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How To Learn CSS

Css Tricks - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 9:01am

Outside of my extreme envy of the SEO they are going to get out of this, Rachel is spot on here. Learning CSS has some pillars, like language syntax, selectors, layout, and flow that, once learned, unlock your CSS merit badge.

What I would add is that if you really want to learn CSS, give yourself a project that has real-world stakes (like a personal website), so what you are doing with CSS feels important and gives you the incentive to do interesting things and get it right.

Keith Grant has some interesting thoughts on relating the concept of a "Common Core" to CSS:

For example, if you need to add 32 + 67, break the problem up to 30 + 60 and 2 + 7, both of which are much easier to do in your head. As someone who excelled at math in school, I have found that most of these Common Core tricks are things I discovered on my own as a student, and are precisely why I was able to do well in the subject.

We need common core tricks like this for CSS.

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Sass Techniques from the Trenches

Css Tricks - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 4:56am

Having been in the web development industry for more than 14 years, I’ve seen and written my fair share of good and bad CSS. When I began at Ramsey Solutions five years ago, I was introduced to Sass. It blew my mind how useful it was! I dove right in and wanted to learn everything I could about it. Over the past five years, I’ve utilized a number of different Sass techniques and patterns and fell in love with some that, to steal Apple’s phrase, just work.

In this article, I’ll explore a wide range of topics:

In my experience, finding the balance between simple and complex is the crucial component to making great software. Software should not only be easy for people to use, but for you and other developers to maintain in the future. I’d consider these techniques to be advanced, but not necessarily clever or complex, on purpose!

"Everyone knows that debugging is twice as hard as writing a program in the first place. So if you’re as clever as you can be when you write it, how will you ever debug it?"

—The Elements of Programming and Style (2nd Edition), Chapter 2

With that in mind, let’s first look at Sass’ ampersand.

The power of the ampersand

There are many different naming conventions you can use to organize your CSS. The one I enjoy using the most is SUIT, a variation of BEM (which is short for Block, Element, Modifier). If you’re unfamiliar with SUIT or BEM, I’d recommend taking a peek at one or both of them before moving on. I’ll be using the SUIT convention throughout the rest of this article.

Whatever naming convention you choose, the base idea is that every styled element gets its own class name, prepended with the component name. This idea is important for how some of the following organization works. Also, this article is descriptive, not prescriptive. Every project is different. You need to do what works best for your project and your team.

The ampersand is the main reason I like to use SUIT, BEM, and conventions like them. It allows me to use nesting and scoping without either biting back with specificity. Here’s an example. Without using the ampersand, I would need to create separate selectors to create -title and -content elements.

.MyComponent { .MyComponent-title {} } .MyComponent-content {} // Compiles to .MyComponent .MyComponent-title {} // Not what we want. Unnecessary specificity! .MyComponent-content {} // Desired result

When using SUIT, I want the second result for -content to be how I write all my selectors. To do so, I would need to repeat the name of the component throughout. This increases my chance to mistype the name of the component as I write new styles. It’s also very noisy as it ends up ignoring the beginning of many selectors which can lead to glossing over obvious errors.

.MyComponent {} .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent-content {} .MyComponent-author {} // Etc.

If this were normal CSS, we’d be stuck writing the above. Since we’re using Sass, there’s a much better approach using the ampersand. The ampersand is amazing because it contains a reference to the current selector along with any parents.

.A { // & = '.A' .B { // & = '.A .B' .C { // & = '.A .B .C' } } }

You can see in the above example how the ampersand references each selector in the chain as it goes deeper into the nested code. By utilizing this feature, we can create new selectors without having to rewrite the name of the component each and every time.

.MyComponent { &-title {} &-content {} } // Compiles to .MyComponent {} .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent-content {}

This is great because we can take advantage of the ampersand to write the name of the component one time and simply reference the component name throughout. This decreases the chance that the component name is mistyped. Plus, the document as a whole becomes easier to read without .MyComponent repeated all over the code.

There are times when the component needs a variant or modifier, as they’re called in SUIT and BEM. Using the ampersand pattern makes it easier to create modifiers.

<div class="MyComponent MyComponent--xmasTheme"></div> .MyComponent { &--xmasTheme {} } // Compiles to .MyComponent {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme {}

"But, what about modifying the child elements?" you might ask. "How are those selectors created? The modifier isn’t needed on every element, right?"

This is where variables can help!

Variables and scoping

In the past, I’ve created modifiers a few different ways. Most of the time, I’d rewrite the special theme name I want to apply when modifying the element.

.MyComponent { &-title { .MyComponent--xmasTheme & { } } &-content { .MyComponent--xmasTheme & { } } } // Compiles to .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent-content {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-content {}

This gets the job done, but I’m back to rewriting the component name in multiple places, not to mention the modifier name. There’s definitely a better way to do this. Enter Sass variables.

Before we explore Sass variables with selectors, we need to understand how they’re scoped. Sass variables have scope, just like they would in JavaScript, Ruby, or any other programming language. If declared outside of a selector, the variable is available to every selector in the document after its declaration.

$fontSize: 1.4rem; .a { font-size: $fontSize; } .b { font-size: $fontSize; }

Variables declared inside a selector are scoped only to that selector and its children.

$fontSize: 1.4rem; .MyComponent { $fontWeight: 600; font-size: $fontSize; &-title { font-weight: $fontWeight; // Works! } } .MyComponent2 { font-size: $fontSize; &-title { font-weight: $fontWeight; // produces an "undefined variable" error } }

We know variables can store font names, integers, colors, etc. Did you know it can also store selectors? Using string interpolation, we can create new selectors with the variable.

// Sass string interpolation syntax is #{VARIABLE} $block: ".MyComponent"; #{$block} { &-title { #{$block}--xmasTheme & { } } } // Compiles to .MyComponent {} .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-title {}

That’s cool, but the variable is globally scoped. We can fix that by creating the $block variable inside the component declaration, which would scope it to that component. Then we can re-use the $block variable in other components. This helps DRY up the theme modifier.

.MyComponent { $block: '.MyComponent'; &-title { #{$block}--xmasTheme & { } } &-content { #{$block}--xmasTheme & { } } } // Compiles to .MyComponent {} .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent-content {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-content {}

This is closer, but again, we have to write the theme name over and over. Let’s store that in a variable too!

.MyComponent { $block: '.MyComponent'; $xmasTheme: '.MyComponent--xmasTheme'; &-title { #{$xmasTheme} & { } } }

This is much better! However, we can improve this even further. Variables can also store the value of the ampersand!

.MyComponent { $block: &; $xmasTheme: #{&}--xmasTheme; &-title { #{$xmasTheme} & { } } } // Still compiles to .MyComponent {} .MyComponent-title {} .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-title {}

Now that’s what I’m talking about! "Caching" the selector with ampersand allows us to create our modifiers at the top and keep the theme modifications with the element it’s modifying.

"Sure, that works at the top level," you say. "But what if you are nested really deep, like eight levels in?" You ask great questions.

No matter how deep the nest, this pattern always works because the main component name is never attached to any of the children, thanks to the SUIT naming convention and ampersand combo.

