Web Standards

Code Review Etiquette

Css Tricks - Wed, 10/25/2017 - 4:37am

Code reviews are a big part of writing software, especially when working within a team. It is important to have an agreed-upon etiquette for reviewing code within a team. A code review is a critique and a critique can often feel more personal than the code writing itself. A sloppy, under-researched, or insensitive code critique can cause difficulties between team members, reduce overall team productivity, and diminish code quality over time. This post will briefly define code reviews, describe some common mistakes, and provide some quick tips for improving a code review process.

What are code reviews?

Code reviews are the process of sharing code so that other engineers can review it. Code reviews can happen verbally during pair programming sessions, or through reviewing code on websites like CodePen and GitHub. Mainly, code reviews happen in tools like GitHub when engineers submit pull requests.

Critiques are hugely beneficial. Convening engineers to discussions about code ensure that they're on the same page, regardless of whether it's in person or by sharing comments. Also, a review can help catch small mistakes in code or comments—like spelling and it can help newer or more junior coders learn the codebase. When done well, regular code reviews have nothing but benefits for all involved.

A common goal for code reviews is to make code changes as minimal and clear as possible so that the reviewer can easily understand what has changed and what is happening in the code. If code reviews are smaller, they're more frequent — potentially several a day — and more manageable.

Reviewing code should be a part of every developer's workflow. Senior reviewers are given the opportunity to teach/mentor, and even learn something new from time to time. Junior reviewers can grow and often help ensure code readability through the questions they ask. In fact, junior engineers are usually the best team members to ensure code readability.

For an engineer who works alone, asking for feedback from outsiders — at meet-ups, GitHub, Open Source Slack Channels, Reddit, Twitter, etc — can allow the solo coder the opportunity to participate in a code review process.

If we could all agree on an established process and language for reviewing code, then maintaining a positive environment for creative and productive engineering is easier. A code review etiquette benefits everyone — whether working alone or within a team.

Harsh code reviews can hurt feelings

Seeing bugs and issues continue to roll in and being mentally unable to address them has led to feelings of failure and depression. When looking at the moment project, I could only see the negatives. The bugs and misnomers and mistakes I had made. It led to a cycle of being too depressed to contribute, which led to being depressed because I wasn't contributing.

- Tim Wood, creator of Momentjs

There are many online comments, posts, and tweets by prolific engineers expressing that their feelings have been hurt by code reviews. This doesn't directly mean that reviewers are trying to be mean. Feeling defensive is a normal, quite human reaction to a critique or feedback. A reviewer should be aware of how the pitch, tone, or sentiment of their comments could be interpreted but the reviewee — see Occam's Razor.

It's like these commenters don't consider maintainers to be people, we make mistakes. https://t.co/tBa8kzymU4

— Henry Zhu @SF (@left_pad) September 18, 2017

Although reviewing code is very beneficial, a poor or sloppy review can have the opposite outcome. Avoid criticism without providing context. In other words, take the time to explain why something is wrong, where it went wrong, and how to avoid the mistake moving forward. Showing this level of respect for the reviewee strengthens the team, improves engineering awareness, and helps to provide agreed-upon technical definitions.

Quick tips for improving code review etiquette

Code is logical in nature. It is easy to pinpoint code that is incorrect or could be improved, just like it is easy to notice spelling misteaks. The human condition, when looking at and discussing logical things (like code), is to disregard the feelings of other people. This causes feelings to get hurt and a loss of focus on learning and collaboration.

Improving code review etiquette, because of the human condition, is difficult! Here is a quick list of things that I've done, said, seen, or received, that are easy wins in the art of Code Review Etiquette.

Remove the person

Without realizing it, engineers can neglect the difference between insightful critique and criticism because of personal relationships in communication.

The lines below dissect a code review comment of a theoretical function where it is suggested that there is an opportunity to return out of the function early.

You and I: Using you or I is probably not offensive intentionally, so don't worry. However, over time, involving the person can start to feel less positive—especially if vocal tones are ever added.

