --mono-font: Consolas, Menlo, Monaco, "Andale Mono", "Ubuntu Mono", monospace;
Here are better stacks that achieve almost identical results for almost all users that haven’t customised their font stacks, but respect user preferences better:

  --sans-font: system-ui, sans-serif;
  --mono-font: Consolas, monospace;
(If Mozilla would get on and fix <https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=713680>, I’d ditch Consolas, though you won’t want to leave it at just monospace because of the stupid default monospace font size thing [that should really never have happened but should absolutely have been retired by a decade ago], so most people write `monospace, monospace`, though I like to shorten it to `monospace,m`.)

  /* Line height is set to the "Golden ratio" for optimal legibility */
  --line-height: 1.618;
That comment seems disingenuous, especially given the `line-height: 1.1` applied to headings which shows an awareness of the issues. There is no single optimal value: it varies by font, by size, by line width, by reader’s eyesight… you can’t just slap a nice mathematical ratio on it and call it optimal. As it stands, 1.618 is decidedly on the high side, though not outlandishly so. I personally prefer 1.4.

  body {
    overflow-x: hidden;
Please don’t. If this does anything, it’s a sign that you’ve written something the wrong way, and if it doesn’t, you should be scared that it will in the future, and will cut off some content and render it inaccessible, rather than breaking out of your site layout but leaving the content intact. In this case, it looks to have been done because the width limit was applied to the body element, but not desired for the header and so worked around, but the trouble is that you can’t do that correctly because CSS doesn’t have suitable units (vw and vh are fundamentally stupidly broken by design (the spec provided an esoteric way of unbreaking them, but only Firefox implemented it, so eventually they removed it), and always wrong, though the amount of error is sometimes tolerable for some restricted purposes). The width limit should rather have been applied to descendants of the body (main/footer); then you could leave the body overflow alone.

  @media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
    video {
      opacity: 0.6;
Eww. Eww. This is a horrible idea to apply as a general rule: it’ll be suitable for some images (… by accident as much as anything), but ruin others; and a 40% reduction is excessive. But not only that, opacity is the wrong technique, being sensitive to the background (the most extreme example: put an image inside a <button>); a filter using brightness and/or contrast would be better.


Although I’m not impressed with some of the stuff at the start of the stylesheet, after that it looks pretty solid. There are occasional points that I’d quibble over, but nothing major. I’ll stop here, this comment is already moderately long.

Hmm. I always seem to do some kind of review when these things come up here, can’t quite help myself; I should get on and finish starting that new section on my site for such matters (reviews, occasionally of projects, more of code, mostly CSS/JS/Rust).

seems similar to normalize [1]

1: https://nicolasgallagher.com/about-normalize-css/

This might sound like a good idea, but sooner or later you will need to integrate some third party library, and you’ll see that properly scoping your styles is better.

I think if you're doing that, it's not the use case this is made for.

It's for making simple, semantic HTML look decent. That's useful.

Could someone explain the purpose of globally setting image and video opacity to 0.6? I'm confused as to why this framework sets that by default.

It only does that on dark view mode. It's so the image isn't so bright against the other dark elements. There is some thoughts on this here:


It's a nice idea, but I'm not sure how universal accepted this "rule" is, as it does wash out the image quite a bit.

Oh, I totally missed that media query... Guess that's what I get for looking at code using a small cell phone.

How do you theme this? The Showcase all has sites with a similar layout, but different color schemes. Do you have to modify the css file?

The very nature of CSS allows you to them this simply by overwriting the styles with your own CSS. You don't need to edit the original CSS.

Yeah, there's global variables at the top of the css file for various settings

I see that now, seems like the site should list out the variables that it uses, and which is used for each element. It mentions `accent` for links, but seems like a handful are defined.

Thanks for doing this, it's a great response to the current trend in providing endless of css and js just to display basic sites

I really like it, but it needs more work on the navigation.

A more conventional looking navigation similar to Bootstrap's would be nice.

I was hoping for a solution like vanilla-js


Ah well.

Install from NPM? Seems strange to have a simple css file as a dependency. Is there a reason for this? Genuine question.

If I'm using npm anyway, I might as well keep all of my dependencies listed in the package.json.

And if I have CSS integrated in my build (using Next.js or something), importing it will add it to the build bundle size info.

It's homogenous and where I'd expect to find things.

There's of course no reason to start using npm wizardry for simple.css alone. That would be silly.

Well one advantage could be that you get the tooling around versioning in case you want automatic minor version updates or stuff like that. And I guess others might find value in inserting it using their bundler as described in the docs if they have other css-related tooling in their bundler like minification or linting.

In the recent years, I have ample themes to style my markdown based blog site which no one reads.

What would the web look like if this (or similar) was the default stylesheet in all browsers?

This is really interesting. I’d like to see it handle layouts like sidebars (aside).

This is nothing new, and it's a bad idea to use this in production. Component you import assume a certain set of default styling, if you overwrite the defaults it'll cause issues. Same as for overwriting javascript prototypes

I love this!!

Will be using this for quick lightweight websites.

Website broken / cuts off on Safari ...

"simple" -- I wish we'd retire this word. We're all in the desert, and there is not yet an oasis.

Where can I get good introductory materials on HTML and CSS? I don't want frameworks.

This is my similar project from 2015: Marx - The classless CSS reset (perfect for Communists) https://mblode.github.io/marx/

aka yet another markdown css

I suppose you could argue it's really just a mind set.. I took from it the idea of classless. Which I've not really used. It would mean you'd have to have a deeper knowledge of the tags that are available. Which as you said, would boil down to about the same as classes.

But if you have a cache hit for minified bootstrap css, which is very likely after a little bit of surfing, then it's 0kb data compared to 4kb.

It's a bit like shared libraries in linux, you might just use the library that almost everyone has installed or you compile a static binary, both solutions have their pros and cons.

This is no longer the case since cache partitioning was released: https://developers.google.com/web/updates/2020/10/http-cache...

Cache keys are now tuples of (host, resource) so if you download and cache bootstrap.js on example.com, and then go to bootstrapsite.com which hosts the same JS file, you'll have to download it again because the cache keys are different:

    example.com -> bootstrap.js -> cached as (example.com, bootstrap.js)
    bootstrapsite.com -> bootstrap.js -> cached as (bootstrapsite.com, bootstrap.js)

    (example.com, bootstrap.js) ≠ (bootstrapsite.com, bootstrap.js)

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