.MyComponent { $block: &; $xmasTheme: #{&}--xmasTheme; &-content { font-size: 1.5rem; color: blue; ul { li { strong { span { &::before { background-color: blue; #{$xmasTheme} & { background-color: red; } } } } } } } } // Compiles to .MyComponent-content { font-size: 1.5rem; color: blue; } .MyComponent-content ul li strong span::before { background-color: blue; } /* * The theme is still appended to the beginning of the selector! * Now, we never need to write deeply nested Sass that's hard to maintain and * extremely brittle: https://css-tricks.com/sass-selector-combining/ */ .MyComponent--xmasTheme .MyComponent-content ul li strong span::before { background-color: red; }

Code organization is the main reason I like to use this pattern.

  • It’s relatively DRY
  • It supports the "opt-in" approach, which keeps modifiers with the elements they modify
  • Naming stuff is hard but this enables us to reuse common element names like "title" and "content"
  • It’s low-lift to add a modifier to a component by placing the modifier class on the parent component

"Hhhmmmmm... doesn’t that get hard to read though after you create a bunch of different components? How do you know where you’re at when everything is named &-title and &-content?"

You continue to ask great questions. Who said the source Sass had to be in one file? We can import those components, so let’s turn to that topic!

The importance of imports Credit: @Julien_He

One of Sass’ best features is @import. We can create separate Sass files (partials) and import them into other Sass files that compile together with the imported file located at the spot it’s imported. This makes it easy to package up related styles for components, utilities, etc. and pull them into a single file. Without @import, we’d need to link to separate CSS files (creating numerous network requests, which is badong) or write everything in a single stylesheet (which is tough to navigate and maintain).

.Component1 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } .Component2 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } .Component3 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } .Component4 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } .Component5 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } // A couple hundred lines later... .Component7384 { &-title {} &-content {} &-author {} } // WHERE AM I?

One of the more popular methodologies for organizing Sass files is the 7-1 Pattern. That’s seven distinct folders containing Sass files that are imported into a single Sass file.

Those folders are:

  • abstracts
  • base
  • components
  • layout
  • pages
  • themes
  • vendor

Use @import to pull each Sass file in those folder into a main Sass file. We want to import them in the following order to maintain good scope and avoid conflicts during compilation:

  1. abstracts
  2. vendor
  3. base
  4. layout
  5. components
  6. pages
  7. themes
@import 'abstracts/variables'; @import 'abstracts/functions'; @import 'abstracts/mixins'; @import 'vendors/some-third-party-component'; @import 'base/normalize'; @import 'layout/navigation'; @import 'layout/header'; @import 'layout/footer'; @import 'layout/sidebar'; @import 'layout/forms'; @import 'components/buttons'; @import 'components/hero'; @import 'components/pull-quote'; @import 'pages/home'; @import 'pages/contact'; @import 'themes/default'; @import 'themes/admin';

You may or may not want to use all of these folders (I personally don’t use the theme folder since I keep themes with their components), but the idea of separating all of styles into distinct files makes it easier to maintain and find code.

More of the benefits of using this approach:

  • Small components are easier to read and understand
  • Debugging becomes simpler
  • It’s clearer to determine when a new component should be created — like when a single component file gets to be too long, or the selector chain is too complex
  • This emphasizes re-usage — for example, it might make sense to generalize three component files that essentially do the same thing into one component

Speaking of re-usage, there are eventually patterns that get used often. That’s when we can reach for mixins.

Mixin’ it up

Mixins are a great way to reuse styles throughout a project. Let’s walk through creating a simple mixin and then give it a little bit of intelligence.

The designer I work with on a regular basis always sets font-size, font-weight, and line-height to specific values. I found myself typing all three out every time I needed to adjust the fonts for a component or element, so I created a mixin to quickly set those values. It’s like a little function I can use to define those properties without having to write them in full.

@mixin text($size, $lineHeight, $weight) { font-size: $size; line-height: $lineHeight; font-weight: $weight; }

At this point, the mixin is pretty simple—it resembles something like a function in JavaScript. There’s the name of the mixin (text) and it takes in three arguments. Each argument is tied to a CSS property. When the mixin is called, Sass will copy the properties and the pass in the argument values.

.MyComponent { @include text(18px, 27px, 500); } // Compiles to .MyComponent { font-size: 18px; line-height: 27px; font-weight: 500; }

While it’s a good demonstration, this particular mixin is a little limited. It assumes we always want to use the font-size, line-height, and font-weight properties when it’s called. So let’s use Sass’ if statement to help control the output.

@mixin text($size, $lineHeight, $weight) { // If the $size argument is not empty, then output the argument @if $size != null { font-size: $size; } // If the $lineHeight argument is not empty, then output the argument @if $lineHeight != null { line-height: $lineHeight; } // If the $weight argument is not empty, then output the argument @if $weight != null { font-weight: $weight; } } .MyComponent { @include text(12px, null, 300); } // Compiles to .MyComponent { font-size: 12px; font-weight: 300; }

That’s better, but not quite there. If I try to use the mixin without using null as a parameter on the values I don’t want to use or provide, Sass will generate an error:

.MyComponent { @include text(12px, null); // left off $weight } // Compiles to an error: // "Mixin text is missing argument $weight."

To get around this, we can add default values to the parameters, allowing us to leave them off the function call. All optional parameters have to be declared after any required parameters.

// We define `null` as the default value for each argument @mixin text($size: null, $lineHeight: null, $weight: null) { @if $size != null { font-size: $size; } @if $lineHeight != null { line-height: $lineHeight; } @if $weight != null { font-weight: $weight; } } .MyComponent { &-title { @include text(16px, 19px, 600); } &-author { @include text($weight: 800, $size: 12px); } } // Compiles to .MyComponent-title { font-size: 16px; line-height: 19px; font-weight: 600; } .MyComponent-author { font-size: 12px; font-weight: 800; }

Not only do default argument values make the mixin easier to use, but we also gain the ability to name parameters and give them values that may be commonly used. On Line 21 above, the mixin is being called with the arguments out of order, but since the values are being called out as well, the mixin knows how to apply them.

There’s a particular mixin that I use on a daily basis: min-width. I prefer to create all my sites mobile first, or basically with the smallest viewport in mind. As the viewport grows wider, I define breakpoints to adjust the layout and the code for it. This is where I reach for the min-width mixin.

// Let's name this "min-width" and take a single argument we can // use to define the viewport width in a media query. @mixin min-width($threshold) { // We're calling another function (scut-rem) to convert pixels to rem units. // We'll cover that in the next section. @media screen and (min-width: scut-rem($threshold)) { @content; } } .MyComponent { display: block; // Call the min-width mixin and pass 768 as the argument. // min-width passes 768 and scut-rem converts the unit. @include min-width(768) { display: flex; } } // Compiles to .MyComponent { display: block; } @media screen and (min-width: 48rem) { .MyComponent { display: flex; } }

There are a couple of new ideas here. The mixin has a nested function called @content. So, in the .MyComponent class, we’re no longer calling the mixin alone, but also a block of code that gets output inside the media query that’s generated. The resulting code will compile where @content is called. This allows the mixin to take care of the @media declaration and still accept custom code for that particular breakpoint.

I also am including the mixin within the .MyComponent declaration. Some people advocate keeping all responsive calls in a separate stylesheet to reduce the amount of times @media is written out in a stylesheet. Personally, I prefer to keep all variations and changes that a component can go through with that component’s declaration. It tends to make it easier to keep track of what’s going on and help debug the component if something doesn’t go right, rather than sifting through multiple files.