You should return out of this function early

We: Using we is inclusive and a safe way to say something more directly without making someone feel defensive. However, if the person speaking says we, and has not worked on the code at all, it may seem falsely inclusive and insensitive.

We should return out of this function early

No personal reference: Without personal reference, conversation or review will closely communicate the problem, idea, or issue.

Return out of this function early

Notice how the amount of text needed to communicate the same thing without using personal references takes fewer words and has greater clarity. This helps with human interaction, separates code discussion from personal discussion, and fewer words are needed to communicate the same idea.

Keep passionate conversations quiet

Passion is an important motivator for improving. Passion that is critical in nature can be very considerate and motivating. Feedback that is critical in nature is most useful if the person receiving the critique is engaged. This sort of communication comes up a lot during architectural conversations or when discussing new products.

Feedback that is critical in nature is most useful if the person receiving the critique is engaged. Note: the person receiving the information must be engaged with the critique.

Imagine this comment when stated with exaggerated physical movement, more excited vocal tone, and higher volume.

There are 8 web fonts used in this mock which may affect page load speed or even certain tracking metrics that could be caused by new race conditions!

Then, imagine a similar comment, even terser but stated with a calm demeanor, slower delivery, and a normal vocal volume — followed by a question.

There are 8 web fonts used in this mock. This will affect page load speed and possible tracking metrics because of potential race conditions. How can this be improved?

Notice how the comments above are almost the same. The second comment is even more direct. It states a problem as a fact and then requests feedback.

An important thing to remember when being passionate is taking on a quieter tone. This is a physical decision — not a social one. Passionate language can be the same, and perceived very differently, based on the orientation of the communicator's tone. If physical tone (body language), vocal tone, vocal pitch, and vocal volume remain gentle, it is observed that it is much more likely for an audience to remain engaged — even if the critique is critical in nature.

If the tone is aggressive in nature (exaggerated physical movement, more excited vocal tone, higher volume), the actual words used can be gentle in nature, but the audience can feel very differently. This communication can lead to embarrassment, a disengaged audience, and even loss of respect.

Aggressive communication is common with passionate communication because the human condition wants to protect ideas that we're passionate about. So, don't worry about it too much if you observe that your audience is disengaged when discussing something that you're passionate about. The key is to remember that if you can create perceived gentle communication, it will be easier for your audience to remain engaged — even if they are not initially in agreement.

Don't review the author, review the code

Following the conversation above, the act of pointing, within written conversation or actual body language, in almost any situation is not optimal for good communication. It changes the focal point of the conversation from the context of the conversation to a person or a thing.

The response below provides a comment and then a link. In the context of the code review, the second part of the comment and link takes the reader out of the context of the code review, which is confusing.

// Return out of this function earlier // You need to learn about functional programming

The comment below provides a comment, and then a pseudo-code suggestion.

/* return early like this: */ const calculateStuff = (stuff) => { if (noStuff) return // calculate stuff return calculatedStuff }

In the two examples above, the first example causes the reader to go far beyond the issue. The conversation is more abstract—even existential. The second example refers directly to the issue and then provides a pseudo code snippet that relates directly to the comment.

It is best to only comment on contextually specific items when reviewing code. Broad comments lead to a loss of context. If broader discussions must happen, they should happen outside of code reviews. This keeps the code review clear and scoped to the code that is being reviewed.

Right and wrong can change

Developers almost always want to re-write things. It is natural to break problems down into tasks in real-time to address today's situation. However, focusing on the who's and why's of a product's history is important to conceptualize because great context is gained. 'History repeats itself' is an important phrase to remember when critiquing products or when a product you've written is critiqued. There is always a great amount of knowledge to be gained from historical context.

JavaScript was made in a week, considered a hacky scripting language, and then became the most widely used programming language in the world. Scalable Vector Graphics (SVGs) were supported in 1999, pretty much forgotten about, and now, they continue to gain popularity for the new opportunities they provide. Even the World Wide Web (the Internet) was meant for document sharing with little anticipation of the current result today. All of these technologies are important to remember when considering software and engineering—as logical and predictable results are supposed to be, success is often derived from unexpected results! Be open!

