Tailwind CSS vs CSS: What is the difference?

Ever thought about the best way to make your website look good? You're not alone. For a long time, we've used CSS to do this. But now, Tailwind CSS seems to take the scene. So, which one's better? And how are they different? Let's read the article and find out!

What is Tailwind CSS?

what is tailwind

Tailwind CSS was developed in 2017 and it was designed to be a utility-first CSS framework, aiming to increase the speed and efficiency of web development. Unlike traditional CSS frameworks like Bootstrap and Foundation which provided predefined components, Tailwind CSS gave developers low-level utility classes to build custom designs easily.


  • Utility-First: Tailwind CSS provides utility classes that can be composed to build any design, directly in your HTML markup.
  • Responsive Design: Tailwind CSS is built with responsiveness in mind.
  • Customizable: Using the tailwind.config.js file, developers can extend the default set of utilities.
  • Performance-Oriented: Tailwind CSS encourages "purging" unused styles.

What about CSS?

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) became an official W3C recommendation in 1996. It was designed to separate content from presentation, and over the years, CSS has evolved through multiple versions, adding a lot of features.


  • Selectors: An example would be: the h1 selector would target all <h1> elements in the HTML document.
  • Properties and Values: Once a selector targets an element, it uses properties and values to define the styles for that element.
  • Cascading: As the name suggests, the "cascading" in CSS refers to the hierarchy of priority a browser should follow when it encounters conflicting style rules.
  • Inheritance: Some properties in CSS are inherited from parent elements to child elements unless otherwise specified.
  • Box Model: Describes how space is distributed around and between elements: margins, borders, padding.
  • Responsive and Adaptive Design: Media queries, Relative Units (e.g., em, rem), and Flexbox.

Key Differences Between Tailwind CSS and CSS

Both Tailwind CSS and CSS have their strengths and ideal use-cases, and the choice depends on individual or team preference.

1. Syntax and Semantics

  • Traditional CSS uses selectors target elements, and properties to define styles.

.button {
   background-color: blue;
   color: white;
   padding: 10px 20px;

  • Tailwind CSS: Uses utility classes to inline styles within the HTML markup. The same button styling in Tailwind might look like:

<button class="bg-blue-500 text-white px-10 py-20">Click Me</button>

2. Responsiveness

  • Traditional CSS: Uses media queries to define styles for different breakpoints.

@media (min-width: 768px) {
  .button {
    padding: 15px 30px;

  • Tailwind CSS: Uses prefixed utility classes to denote breakpoints.

<button class="px-10 py-20 md:px-15 md:py-30">Click Me</button>

3. Customization Capabilities

  • Traditional CSS: Lets you style things any way you want. It might require more complex documentation or a design system to maintain consistency across larger projects.
  • Tailwind CSS: While highly customizable through its configuration file, Tailwind CSS ensure consistency by restricting developers to a defined set of utility classes (unless they manually add more).

Which Should You Choose: CSS or Tailwind CSS?

Both traditional CSS and Tailwind CSS come with their respective advantages and challenges.


  • Pros: Full control over styles, familiarity for many developers, and compatibility with any web project.
  • Cons: For big projects without a design system or documentation, it can get tricky and lead to errors. inconsistencies.

Tailwind CSS:

  • Pros: Quick development due to utility classes, promotes consistent design, and optimized for performance out-of-the-box with unused style purging.
  • Cons: Has a learning curve if you're used to traditional CSS, and might not be ideal for projects that demand a unique design for every element.


  • For Newbies: If you're just starting, learning CSS first can give a solid foundation, making it easier to understand frameworks like Tailwind CSS later.
  • For Rapid Prototyping: Tailwind CSS is the one when you need to quickly prototype a design, thanks to its utility classes.
  • For Larger Projects: Both can work, but it depends on the team's preference.
  • For Maximul Design Control: If you need pixel-perfect designs and full control over every style detail, traditional CSS may work best.
  • For Performance: Tailwind CSS provides built-in tools for purging unused styles, making it better in this regard.

Final thoughts

Choosing between CSS and Tailwind CSS is about what fits your journey best. Whether you're a newbie starting your coding journey or a seasoned developer looking for efficiency, it's essential to weigh your needs, preferences, and the project's requirements. Both traditional and Tailwind CSS are awesome tools for website styling.

Updated on 2023-06-11