Did you notice the scut-rem function in there? That is a Sass function taken from a Sass library called Scut, created by David The Clark. Let’s take a look at how that works.

Getting functional

A function differs from a mixin in that mixins are meant to output common groups of properties, while a function modifies properties based on arguments that return a new result. In this case, scut-rem takes a pixel value and converts it to a rem value. This allows us to think in pixels, while working with rem units behind the scenes to avoid all that math.

I’ve simplified scut-rem in this example because it has a few extra features that utilize loops and lists, which are out of the scope of what we’re covering here. Let’s look at the function in its entirety, then break it down step-by-step.

// Simplified from the original source $scut-rem-base: 16 !default; @function scut-strip-unit ($num) { @return $num / ($num * 0 + 1); } @function scut-rem ($pixels) { @return scut-strip-unit($pixels) / $scut-rem-base * 1rem; } .MyComponent { font-size: scut-rem(18px); } // Compiles to .MyComponent { font-size: 1.125rem; }

The first thing to note is the declaration on Line 2. It’s using !default when declaring a variable, which tells Sass to set the value to 16 unless this variable is already defined. So if a variable is declared earlier in the stylesheet with a different value, it won’t be overridden here.

$fontSize: 16px; $fontSize: 12px !default; .MyComponent { font-size: $fontSize; } // Compiles to .MyComponent { font-size: 16px; }

The next piece of the puzzle is scut-strip-unit. This function takes a px, rem, percent or other suffixed value and removes the unit label. Calling scut-strip-unit(12px) returns 12 instead of 12px. How does that work? In Sass, a unit divided by another unit of the same type will strip the unit and return the digit.

12px / 1px = 12

Now that we know that, let’s look at the scut-strip-unit function again.

@function scut-strip-unit ($num) { @return $num / ($num * 0 + 1); }

The function takes in a unit and divides it by 1 of the same unit. So if we pass in 12px, the function would look like: @return 12px / (12px * 0 + 1). Following the order of operations, Sass evaluates what’s in the parentheses first. Sass smartly ignores the px label, evaluates the expression, and tacks px back on once it’s done: 12 * 0 + 1 = 1px. The equation is now 12px / 1px which we know returns 12.

Why is this important to scut-rem? Looks look at it again.

$scut-rem-base: 16 !default; @function scut-rem ($pixels) { @return scut-strip-unit($pixels) / $scut-rem-base * 1rem; } .MyComponent { font-size: scut-rem(18px); }

On Line 4, the scut-strip-unit function removes px from the argument and returns 18. The base variable is equal to 16 which turns the equation into: 18 / 16 * 1rem. Remember, Sass ignores any unit until the end of the equation, so 18 / 16 = 1.125. That result multiplied by 1rem gives us 1.125rem. Since Scut strips the unit off of the argument, we can call scut-rem with unit-less values, like scut-rem(18).

I don’t write that many functions because I try to keep the stuff I create as simple as possible. Being able to do some complex conversions using something like scut-rem is helpful though.

The selector order that placeholders mess up End up where I think it did, that CSS?

I really don’t like to use placeholders and @extend in my code. I find it easy to get in trouble with them for a couple different reasons.

Be careful what is extended

I tried writing out some examples to demonstrate why using @extend can be problematic, but I have used them so little that I can’t create any decent examples. When I first learned Sass, I was surrounded by teammates who’ve already gone through the trials and tribulations. My friend Jon Bebee wrote an extremely excellent article on how @extend can get you into trouble. It’s a quick read and worth the time, so I’ll wait.

About those placeholders...

Jon proposes using placeholders as a solution to the problem he outlines: Placeholders don’t output any code until they’re used with @extend.

// % denotes an extended block %item { display: block; width: 50%; margin: 0 auto; } .MyComponent { @extend %item; color: blue; } // Compiles to .MyComponent { display: block; width: 50%; margin: 0 auto; } .MyComponent { color: blue; }

OK, wait. So it output .MyComponent twice? Why didn’t it simply combine the selectors?

These are the questions I had when I first started using placeholders (and then subsequently stopped). The clue is the name itself. Placeholders simply hold a reference to the place in the stylesheet they were declared. While a mixin copies the properties to the location it is used, placeholders copy the selector to the place where the placeholder was defined. As a result, it copies the .MyComponent selector and places it where %item is declared. Consider the following example:

%flexy { display: flex; } .A { color: blue; } .B { @extend: %flexy; color: green; } .C { @extend: %flexy; color: red; } // Compiles to .B, .C { display: flex; } .A { color: blue; } .B { color: green; } .C { color: red; }

Even though B and C are declared further down in the stylesheet, the placeholder places the extended properties tall the way up to where it was originally declared. That’s not a big deal in this example because it’s really close to the source where it’s used. However, if we’re adhering to something like the 7-1 Pattern we covered earlier, then placeholders would be defined in a partial in the abstracts folder, which is one of the first imported files. That puts a lot of style between where the extend is intended and where it’s actually used. That can be hard to maintain as well as hard to debug.

Sass Guidelines (of course) does a great job covering placeholders and extend and I would recommend reading it. It not only explains the extend feature, but at the end, advocates against using it:

Opinions seem to be extremely divided regarding the benefits and problems from @extend to the point where many developers including myself have been advocating against it, [...]

There are many other features of Sass I didn’t cover here, like loops and lists, but I’ve honestly haven’t relied on those features as much as the ones we did cover in this article. Take a look through the Sass documentation, if for nothing else, to see what things do. You may not find a use for everything right away, but a situation may come up and having that knowledge in your back pocket is priceless.

Let me know if I missed something or got something wrong! I’m always open to new ideas and would love to discuss it with you!

Further Reading

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The 10,000 Year Clock Design Principals

Css Tricks - Tue, 01/08/2019 - 4:55am

In the new year edition of the Clearleft newsletter, Jeremy Keith linked to the design principals Danny Hillis thought about while considering a clock that would work for 10,000 years.

Here's part of that page, satisfyingly displayed as a <dl>:

Longevity:
Go slow
Avoid sliding friction (gears)
Avoid ticking
Stay clean
Stay dry
Expect bad weather
Expect earthquakes
Expect non-malicious human interaction
Dont tempt thieves
Maintainability and transparency:
Use familiar materials
Allow inspection
Rehearse motions
Make it easy to build spare parts
Expect restarts
Include the manual
Scalability and Evolvabilty:
Make all parts similar size
Separate functions
Provide simple interfaces

How... good.

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Reader Mode: The Button to Beat

Css Tricks - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 4:57am

As a young nerd, I loved to immerse myself in digital worlds, learning the ins and outs of the rules someone else had created for me (intentionally or not). But the older and crankier I get, the more I find myself losing patience when navigating these "delightful" experiences.

This fascination was great for my eventual career as a designer, but unfortunately, it was also like teaching someone kerning—once you learn how to quantify a bad user experience, you can’t go back.

These days, I’m an impatient grump who doesn't want to take work home. I just want to get in, get what I need, and get out. If there’s any delight I’m experiencing, it’s lost on me because I had such an effortless and annoyance-free time that it simply doesn’t stand out.