Some resources and tools that can help with code review etiquette Conclusion

The list above includes general, high-level things that can help with positive engagement when talking about, reviewing, or reading about code—code review etiquette.

I am a hypocrite. I have made all the mistakes that I advise not to do in this article. I am human. My goal here is to help others avoid the mistakes that I have made, and to perhaps encourage some behavior standards for reviewing code so that engineers can more openly discuss code with less worry about being hurt or hurting others.

Code Review Etiquette is a post from CSS-Tricks

How To Win Users And Influence Conversions With UX For App Design

Usability Geek - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 11:50am
How do you ensure a winning strategy when designing a mobile app? The Apple App store offers users nearly 2 million apps, and Google Play has more than 2.2 million. According to a GO-Globe report, 52...
Categories: Web Standards

Creating Vue.js Transitions & Animations

Css Tricks - Tue, 10/24/2017 - 4:01am

My last two projects hurled me into the JAMstack. SPAs, headless content management, static generation... you name it. More importantly, they gave me the opportunity to learn Vue.js. More than "Build a To-Do App" Vue.js, I got to ship real-life, production-ready Vue apps.

The agency behind Snipcart (Spektrum) wanted to start using decoupled JavaScript frameworks for small to medium sites. Before using them on client projects, however, they chose to experiment on themselves. After a few of my peers had unfruitful experiences with React, I was given the green light to prototype a few apps in Vue. This prototyping morphed into full-blown Vue apps for Spektrum connected to a headless CMS. First, I spent time figuring out how to model and render our data appropriately. Then I dove head first into Vue transformations to apply a much-needed layer of polish on our two projects.

I've prepared live demos on CodePen and GitHub repos to go along with this article.

This post digs into Vue.js and the tools it offers with its transition system. It is assumed that you are already comfortable with the basics of Vue.js and CSS transitions. For the sake of brevity and clarity, we won't get into the "logic" used in the demo.

Handling Vue.js Transitions & Animations

Animations & transitions can bring your site to life and entice users to explore. Animations and transitions are an integral part of UX and UI design. They are, however, easy to get wrong. In complex situations like dealing with lists, they can be nearly impossible to reason about when relying on native JavaScript and CSS. Whenever I ask backend developers why they dislike front end so vehemently, their response is usually somewhere along the lines of "... animations".

Even for those of us who are drawn to the field by an urge to create intricate micro-interactions and smooth page transitions, it's not easy work. We often need to rely on CSS for performance reasons, even while working in a mostly JavaScript environment, and that break in the environment can be difficult to manage.

This is where frameworks like Vue.js step in, taking the guess-work and clumsy chains of setTimeout functions out of transitions.

The Difference Between Transitions and Animations

The terms transition and animation are often used interchangeably but are actually different things.

  • A transition is a change in the style properties on an element to be transitioned in a single step. They are often handled purely through CSS.
  • An animation is more complex. They are usually multi-step and sometimes run continuously. Animations will often call on JavaScript to pick up where CSS' lack of logic drops off.

It can be confusing, as adding a class could be the trigger for a transition or an animation. Still, it is an important distinction when stepping into the world of Vue because both have very different approaches and toolboxes.

Here's an example of transitions in use on Spektrum's site:

Using Transitions

The simplest way to achieve transition effects on your page is through Vue's <transition> component. It makes things so simple, it almost feels like cheating. Vue will detect if any CSS animations or transitions are being used and will automatically toggle classes on the transitioned content, allowing for a perfectly timed transition system and complete control.

First step is to identify our scope. We tell Vue to prepend the transition classes with modal, for example, by setting the component's name attribute. Then to trigger a transition all you need to do is toggle the content's visibility using the v-if or v-show attributes. Vue will add/remove the classes accordingly.

There are two "directions" for transitions: enter (for an element going from hidden to visible) and leave (for an element going from visble to hidden). Vue then provides 3 "hooks" that represent different timeframes in the transition:

  • .modal-enter-active / .modal-leave-active: These will be present throughout the entire transition and should be used to apply your CSS transition declaration. You can also declare styles that need to be applied from beginning to end.
  • .modal-enter / .modal-leave: Use these classes to define how your element looks before it starts the transition.
  • .modal-enter-to / .modal-leave-to: You've probably already guessed, these determine the styles you wish to transition towards, the "complete" state.

