What is Utility-first?

By onjsdev

Dec 10th, 2023

Utility-first is a design and development approach that focuses on building user interfaces using small, pre-defined building blocks called utility classes. These classes are highly specific and each one performs a single, well-defined task, such as in styling setting margin, padding, font size, color, or layout properties.

Key characteristics of utility-first:

  • Low-level classes: Utility classes offer fine-grained control over individual styles.
  • Composable: You combine multiple utility classes to achieve the desired style for each element.
  • Component-based: You can easily build reusable components by grouping utility classes.
  • Fast and efficient: Writing styles becomes faster and more intuitive compared to traditional methodologies.
  • Visually consistent: Using a predefined set of utilities ensures consistency across your entire user interface.

How utility-first works?

Utility-first approach is mostly used in styling with CSS. TailwindCSS is a good example for it.

Here's a simple example

<button class="bg-blue-500 text-white font-bold py-2 px-4 rounded">Click me!</button>

This code uses several utility classes to style the button:

  • bg-blue-500: Sets the background color to blue
  • text-white: Sets the text color to white
  • font-bold: Makes the text bold
  • py-2: Sets the vertical padding to 2 units
  • px-4: Sets the horizontal padding to 4 units
  • rounded: Adds rounded corners to the button

By combining these classes, we achieved a fully styled button without writing any custom CSS rules.


Utility-first is a powerful and flexible approach for building modern user interfaces. However, it's essential to note that it may not be the best fit for every project or team. Some developers prefer more traditional CSS approaches.

Thank you for reading.