One of the features I find myself turning to over and over again is Safari’s Reader Mode. I read a lot of news, and with that comes a lot of bullshit. I now tap the cryptic little icon almost reflexively, confident that I’ll be transported to a land where I can focus on what matters most to me: content.

Tapping this button transports me to a land free of newsletter signup modals, surveys, pop-ups, pop-unders, flashing ad banners, automatically-playing video, app install prompts, breaking news alerts, passive-aggressive interstitials, and faux notification permission banners. It slices through the undesirable and unnecessary with ease; the Alexander the Great to the Gordian Knot that is poor user interface design.

Firefox also offers this reading mode. So does Edge. I find myself using it more and more on my laptop with every passing day—especially for reading long-form articles, like this piece. I’d be very surprised to see Chrome institute one natively, as Google is ultimately in the advertising business.

I’m not going to talk about how to best craft your content for Reader Mode. Mandy Michael already covered this in her article, Building websites for Safari Reader Mode and other reading apps. She’s great, and it is a must-read piece.

Building with accessible HTML standards is not a dead-end skill. Far from it. If you spend the effort to craft your experiences with a mind to semantics from the start, your content will be able to adapt to specialized reading modes, as well as whatever the future holds with little to no additional effort. Today’s Reader Mode could be tomorrow’s smart bathroom mirror.

Spending the effort is an important point: Good design isn’t about forcing someone to walk a tightrope across your carefully manicured lawn. Nor is it a puzzle box casually tossed to the user, hoping they’ll unlock it to reveal a hidden treasure. Good design is about doing the hard work to accommodate the different ways people access a solution to an identified problem.

For reading articles, the core problem is turning my ignorance about an issue into understanding (the funding model for this is a whole other complicated concern). The more obstructions you throw in my way to achieve this goal, the more I am inclined to leave and get my understanding elsewhere—all I’ll remember is how poor a time I had while trying to access your content. What is the value of an ad impression if it ultimately leads to that user never returning?

But this isn’t a website about digital media strategy, nor is it one about user conversion. This is a website about CSS and front-end development. What we’re going to discuss is how to keep people like me from hitting that button by relying on this nifty programming language the W3C so wisely gave us. Because if you don’t, all that other stuff—your newsletter signup boxes, your comments, your related articles, your engagement—will be cut away.

Inclusivity

What you want to do first is cast a wide net. The more people you can proactively accommodate from the outset, the more people you don’t unintentionally alienate. Our design choices should be invisible—we’re not trying to say, "this is for you." That should be self-evident. What we’re trying to avoid are scenarios where someone encounters something that communicates, "this is for someone else."

It’s not too difficult, provided you know what to look out for. Carie Fisher outlines the bulk of it in her brilliant post, Designing Accessible Content: Typography, Font Styling, and Structure.

Priority

A basic paragraph style is the wellspring from which all your other type decisions should flow. It’s probably the most common and frequently invoked content type a website has, so it’s important to treat it with the care and respect it deserves. The web is typography, after all.

Heydon Pickering wrote about styling paragraphs way back when in 2011 with his post, The Perfect Paragraph. And here’s the thing: eight years later, this is all still solid advice (sheesh, I’ve been doing this for awhile). When you make design decisions that work with the grain of the web platform, you gain the confidence that you’re creating resilient, robust, and accessible solutions that last.

The neat part about this is that it frees up time to do other things, say reading about gender bias and the undervaluing of HTML and CSS. If anything, do it for me. I am honestly not sure I can handle another case of 2,000 lines of JavaScript used to recreate position: absolute;.

Circumstance Form

Even though responsive design is nearly a decade old at this point(!), we still seem to ignore a lot of the wisdom Ethan Marcotte so nicely teaches us for free. He’s a smart guy, you should pay attention to what he has to say.

After a complete lack of breakpoints, perhaps the biggest offender I still come across with regards to responsive design is the assumption that a small viewport means teeny-tiny type. Typically, the opposite is true. Small devices are made to be worn or carried, meaning that we move them in physical space to get them into a comfortable reading position. This is the opposite of a larger, more stationary device, such as a monitor, where we move our body to accommodate it instead.

A comfortable reading position means not forcing someone to hold a phone two centimeters away from their face. Ergonomics aren’t likely to change, but devices will. Because of that, you should craft your breakpoint names to be abstract. I personally like names that keep usability in mind, so something along the lines of, "wrist, palm, lap, desk, wall." It helps keep the user’s circumstance top-of-mind, and moves you away from associating only certain kinds of content as being viable on certain kinds of devices.

These ergonomically-derived designs can be achieved with the help from people like Rachel Andrew, whose in-depth explorations of CSS grid help us understand the power behind a real CSS layout system. Sass experts like Miriam Suzanne then teach us how to use True to codify these layouts and reliably integrate them into our larger Sass systems.

You also want to avoid fallacious device sniffing approaches, or making gross assumptions about a user’s circumstances and capabilities. Just let me increase and decrease that type size. Reader Mode lets me, so I’m going to get there one way or another.

Connection

The other thing you need to think about is how that ideal paragraph design actually gets served to a device. A big part of that involves loading our fonts, and ensuring that the loading process prioritizes user experience.

Text

Text downloads quickly; a lot faster than other exotic kinds of content. Browsers will render it gleefully, as it is historically the most important part of the payload. This means that the Reader Mode button is going to show up a lot faster than that distracting auto-playing video of talking heads so thoughtfully jammed into the bottom right-hand corner of my viewport.

And what if we’re on a slow, intermittent, and/or metered connection? Top-of-the-line MacBooks still have to use hotel wifi, just like everyone else.

You want to keep the page from jumping around when our paragraph font loads. This prevents the terrible experience of forcing me to scroll around to rediscover my place as things shift into place. It also helps prevent me from mis-clicking, taking me away from what I want to read because I had the audacity to interact with the page before the bitcoin miners are deployed (thankfully, good people like Laura Kalbag can help us with that one).

The temptation to hit that Reader Mode button is strong, because when I see the main text of the page show up, I know I can easily and reliably avoid all these potential issues.

Helen V. Holmes wrote Type is Your Right!, a beautiful article that effortlessly blends typographic history, capability, and performance. Notably, she discusses how to manage the Flash of Invisible Text (FOIT) and Flash of Unstyled Text (FOUT) to best corral all the aforementioned issues. In response, Monica Dinculescu made Font style matcher, a fantastic tool that lets you bend, stretch, squish, squash, and torture type in ways that would make your stodgy typography professor faint, all in the service of preventing layout jank.

Images

You can (and should) make all sorts of clever optimizations to ensure we’re delivering our images as efficiently as possible. But what happens while I’m waiting for those images to show up? What if they never do?

Since you’re a responsible, inclusive web professional, you’ve already made sure to include alternative text descriptions for our image content. Ire Aderinokun teaches us that you can take that one step further and style broken images. Now even the content that isn’t working as intended looks good. No brittle, overwrought JavaScript here—just good, old fashioned progressive enhancement.

The other type of image you want to consider are icons. There’s lots of reasons to not use icon fonts. Adding one more reason to toss on the pile: icon fonts may not hold up in Reader Mode, as they are constructed using text glyphs. When Reader Mode passes over a page, it may convert the glyph to use the font you specify. This could make for a disastrous experience, especially if the icon is used to communicate critical functionality (e.g. "Press the Home button (☒) to return to the main menu.").