To visualize the whole process, take a look at this chart from Vue's documentation:

How does this translate into code? Say we simply want to fade in and out, putting the pieces together would look like this:

<button class="modal__open" @click="modal = true">Help</button> <transition name="modal"> <section v-if="modal" class="modal"> <button class="modal__close" @click="modal = false">&times;</button> </section> </transition> .modal-enter-active, .modal-leave-active { transition: opacity 350ms } .modal-enter, .modal-leave-to { opacity: 0 } .modal-leave, .modal-enter-to { opacity: 1 }

This is likely the most basic implementation you will come across. Keep in mind that this transition system can also handle content changes. For example, you could react to a change in Vue's dynamic <component>.

<transition name="slide"> <component :is="selectedView" :key="selectedView"/> </transition> .slide-enter { transform: translateX(100%) } .slide-enter-to { transform: translateX(0) } .slide-enter-active { position: absolute } .slide-leave { transform: translateX(0) } .slide-leave-to { transform: translateX(-100%) } .slide-enter-active, .slide-leave-active { transition: all 750ms ease-in-out }

Whenever the selectedView changes, the old component will slide out to the left and the new one will enter from the right!

Here's a demo that uses these concepts:

See the Pen VueJS transition & transition-group demo by Nicolas Udy (@udyux) on CodePen.

Transitions on Lists

Things get interesting when we start dealing with lists. Be it some bullet points or a grid of blog posts, Vue gives you the <transition-group> component.

It is worth noting that while the <transition> component doesn't actually render an element, <transition-group> does. The default behaviour is to use a <span> but you can override this by setting the tag attribute on the <transition-group>.

The other gotcha is that all list items need to have a unique key attribute. Vue can then keep track of each item individually and optimize its performance. In our demo, we're looping over the list of companies, each of which has a unique ID. So we can set up our list like so:

<transition-group name="company" tag="ul" class="content__list"> <li class="company" v-for="company in list" :key="company.id"> <!-- ... --> </li> </transition-group>

The most impressive feature of transition-group is how Vue handles changes in the list's order so seamlessly. For this, an additional transition class is available, .company-move (much like the active classes for entering and leaving), which will be applied to list items that are moving about but will remain visible.

In the demo, I broke it down a bit more to show how to leverage different states to get a cleaner end result. Here's a simplified and uncluttered version of the styles:

/* base */ .company { backface-visibility: hidden; z-index: 1; } /* moving */ .company-move { transition: all 600ms ease-in-out 50ms; } /* appearing */ .company-enter-active { transition: all 300ms ease-out; } /* disappearing */ .company-leave-active { transition: all 200ms ease-in; position: absolute; z-index: 0; } /* appear at / disappear to */ .company-enter, .company-leave-to { opacity: 0; }

Using backface-visibility: hidden on an element, even in the absence of 3D transforms, will ensure silky 60fps transitions and avoid fuzzy text rendering during transformations by tricking the browser into leveraging hardware acceleration.

In the above snippet, I've set the base style to z-index: 1. This assures that elements staying on page will always appear above elements that are leaving. I also apply a absolute positioning to items that are leaving to remove them from the natural flow, triggering the move transition on the rest of the items.

That's all we need! The result is, frankly, almost magic.

Using Animations

The possibilities and approaches for animation in Vue are virtually endless, so I've chosen one of my favourite techniques to showcase how you could animate your data.

We're going to use GSAP's TweenLite library to apply easing functions to our state's changes and let Vue's lightning fast reactivity reflect this on the DOM. Vue is just as comfortable working with inline SVG as it is with HTML.

We'll be creating a line graph with 5 points, evenly spaced along the X-axis, whose Y-axis will represent a percentage. You can take a look here at the result.

See the Pen SVG path animation with VueJS & TweenLite by Nicolas Udy (@udyux) on CodePen.

