Jun 10, 2015

nanogrid: Fluid responsive CSS grid with gutters

Inspired by Ungrid and BASSCSS I have decided to build on top of their shoulders. Welcome the nanogrid.


Ungrid is a nifty grid that packs everything in less than a hundred bytes by using display: table trick:

@media (min-width: 30em) {
    .row { width: 100%; display: table; table-layout: fixed; }
    .col { display: table-cell; }

And it's quite powerful see the demo plus using display: table is a nifty trick that solves issues with Flexbox. Actually it seems the browsers are getting up to speed with Flexible Box Layout. Even if it's time to jump on the F-train, this is a cool experiment.


Another sweet concept that offers a bunch of immutable css styles that allow you to work by writing everything in HTML. Check the examples. It offer a grid of it's own and the opportunity to combine the best of both worlds is too good to pass up.


Let's use SASS for this, as I am most comfortable with it. And add some variables to the mix:

$nanogrid-breakpoint: 30em !default
@media (min-width: $nanogrid-breakpoint)
    width: 100%
    display: table
    table-layout: fixed
    display: table-cell

Throw in grid classes from BASSCSS grid module. Using sass @for we can calculate all the values upfront.

  float: left
  box-sizing: border-box

  float: right
  box-sizing: border-box

@for $i from 1 through 12
    width: #{$i/12 * 100%}
  .row .col-#{$i}
    float: none

Okay time to add some gutters. The tricky part here is that you can't simply use negative margins as they don't work well on display: table. Element only moves to the left. We could solve it by using some container element as Chris Nager did here But that is not very fun so as I know for fact that all my users are using Chrome I can once again resort to the power of calc.

Let's also fix the counter effect of floats introduced by BASSCSS grid and add a gutter variable.

$nanogrid-gutter: 1rem

  display: table
  table-layout: fixed
  width: calc(100% + #{$nanogrid-gutter})
  margin: 0 #{-$nanogrid-gutter/2}

    float: none
    display: table-cell
    padding: 0 #{$nanogrid-gutter/2}

This introduces the negative margin on the right so it's best to be aware of it.

Good parts

What's the point of it? It is small, flexible, the columns are arranged automatically. All columns are having equal height and you don't need clearfix and you can center content vertically.

There are some nuances though as the negative margin should be negated on the right if you are using the grid as the top element on the page. Either with an overflow: hidden container or body padding.

I have set up a homepage for it firedev/nanogrid so have a look.


Nick Ostrovsky

Full-stack designer. I like to keep things as minimal and as simple as possible.

Started to program with Sinclair Spectrum and has moved to user experience and interfaces since. Developed and contributed to projects for major brands such as L'Oreal, JTI and AB InBev among others. I am currently working as an independent contractor.

I live in Phuket, Thailand and enjoy the beautiful scenery with wife and two daughters.