To avoid this issue, Sara Soueidan teaches us how to convert those icon fonts to SVG . But you know what? She’s so much more than just a SVG expert. She’s an incredible UX developer, and you’d do well to read up on what she’s written. I, for one, have learned a ton.

Control

To help make my reading experience as comfortable as possible, Reader Mode allows me to adjust things like the typeface, the text and background colors, the font size and line height, and the number of words per line. This is great. I’ll frequently toggle back and forth between light and dark backgrounds depending on the time of day.

I also wear glasses, and I know that the older I get, the worst my vision will be. Thanks to Jennifer Aldrich’s writing, I know that this is the norm. After all, we’re all just temporarily abled. I might also need something like Windows High Contrast Mode one day. Thanks to Amelia Bellamy-Royds, I now know how to make my content be the best it can be when viewed in that mode.

The web is flexible. Working on it means getting over your ego and learning to let go. That means accepting that the medium will never be pixel perfect. It means embracing technology like relative units, and more importantly, philosophies like Intrinsic Web Design. That’s brought to us by Jen Simmons, a tireless and passionate advocate for web standards.

I’d love to read your website. I’d love for your harmonious typography to quietly usher me into a flow state, making me forget I was even browsing your site at all.

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The practical value of semantic HTML

Css Tricks - Mon, 01/07/2019 - 2:59am

I love how Bruce steps up to the plate here:

If the importance of good HTML isn’t well-understood by the newer breed of JavaScript developers, then it’s my job as a DOWF (Dull Old Web Fart) to explain it.

Then he points out some very practical situations in which good HTML brings meaningful benefits. Maybe benefits isn't the right word, as much as requirement since most of it is centered around accessibility.

I hope I’ve shown you that choosing the correct HTML isn’t purely an academic exercise...

Semantic HTML will give usability benefits to many users, help to future-proof your work, potentially boost your search engine results, and help people with disabilities use your site.

I think it's fair to call HTML easy. Compared to many other things you'll learn in your journey building websites, perhaps it is. All the more reason to get it right.

Estelle Weyl has some similar thoughts:

... take the radio button. All you have to do is give all the radio buttons in your button group the same name, preferably with differed values. Associate a label to each radio button to define what each one means. Simply using allows for selecting only one value with completely accessible, fast keyboard navigation. Each radio button is keyboard focusable. Users can select a different radio button by using the arrow keys, or clicking anywhere on the label or button. The arrows cycle thru the radio buttons, going from the last in the group to the first with a click of the down or right arrow. Developers don’t have to listen for keyboard, mouse, or touch interactions with JavaScript. These native interactions are robust and accessible. There is rarely a reason to rewrite them, especially since they’ll always work, even if the JavaScript doesn’t.

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2018 Staff Favorites

Css Tricks - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 6:39am

Last year, the team here at CSS-Tricks compiled a list of our favorite posts, trends, topics, and resources from around the world of front-end development. We had a blast doing it and found it to be a nice recap of the industry as we saw it over the course of the year. Well, we're doing it again this year!

With that, here's everything that Sarah, Robin, Chris and I saw and enjoyed over the past year.

Sarah Good code review

There are a few themes that cross languages, and one of them is good code review. Even though Nina Zakharenko gives talks and makes resources about Python, her talk about code review skills is especially notable because it applies across many disciplines. She’s got a great arc to this talk and I think her deck is an excellent resource, but you can take this a step even further and think critically about your own team, what works for it, and what practices might need to be reconsidered.

I also enjoyed this sarcastic tweet that brings up a good point:

When reviewing a PR, it’s essential that you leave a comment. Any comment. Even the PR looks great and you have no substantial feedback, find something trivial to nitpick or question. This communicates intelligence and mastery, and is widely appreciated by your colleagues.

— Andrew Clark (@acdlite) May 19, 2018

I've been guilty myself of commenting on a really clean pull request just to say something, and it’s healthy for us as a community to revisit why we do things like this.

Sophie Alpert, manager of the React core team, also wrote a great post along these lines right at the end of the year called Why Review Code. It’s a good resource to turn to when you'd like to explain the need for code reviews in the development process.

The year of (creative) code

So many wonderful creative coding resources were made this year. Creative coding projects might seem frivolous but you can actually learn a ton from making and playing with them. Matt DesLauriers recently taught a course called Creative Coding with Canvas & WebGL for Frontend Masters that serves as a good example.

CodePen is always one of my favorite places to check out creative work because it provides a way to reverse-engineer the work of other people and learn from their source code. CodePen has also started coding challenges adding yet another way to motivate creative experiments and collective learning opportunities. Marie Mosley did a lot of work to make that happen and her work on CodePen's great newsletter is equally awesome.

You should also consider checking out Monica Dinculescu's work because she has been sharing some amazing work. There's not one, not two, but three (!) that use machine learning alone. Go see all of her Glitch projects. And, for what it's worth, Glitch is a great place to explore creative code and remix your own as well.

GitHub Actions

I think hands-down one of the most game-changing developments this year is GitHub Actions. The fact that you can manage all of your testing, deployments, and project issues as containers chained in a unified workflow is quite amazing.

Containers are a great for actions because of their flexibility — you’re not limited to a single kind of compute and so much is possible! I did a writeup about GitHub Actions covering the feature in full. And, if you're digging into containers, you might find the dive repo helpful because it provides a way to explore a docker image and layer contents.

Actions are still in beta but you can request access — they’re slowly rolling out now.

UI property generators

I really like that we’re automating some of the code that we need to make beautiful front-end experiences these days. In terms of color there’s color by Adobe, coolors, and uiGradients. There are even generators for other things, like gradients, clip-path, font pairings, and box-shadow. I am very much here for all for this. These are the kind of tools that speed up development and allow us to use advanced effects, no matter the skill level.

Robin Ire Aderinokun’s blog

Ire has been writing a near constant stream of wondrous articles about front-end development on her blog, Bits of Code, over the past year, and it’s been super exciting to keep up with her work. It seems like she's posting something I find useful almost every day, from basic stuff like when hover, focus and active states apply to accessibility tips like the aria-live attribute.

"The All Powerful Front-end Developer"

Chris gave a talk this year about the ways the role of front-end development are changing... and for the better. It was perhaps the most inspiring talk I saw this year. Talks about front-end stuff are sometimes pretty dry, but Chris does something else here. He covers a host of new tools we can use today to do things that previously required a ton of back-end skills. Chris even made a website all about these new tools which are often categorized as "Serverless."

Even if none of these tools excite you, I would recommend checking out the talk – Chris’s enthusiasm is electric and made me want to pull up my sleeves and get to work on something fun, weird and exciting.

Future Fonts

The Future Fonts marketplace turned out to be a great place to find new and experimental typefaces this year. Obviously is a good example of that. But the difference between Future Fonts and other marketplaces is that you can buy fonts that are in beta and still currently under development. If you get in on the ground floor and buy a font for $10, then that shows the developer the interest in a particular font which may spur more features for it, like new weights, widths or even OpenType features.

It’s a great way to support type designers while getting a ton of neat and experimental typefaces at the same time.

React Conf 2018

The talks from React Conf 2018 will get you up to speed with the latest React news. It’s interesting to see how React Hooks let you "use state and other React features without writing a class."