Let's get started with our component's logic.

new Vue({ el: '#app', // this is the data-set that will be animated data() { return { points: { a: -1, b: -1, c: -1, d: -1, e: -1 } } }, // this computed property builds an array of coordinates that // can be used as is in our path computed: { path() { return Object.keys(this.points) // we need to filter the array to remove any // properties TweenLite has added .filter(key => ~'abcde'.indexOf(key)) // calculate X coordinate for 5 points evenly spread // then reverse the data-point, a higher % should // move up but Y coordinates increase downwards .map((key, i) => [i * 100, 100 - this.points[key]]) } }, methods: { // our randomly generated destination values // could be replaced by an array.unshift process setPoint(key) { let duration = this.random(3, 5) let destination = this.random(0, 100) this.animatePoint({ key, duration, destination }) }, // start the tween on this given object key and call setPoint // once complete to start over again, passing back the key animatePoint({ key, duration, destination }) { TweenLite.to(this.points, duration, { [key]: destination, ease: Sine.easeInOut, onComplete: this.setPoint, onCompleteParams: [key] }) }, random(min, max) { return ((Math.random() * (max - min)) + min).toFixed(2) } }, // finally, trigger the whole process when ready mounted() { Object.keys(this.points).forEach(key => { this.setPoint(key) }) } });

Now for the template.

<main id="app" class="chart"> <figure class="chart__content"> <svg xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2000/svg" viewBox="-20 -25 440 125"> <path class="chart__path" :d="`M${path}`" fill="none" stroke="rgba(255, 255, 255, 0.3)" stroke-width="1.2" stroke-linecap="round" stroke-linejoin="round"/> <text v-for="([ x, y ]) in path" :x="x - 10" :y="y - 7.5" font-size="10" font-weight="200" fill="currentColor"> {{ 100 - (y | 0) + '%' }} </text> </svg> </figure> </main>

Notice how we bind our path computed property to the path element's d attribute. We do something similar with the text nodes that output the current value for that point. When TweenLite updates the data, Vue reacts instantly and keeps the DOM in sync.

That's really all there is to it! Of course, additional styles were applied to make things pretty, which at this point you might realize is more work then the animation itself!

Live demos (CodePen) & GitHub repo

Go ahead, browse the live demos or analyze/re-use the code in our open source repo!


I've always been a fan of animations and transitions on the web, but I'm also a stickler for performance. As a result, I'm always very cautious when it comes to relying on JavaScript. However, combining Vue's blazing fast and low-cost reactivity with its ability to manage pure CSS transitions, you would really have to go overboard to have performance issues.

It's impressive that such a powerful framework can offer such a simple yet manageable API. The animation demo, including the styling, was built in only 45 minutes. And if you discount the time it took to set up the mock data used in the list-transition, it's achievable in under 2 hours. I don't even want to imagine the migraine-inducing process of building similar setups without Vue, much less how much time it would take!

Now get out there and get creative! The use cases go far beyond what we have seen in this post: the only true limitation is your imagination. Don't forget to check out the transitions and animations section in Vue.js' documentation for more information and inspiration.

This post originally appeared on Snipcart's blog. Got comments, questions? Add them below!

Creating Vue.js Transitions & Animations is a post from CSS-Tricks

Why UX Designers Need UI Skills

Usability Geek - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 12:17pm
As a UX designer, you know that user experience is everything. Most users are not conscious of the behind-the-scenes framework that the UX designer has established for their users. In fact, if they...
Categories: Web Standards

Reboot, Resets, and Reasoning

Css Tricks - Mon, 10/23/2017 - 5:01am

I saw in an article by Nicholas Cerminara the other day (careful visiting that link, looks like they have some tracking scripts run wild) that Bootstrap 4 has a new CSS reset baked in they are calling Reboot:

Reboot, a collection of element-specific CSS changes in a single file, kickstart Bootstrap to provide an elegant, consistent, and simple baseline to build upon.

