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Tired of Bootstrap? Discover inuit.css!

☕ 7 min read

Is inuit.css built for you?

To make it easy, you could find this framework interesting in theses cases:

  • You need to quickly setup a decent CSS architecture
  • You discover/know about Object Oriented advantages and like its scalability and reusability
  • You should implement a specific design which doesn’t fit well with the “default” elements of others frameworks
  • You like the framework concept but, as a developer, you like to get your hand dirty into code

However, this framework may not be a good choice for you in such a situation:

  • You are searching for a CSS framework which takes care of elements design

Personally, I used a lot Bootstrap. But, working on projects where design has been imposed, I faced the issue of being overriding the default design of the framework. You should most of the time cancel defaults effects, change color, size, … It works, but you are bloating your CSS with useless code because you defined and redefined the same properties of same elements. It could have been better.

Thus, when you want to produce an optimal CSS and you appreciate OOCSS values, you realized that, under some circumstances, Bootstrap is not always the ideal solution.

I finally found by chance inuit.css. As I’m a curious guy, I gave it a try. I love it!

As an overview, I’d suggest you to play around with inuit.css fiddles!


inuit.css was created in April 2011 by Harry Roberts.

This guy made the assumption that a CSS framework should bring some kind of logic and guideline to the developer, without impose any specific design. As this dude isn’t that bad in term of CSS best practices, he made them a framework.

inuit.css is a powerful, scalable, Sass-based, BEM, OOCSS framework.

inuit.css is developed in Sass. Sass is a CSS preprocessor, some kind of improved CSS language which allows you to do a bunch of nice stuff that vanilla CSS can’t do (nested selectors, loops, conditions, etc.). The preprocessor code should be compiled to produce the final CSS file which would be used for the browser. Sass files just make the development a piece of cake.

inuit.css use the BEM naming convention. This is a very opiniated choice of its creator which can ba, as every best practice, questionable (or at least debated). It can hurts your feelings, mostly because it looks ugly the very first time you see it, but it’s really worthy. I’d suggest you to read Harry Roberts’ post about that as he explained it very well.

inuit.css is an OOCSS framework. I mean that every component of the framework is an independent, combinable and reusable object. Futhermore, the framework takes advantages from that philosophy which means that you can extend it without any hassle. I’ll probably write a post about OOCSS principles. Until then I can suggest you to have a look at Nicole Sullivan’s slides on this topic.


Pre-requisite - have Sass installed in order to compile the code.

At present, inuit.css has reached v5.0, which considerably change the way you implement it regarding older versions.

The idea was to make it a module so you can update the core without disturb the project in which it’s implemented. All project specific configurations have been exported outside of the core, so you have no trouble in upgrading this one.

Method 1 - With Git

For a new project, just clone the repo as follow:

$ git clone --recursive git@github.com:csswizardry/inuit.css-web-template.git your-project-folder
$ cd your-project-folder
$ ./go

The go script install the las version of inuit.css.

Tip - If you want to install the framework in an existing project:

$ git submodule add git://github.com/csswizardry/inuit.css.git your-project-folder/inuit.css

Then you’ll need to organize your architecture regarding your needs, with the inpiration of the css/ folder from the web template.

In order to update the framework core, you just need to update the git submodule:

$ git submodule update

Method 2 - Without Git

Downloas the web template and then the framework core. Place the core under the css/ folder of the web template. Then copy all of these in your-project-folder.

In order to update the framework core, you just need to replace the inuit.css folder with the most recent version.

Architecture and working

Ideally, create a ui/ folder beside the inuit.css/ one to put every file which deals with the design of your project.

|-- inuit.css/         # Framework core - do not touch
|   |-- generic/       # Standards elements (clearfix, reset)
|   |-- base/          # Base elements (tables, forms, …)
|   |-- objects/       # Modular elements (grid, nav, …)
|   |-- _defaults.scss # Defaults variables
|   |-- _inuit.scss    # Main setup file of the core
|-- ui/                # Folder containing your Sass files
|-- _vars.scss         # Project specific variables
|-- _style.scss        # Main setup file of your project
|-- watch              # Script which watch for changes

The inuit.css/ folder contains the framework core. The trick is not to touche anything under. Doing so, the framework can be updated without hassle nor risk for specific configuration override, which was not the cas in previous versions of inuit.css. As the framework doesn’t impact the design of elements, considering inuit.css/ as a module you can update sounds relevant.

The ui/ folder ideally contains your own style files. It’s up to you: your rules, your code of conduct.

The _vars.scss file should only contain the framework variables you’d like to override. You can find the list of existing variables in inuit.css/_defaults.scss. The suggested process is the following:

  1. copy the default variable in _vars.scss
  2. change $var: defaultvalue!default; for $var: newvalue;
  3. that’s it

You’ll also find in this file that you can activate or deactivate any of the objects/ components of the framework, regarding your needs.

The _style.scss file imports Sass files for the CSS compilation. It’s the great architect. It’s up to you to add files you’ll eventually create under ui/.

The watch script allows Sass to watch for changes in order to do the compilation automatically. It’s not necessary, it depends on your personal workflow… It’s up to you (always)! You can customize it. It basically launch the following command:

$ sass --watch style.scss:style.min.css --style compressed

But wait, you don’t have to remember this! Just execute the file and you’re done:

$ ./watch

At the end, you’ll have a unique, compressed and optimized CSS file you just need to load from your HTML:

<link rel="stylesheet" href="/your-css-folder/style.min.css">

LESS version? Yes sir!

For those who, just like me, use LESS instead of Sass: a LESS port for inuit.css exists and is maintained by Peter Wilson and myself.

Indeed, LESS is a relevant alternative to Sass, even though Sass is more powerful. This preprocessor is easier to adopt at a first sight, IMHO. Futhermore, it works with Javascript, not Ruby.

The only problem is that it’s not necessarily up-to-date as inuit.css is already v5.0 and the LESS port still correspond to the v4.3.7.

Edit 4/15 - Version is now up-to-date with v4.5 and v5.0.0 is coming!

Edit 5/23 - The current version is now v5.0.0 coming with the web template and framework core (same principle, in LESS).

For those who’d eventually have some questions about the framework, don’t hesitate to put comments below.

If you’re curious and want to discover what is fuckingood CSS, give it a try!

Published 11 Apr 2013Discuss this article on Twitter

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I’m the author of understandlegacycode.com.

Every week, I share practical tips to help people work with Legacy Code.

I write about VS Code, web development and life in general.