It's also worth calling out that a lot of folks really improved our Guide to React here on CSS-Tricks so that it now contains a ton of advice about how to get started and how to level up on both basic and advanced practices.

The Victorian Internet

This is a weird recommendation because The Victorian Internet is a book and it wasn’t published this year. But! It’s certainly the best book I've read this year, even if it’s only tangentially related to web stuff. It made me realize that the internet we’re building today is one that’s much older than I first expected. The book focuses on the laying of the Transatlantic submarine cables, the design of codes and the codebreakers, fraudsters that used the telegraph to find their marks, and those that used it to find the person they’d marry. I really can’t recommend this book enough.

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Figma

The browser-based design tool Figma continued to release a wave of new features that makes building design systems and UI kits easier than ever before. I’ve been doing a ton of experiments with it to see how it helps designers communicate, as well as how to build more resilient components. It’s super impressive to see how much the tools have improved over the past year and I’m excited to see it improve in the new year, too.

Geoff Buzz about third party scripts

It seems there was a lot of chatter this year about the impact of third party scripts. Whether it’s the growing ubiquity of all-things-JavaScript or whatever, this topic covers a wide and interesting ground, including performance, security and even hard costs, to name a few.

My personal favorite post about this was Paulo Mioni’s deep dive into the anatomy of a malicious script. Sure, the technical bits are a great learning opportunity, but what really makes this piece is the way it reads like a true crime novel.

Gutenberg, Gutenberg and more Gutenberg

There was so much noise leading up to the new WordPress editor that the release of WordPress 5.0 containing it felt anti-climactic. No one was hurt or injured amid plenty of concerns, though there is indeed room for improvement.

Lara Schneck and Andy Bell teamed up for a hefty seven-party series aimed at getting developers like us primed for the changes and it’s incredible. No stone is left unturned and it perfectly suitable for beginners and experts alike.

Solving real life issues with UX

I like to think that I care a lot about users in the work I do and that I do my best to empathize so that I can anticipate needs or feelings as they interact with the site or app. That said, my mind was blown away by a study Lucas Chae did on the search engine experience of people looking for a way to kill themselves. I mean, depression and suicide are topics that are near and dear to my heart, but I never thought about finding a practical solution for handling it in an online experience.

So, thanks for that, Lucas. It inspired me to piggyback on his recommendations with a few of my own. Hopefully, this is a conversation that goes well beyond 2018 and sparks meaningful change in this department.

The growing gig economy

Freelancing is one of my favorite things to talk about at great length with anyone and everyone who is willing to talk shop and that’s largely because I’ve learned a lot about it in the five years I’ve been in it.

But if you take my experience and quadruple it, then you get a treasure trove of wisdom like Adam Coti shared in his collection of freelancing lessons learned over 20 years of service.

Freelancing isn’t for everyone. Neither is remote work. Adam’s advice is what I wish I had going into this five years ago.

Browser ecology

I absolutely love the way Rachel Nabors likens web browsers to a biological ecosystem. It’s a stellar analogy and leads into the long and winding history of browser evolution.

Speaking of history, Jason Hoffman’s telling of the history about browsers and web standards is equally interesting and a good chunk of context to carry in your back pocket.

These posts were timely because this year saw a lot of movement in the browser landscape. Microsoft is dropping EdgeHTML for Blink and Google ramped up its AMP product. 2018 felt like a dizzying year of significant changes for industry giants!

Chris All the best buzzwords: JAMstack, Serverless, & Headless

"Don’t tell me how to build a front end!" we, front-end developers, cry out. We are very powerful now. We like to bring our own front-end stack, then use your back-end data and APIs. As this is happening, we’re seeing healthy things happen like content management systems evolving to headless frameworks and focus on what they are best at: content management. We’re seeing performance and security improvements through the power of static and CDN-backed hosting. We’re seeing hosting and server usage cost reductions.

But we’re also seeing unhealthy things we need to work through, like front-end developers being spread too thin. We have JavaScript-focused engineers failing to write clean, extensible, performant, accessible markup and styles, and, on the flip side, we have UX-focused engineers feeling left out, left behind, or asked to do development work suddenly quite far away from their current expertise.

GraphQL

Speaking of powerful front-end developers, giving us front-end developers a well-oiled GraphQL setup is extremely empowering. No longer do we need to be roadblocked by waiting for an API to be finished or data to be massaged into some needed format. All the data you want is available at your fingertips, so go get and use it as you will. This makes building and iterating on the front end faster, easier, and more fun, which will lead us to building better products. Apollo GraphQL is the thing to look at here.

While front-end is having a massive love affair with JavaScript, there are plenty of front-end developers happily focused elsewhere

This is what I was getting at in my first section. There is a divide happening. It’s always been there, but with JavaScript being absolutely enormous right now and showing no signs of slowing down, people are starting to fall through the schism. Can I still be a front-end developer if I’m not deep into JavaScript? Of course. I’m not going to tell you that you shouldn’t learn JavaScript, because it’s pretty cool and powerful and you just might love it, but if you’re focused on UX, UI, animation, accessibility, semantics, layout, architecture, design patterns, illustration, copywriting, and any combination of that and whatever else, you’re still awesome and useful and always will be. Hugs. &#x1f917;

Just look at the book Refactoring UI or the course Learn UI Design as proof there is lots to know about UI design and being great at it requires a lot of training, practice, and skill just like any other aspect of front-end development.

Shamelessly using grid and custom properties everywhere

I remember when I first learned flexbox, it was all I reached for to make layouts. I still love flexbox, but now that we have grid and the browser support is nearly just as good, I find myself reaching for grid even more. Not that it’s a competition; they are different tools useful in different situations. But admittedly, there were things I would have used flexbox for a year ago that I use grid for now and grid feels more intuitive and more like the right tool.

I'm still swooning over the amazing illustrations Lynn Fisher did for both our grid and flexbox guides. Massive discussions around CSS-in-JS and approaches, like Tailwind

These discussions can get quite heated, but there is no ignoring the fact that the landscape of CSS-in-JS is huge, has a lot of fans, and seems to be hitting the right notes for a lot of folks. But it’s far from settled down. Libraries like Vue and Angular have their own framework-prescribed way of handling it, whereas React has literally dozens of options and a fast-moving landscape with libraries popping up and popular ones spinning down in favor of others. It does seem like the feature set is starting to settle down a little, so this next year will be interesting to watch.

Then there is the concept of atomic CSS on the other side of the spectrum, and interesting in that doesn’t seem to have slowed down at all either. Tailwind CSS is perhaps the hottest framework out there, gaining enough traction that Adam is going full time on it.

What could really shake this up is if the web platform itself decides to get into solving some of the problems that gave rise to these solutions. The shadow DOM already exists in Web Components Land, so perhaps there are answers there? Maybe the return of <style scoped>? Maybe new best practices will evolve that employ a single-stylesheet-per-component? Who knows.

Design systems becoming a core deliverable

There are whole conferences around them now!

I’ve heard of multiple agencies where design systems are literally what they make for their clients. Not websites, design systems. I get it. If you give a team a really powerful and flexible toolbox to build their own site with, they will do just that. Giving them some finished pages, as polished as they might be, leaves them needing to dissect those themselves and figure out how to extend and build upon them when that need inevitably arrives. I think it makes sense for agencies, or special teams, to focus on extensible component-driven libraries that are used to build sites.

