Web Design Using Grids: Tools and Inspiration

When I started this web designing thing all my work just didn’t look “professional”. It was pretty, nice colors, nice fonts, nice bevel/emboss effects…but something was annoying and I didn’t know what.

Then I found out.

Grids are one of the smallest differences between good and great design. It is quite easy to find a way to realign aspects of the design that give it a completely different look. Of course we have also other spacing adjustments but when you put things inside grids everything tends to look much better.

Today we’ll find out together why they make such a difference, who is doing it right, and which tools you can use to have a better grid.

So, grid systems?

There are a few ways to group elements on page. Color, size, alignment. But surely alignment is the least utilized of them. Maybe because there isn’t a “group tool” like we have color tools or size tools (in Photoshop, for example, is quite hard to align things in a rational way).

Then they come to save us.

Grid systems give an easy and safe way to better organize your content, so you don’t need to worry too much about it. Things will be like playing with Lego bricks from now on :)

They have a few preset sizes of blocks and preset number of maximum blocks per line. So what you have to do is to say “hey I want three small blocks and one medium on first line, but one big and one small on the second.” Pretty easy, huh?

Let’s see who has done their homework

Portfolio-like grid: Sylvan-Olliver.com

It isn’t that hard to see that this website is based on a grid, right? Since there’s not a lot of text, the images act like blocks and we have an isolated block as menu.

Mixed blocks: Rivers&Robots

Here you may notice that on the first line the blocks are one size and on the second they change. Because of their good grid system everything looks symmetrical and right (otherwise something would just look strange).

Clean and responsive: Upperdog.se

They have a quite simple structure, but the best part is that their grid system adjusts to screen size and when it detects mobile resolutions it resizes contents blocks so users will get a way better interface.

Lot of content: Drupal.org

Drupal is one of the best CMS’ in the world. But it has to show a lot of content on its homepage. Without a nice grid system all this content would look a mess. And here is the magic, you can see which content is related to which even on this small screenshot (where you just can’t read the content).

Tools

I’m sure you want to use a grid system as soon as possible. So I’ll show you some cool tools to make your life easier.

960.gs

Easy and one of the most used grid systems. A great starting point.

1140px – cssGrid.net

Responsive and easy to use also. If you just want to get started with responsive grid systems, take a look at this one.

Golden Grid

One of the most powerful grid systems. If you want a complete solution go with this one.

BootStrap

Project from Twitter that is also a complete CSS toolkit. Pretty cool :)

Yet Another Multicolumn Layout – YAML.de

Slim framework with accessibility concerns

BlueTrip.org

Collection with some cool tools, this project  is much more than an ordinary grid system. Worth checking out!

ElasticCSS.com

As name says, it focus in easier implementation of fluid, elastic and multicolumn interfaces.

YUI 2 – Grids CSS

4kb file that allows you to do A LOT.

1 Line CSS Grid Framwork (Experiment)

It’s not a framework per se, but has a nice logic and worth checking to remember that sometimes a solution is way easier than it seems.

Are you hungry yet?

So have I missed anything? Do you have any other nice tool to share? I’ll be glad to hear from you via comments!

Rochester Oliveira

I'm a web designer and entrepreneur from Itajubá (MG), Brasil. I love writing about obscure topics and doing some cool stuff. And also I do some FREE stuff, check it out: http://www.roch.com.br/

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Comments

  1. says

    Nice. Maybe I’m a bit old school, but I never thought people designed without grids. But I’ve always used graph paper for my rough sketches. I am going to check out the 960 grid right now. I’ve downloaded it and looks interesting.

  2. Shekhzz says

    I’m a regular visitor of this blog, and whenever I come to this blog – I’ve got some tremendous information. And today is also the same day as always. Thanks for sharing information with us… :)

  3. Shaquil Oliver says

    Grids are what is needed to make your design look great. It has more precision and accuracy to it.

    • says

      Hey Kevin!

      I think I could have explained BlueTip a litlle better. Actually, it has a lot of frameworks mixed and improved, including there BluePrint :) But yeah, I should have talked a little bit about it.

      Thanks for pointing out!

      []’s