Machine Learning

Stuff like this blows me away:

I made a music sequencer! In JavaScript! It even uses Machine Learning to try to match drums to a synth melody you create!

✨&#x1f3a7; https://t.co/FGlCxF3W9p pic.twitter.com/TTdPk8PAwP

— Monica Dinculescu (@notwaldorf) June 28, 2018

Having open source libraries that help with machine learning and that are actually accessible for regular ol’ developers to use is a big deal.

Stuff like this will have real world-bettering implications:

&#x1f525; I think I used machine learning to be nice to people! In this proof of concept, I’m creating dynamic alt text for screenreaders with Azure’s Computer Vision API. &#x1f4ab;https://t.co/Y21AHbRT4Y pic.twitter.com/KDfPZ4Sue0

— Sarah Drasner (@sarah_edo) November 13, 2017

And this!

Well that's impressive and dang useful. https://t.co/99tspvk4lo Cool URL too.

(Remove Image Background 100% automatically – in 5 seconds – without a single click) pic.twitter.com/k9JTHK91ff

— CSS-Tricks (@css) December 17, 2018

OK, OK. One more

You gotta check out the Unicode Pattern work (more) that Yuan Chuan does. He even shared some of his work and how he does it right here on CSS-Tricks. And follow that name link to CodePen for even more. This <css-doodle> thing they have created is fantastic.

See the Pen Seeding by yuanchuan (@yuanchuan) on CodePen.

The post 2018 Staff Favorites appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

The Most Hearted of 2018

Css Tricks - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 6:38am

We've released the Most Hearted Pens, Posts, and Collections on CodePen for 2018! Just absolutely incredible work on here — it's well worth exploring.

Remember CodePen has a three-tiered hearting system, so while the number next to the heart reflects the number of users who hearted the item, each of those could be worth 1, 2, or 3 hearts total. This list is a great place to find awesome people to follow on CodePen as well, and we're working on ways to make following people a lot more interesting in 2019.

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WordCamp US 2018

Css Tricks - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 4:43am

I recently attended and had the chance to speak at WordCamp US 2018 in Nashville. I had a great time. I love conferences that bring people together around a tight theme because it's very likely you'll have something to talk about with every person there. Plus, I rather like WordPress and its community. The vibe was very centered around Gutenberg, as it was released in WordPress 5.0 just as the conference started.

Matt's State of the Word gets into all that:

I took the opportunity to give a brand new talk I've been working on I've called, “Thinking Like a Front-End Developer”:

There were loads of wonderful people there and loads of wonderful talks. Here's a playlist!

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The Elements of UI Engineering

Css Tricks - Fri, 01/04/2019 - 4:42am

I really enjoyed this post by Dan Abramov. He defines his work as a UI engineer and I especially like what he writes about his learning experience:

My biggest learning breakthroughs weren’t about a particular technology. Rather, I learned the most when I struggled to solve a particular UI problem. Sometimes, I would later discover libraries or patterns that helped me. In other cases, I’d come up with my own solutions (both good and bad ones).

It’s this combination of understanding the problems, experimenting with the solutions, and applying different strategies that led to the most rewarding learning experiences in my life. This post focuses on just the problems.

He then breaks those problems down into a dozen different areas: consistency, responsiveness, latency, navigation, staleness, entropy, priority, accessibility, internationalization, delivery, resilience, and abstraction. This is a pretty good list of what a front-end developer has to be concerned about on a day-to-day basis, but I also feel like this is perhaps the best description of what I believe my own skills are besides being “the person who cares about component design and CSS.”

I also love what Dan has to say about accessibility:

Inaccessible websites are not a niche problem. For example, in UK disability affects 1 in 5 people. (Here’s a nice infographic.) I’ve felt this personally too. Though I’m only 26, I struggle to read websites with thin fonts and low contrast. I try to use the trackpad less often, and I dread the day I’ll have to navigate poorly implemented websites by keyboard. We need to make our apps not horrible to people with difficulties — and the good news is that there’s a lot of low-hanging fruit. It starts with education and tooling. But we also need to make it easy for product developers to do the right thing. What can we do to make accessibility a default rather than an afterthought?

This is a good reminder that front-end development is not a problem to be solved, except I reckon Dan’s post is more helpful and less snarky than my take on it.

Anywho, we all want accessible interfaces so that every browser can access our work making use of beautiful and consistent mobile interactions, instantaneous performance, and a design system teams can utilize to click-clack components together with little-to-no effort. But these things are only possible if others recognize that UI and front-end development are a worthy fields.

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Multi-Line Inline Gradient

Css Tricks - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 5:17am

Came across this thread:

CSS superfriends! Have you seen examples of how to do multi-line padded text like this article on @css (https://t.co/2j8p4jmaT4), but with a gradient that doesn't reset for each line? pic.twitter.com/MVPdAjxt1W

— Dan Mall (@danmall) December 3, 2018

My first thought process was:

But it turns out we need a litttttle extra trickery to make it happen.

If a solid color is fine, then some padding combined with box-decoration-break should get the basic framework:

See the Pen Multiline Padding with box-decoration-break by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier) on CodePen.

But a gradient on there is gonna get weird on multiple lines:

See the Pen Multiline Padding with box-decoration-break by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier) on CodePen.

I'm gonna credit Matthias Ott, from that thread, with what looks like the perfect answer to me:

See the Pen Multiline background gradient with mix-blend-mode by Matthias Ott (@matthiasott) on CodePen.

The trick there is to set up the padded multi-line background just how you want it with pure white text and a black background. Then, a pseudo-element is set over the whole area with the gradient in the black area. Throw in mix-blend-mode: lighten; to make the gradient only appear on the black area. Nice one.

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Jetpack

Css Tricks - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 5:14am

My favorite way to think about Jetpack is that it's a WordPress plugin that brings a whole heap of features to your site. I've documented the features that we use here on CSS-Tricks, which isn't even all of them (yet).

Some of Jetpack features are essentially connecting it to the powers of WordPress.com. For example, of course, WordPress.com has some amazing way to optimize and serve images. They can build a service that millions of sites on WordPress.com can benefit from, which really benefits everyone, including them, because optimized images reduce bandwidth costs. Then Jetpack steps in and can offer that same power to you on your self-hosted WordPress site. Here's a video I did showing how that works.

Other features are things like real-time backups of your site to VaultPress, which is incredibly important to me knowing I have every bit of this site backed up and under my control.

Because your site now lives within your WordPress.com dashboard, you get features there. I quite like the analytics dashboards, which seem more accessible to me than trying to poke around Google Analytics.

Another one I really like is the ability to manage WordPress plugins from there. I'm happing doing that in the admin of my own site as well, but from here, I can tell certain plugins to auto-update, which just saves me the minor hassle of doing it myself.

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Quicklink

Css Tricks - Thu, 01/03/2019 - 4:59am

We're in the future now so, of course, we're working on ways to speed up the web with fancy new tactics above and beyond the typical make-pages-slimmer-and-cached-like-crazy techniques.

One tactic, from years ago, was InstantClick:

Before visitors click on a link, they hover over that link. Between these two events, 200 ms to 300 ms usually pass by (test yourself here). InstantClick makes use of that time to preload the page, so that the page is already there when you click.

Clever, but not as advanced as what can be done in these modern times. For instance, InstantClick doesn't take into account the fact that someone might not want to preload stuff they didn't explicitly ask for, especially if they are on a slow network.

Addy Osmani wrote up a document calling this "predictive fetching":

... given an arbitrary entry-page, a solution could calculate the likelihood a user will visit a given next page or set of pages and prefetch resources for them while the user is still viewing their current page. This has the possibility of improving page-load performance for subsequent page visits as there's a strong chance a page will already be in the user's cache.

Just think: we could feed analytics data into the mix and let machine learning chew away at it. Addy also points to other prior attempts, like Gatsby's Link and a WordPress plugin.

Another contender is Quicklink by Google:

Quicklink attempts to make navigations to subsequent pages load faster. It:

  • Detects links within the viewport (using Intersection Observer)
  • Waits until the browser is idle (using requestIdleCallback)
  • Checks if the user isn't on a slow connection (using navigator.connection.effectiveType) or has data-saver enabled (using navigator.connection.saveData)
  • Prefetches URLs to the links (using <link rel=prefetch> or XHR). Provides some control over the request priority (can switch to fetch() if supported).

No machine learning or analytics usage there, but perhaps the most clever yet. I really like the spirit of prefetching only when there is a high enough likelihood of usage; the browser is idle anyway, and the network can handle it.

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Storing and Using the Last Known Route in Vue

Css Tricks - Wed, 01/02/2019 - 5:19am

There are situations where keeping a reference to the last route a user visited can come in handy. For example, let’s say we’re working with a multi-step form and the user proceeds from one step to the next. It would be ideal to have the route of that previous step in hand so we know where the user left off, in the event that they navigate away and come back later to complete the form later.

We’re going to cover how to store the last known route and then fetch it when we need it. We’ll be working in Vue in this example and put vue-router to use for routing and localStorage to keep the information about last visited route.

Here’s an example of what we’ll be working with:

First, let’s outline the route structure

Our example has a grand total of three routes:

  • /home
  • /hello
  • /goodbye

Each route needs to be assigned a name property, so let’s add that to our router.js file:

// router.js import Vue from "vue"; import Router from "vue-router"; import Hello from "@/components/Hello"; import Goodbye from "@/components/Goodbye"; import { HELLO_URL, GOODBYE_URL } from "@/consts"; Vue.use(Router); const router = new Router({ mode: "history", routes: [ { path: "/", name: "home" }, { path: HELLO_URL, name: "hello", component: Hello }, { path: GOODBYE_URL, name: "goodbye", component: Goodbye } ] }); export default router; Next, let’s go over the requirements

We know the first requirement is to store the last visited route in localStorage. And, secondly, we need to be able to retrieve it. But what conditions should the route be fetched and applied? That gives us two additional requirements.

  • the user enters the main route (/home), navigates away from it, then wants to return to it.
  • the user has been inactive for a specific time period, the session expires, and we want to return the user to the last screen they were on after restarting the session.

These four requirements are what we need to meet in order to proceed with the redirection.

Now let’s jump into the code.

Requirement 1: Save the last route name in localStorage

We want to keep the reference to our last visited route in localStorage. For example, if a user is at /checkout and then leaves the site, we want to save that so the purchase can be completed later.

To do that, we want to save the route name when the user enters any new route. We’ll use a navigation guard called afterEach that’s fired each time the route transition is finished. It provides a to object which is the target Route Object. In that hook, we can extract the name of that route and save it in localStorage using a setItem method.

// router.js const router = new Router( ... ); router.afterEach(to => { localStorage.setItem(LS_ROUTE_KEY, to.name); }); ... export default router; Requirement 2: Fetch the last route name from localStorage and redirect

Now that the name of the last route is saved, we need to be able to fetch it and trigger a redirect to it when it’s needed. We want to check if we should redirect before we enter a new route, so we will use another navigation guard called beforeEach. This guard receives three arguments:

  • to: the target route object
  • from: the current route navigated from
  • next: the function that must be called in the guard to resolve the hook

In that guard, we read the name of the last visited route by using a localStorage.getItem() method. Then, we determine if the user should be redirected. At this point, we check that the target route (to) is our main route (/home) and if we do indeed have a last route in localStorage.

If those conditions are met, we fire the next method that contains the name of the last visited route. That, in turn, will trigger a redirect to that route.

If any condition fails, then we’ll fire next without any arguments. That will move the user on to the next hook in the pipeline and proceed with ordinary routing without redirection.

// router.js const router = new Router( ... ); router.beforeEach((to, from, next) => { const lastRouteName = localStorage.getItem(LS_ROUTE_KEY); const shouldRedirect = Boolean( to.name === "home" && lastRouteName ); if (shouldRedirect) next({ name: lastRouteName }); else next(); }); ... export default router;

That covers two out of four requirements! Let’s proceed with requirement number three.

Requirement 3: The first visit condition

Now, we need to check if the user is visiting the main route for the first time (coming from a different source) or is navigating there from another route within the application. We can do that by adding a flag that is set to true when the Router is created and set it to false after first transition is finished.

// router.js const router = new Router( ... ); let isFirstTransition = true; router.beforeEach((to, from, next) => { const lastRouteName = localStorage.getItem(LS_ROUTE_KEY); const shouldRedirect = Boolean( to.name === "home" && && lastRouteName && isFirstTransition ); if (shouldRedirect) next({ name: lastRouteName }); else next(); isFirstTransition = false; }); ... export default router;

OK, there is one more requirement we need to meet: we want to redirect the user to the last known route if the user has been inactive for longer that a specific period of time.

Requirement 4: The activity time condition

Again, we will use localStorage to keep the information about user’s last visited route.

In the beforeEach guard, we will get the route from localStorage and check if the time passed from that moment is within our threshold (defined by hasBeenActiveRecently). Then, in our shouldRedirect, we’ll determine whether a route redirect should happen or not.

We also need to save that information, which we will do in the afterEach guard.

// router.js const router = new Router( ... ); let isFirstTransition = true; router.beforeEach((to, from, next) => { const lastRouteName = localStorage.getItem(LS_ROUTE_KEY); const lastActivityAt = localStorage.getItem(LS_LAST_ACTIVITY_AT_KEY); const hasBeenActiveRecently = Boolean( lastActivityAt && Date.now() - Number(lastActivityAt) < MAX_TIME_TO_RETURN ); const shouldRedirect = Boolean( to.name === "home" && && lastRouteName && isFirstTransition && hasBeenActiveRecently ); if (shouldRedirect) next({ name: lastRouteName }); else next(); isFirstTransition = false; }); router.afterEach(to => { localStorage.setItem(LS_ROUTE_KEY, to.name); localStorage.setItem(LS_LAST_ACTIVITY_AT_KEY, Date.now()); }); ... export default router; We met the requirements!

That’s it! We covered all four of requirements, namely:

  • We store the last visited route in localStorage
  • We have a method to retrieve the last visited route from localStorage
  • We redirect a user back to the main route if they’re coming into the application on an initial visit
  • We provide the user with a redirect to the last known route within a certain time period

Of course, we can extend this further by adding more complexity to the app and new conditions to the shouldRedirect variable, but this gives us more than we need to have an understanding of how to keep the last visited route persistent and retrieve it when it’s needed.

The post Storing and Using the Last Known Route in Vue appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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