If you're new to CSS development, the whole idea of a CSS reset is to deal with styling inconsistencies across browsers. For example, just now I popped a <button> onto a page with no other styling whatsoever. Chrome applies padding: 2px 6px 3px; - Firefox applies padding: 0 8px;. A CSS reset would apply new padding to that element, so that all browsers are consistent about what they apply. There are loads of examples like that.

By way of a bit of history...

In 2007 Jeff Starr rounded up a bunch of different CSS resets. The oldest one dated is Tantek Çelik's undohtml.css (that's a direct link to the source). We can see that the purpose behind it was to strip away default styling.

/* undohtml.css */ /* (CC) 2004 Tantek Celik. Some Rights Reserved. */ /* http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0 */ /* This style sheet is licensed under a Creative Commons License. */ /* Purpose: undo some of the default styling of common (X)HTML browsers */

By far, the most popular reset came shortly after: the Meyer reset. It has different stuff in it than Tantek's did (it has even been updated with some HTML5 elements) but the spirit is the same: remove default styling. You'll probably recognize this famous block of code, finding its way into your DevTools style panel everywhere:

html, body, div, span, applet, object, iframe, h1, h2, h3, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre, a, abbr, acronym, address, big, cite, code, del, dfn, em, img, ins, kbd, q, s, samp, small, strike, strong, sub, sup, tt, var, b, u, i, center, dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li, fieldset, form, label, legend, table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td, article, aside, canvas, details, embed, figure, figcaption, footer, header, hgroup, menu, nav, output, ruby, section, summary, time, mark, audio, video { margin: 0; padding: 0; border: 0; font-size: 100%; font: inherit; vertical-align: baseline; }

Start with a reset like this (at the top of your production stylesheet) and the styles you write afterword will be on a steady foundation.

Years later, as HTML5 became more real, resets like Richard Clark's HTML5 Reset gained popularity. It was still a modified version of the Meyer reset, and the retained that spirit.

article,aside,details,figcaption,figure, footer,header,hgroup,menu,nav,section { display:block; }

Sprinkled all throughout this, there were plenty of developers who went minimal by just zapping margin and padding from everything and leaving it at that:

* { padding: 0; margin: 0; }

Dumb trivia: the CSS-Tricks logo was inspired by the universal selector and that idea.

Along comes Normalize.css...

Normalize.css represents the first meaningful shift in spirit for what a CSS reset should do. This is what seemed so different about it to me:

  • It was a fresh evaluation of everything that could be styled different across browsers and it address all of it. Where older CSS resets were a handful of lines of code, the uncompressed and documented normalize is 447.
  • It didn't remove any styling from elements that were already consistent across browsers (for the most part). For example, there isn't anything in Normalize for h2-h6 elements, just a fix for a weird h1 thing. That means you aren't zapping away header hierarchy, that default styling remains.
  • It was more accommodating to the idea of altering it, rather than just including it. For example, there is a section just for the <pre> tag and one line of that sets its font-family. You could change that to the font-family you want, and it would be just as effective of a reset.

The code is satisfying to read, as it explains what it's doing without drowning in specifics:

/** * 1. Remove the bottom border in Chrome 57- and Firefox 39-. * 2. Add the correct text decoration in Chrome, Edge, IE, Opera, and Safari. */ abbr[title] { border-bottom: none; /* 1 */ text-decoration: underline; /* 2 */ text-decoration: underline dotted; /* 2 */ }

Today Normalize is at 7.0.0 and has going on 30,000 GitHub stars. It's wicked popular.

So... resets can be opinionated?

We've seen lots of different takes on CSS resets and we've seen fundamental shifts in the approach, so I think it's fair to say CSS resets can take an opinionated stance.

Let's consider some ways...

  • Does the reset touch every single possible element? Or a subset of elements? How does it decide which elements to touch and which not to?
  • What properties are changed? Only ones with cross-browser differences? Or some other criteria, like the similarity to other elements that needed changes? Is it OK to apply properties to elements that don't have cross-browser issues in the name of consistency and efficiency?
  • Do you try to preserve the spirit of the user agent stylesheet? Sensible defaults?
  • Do you apply any properties that don't have cross-browser issues could be considered beneficial to "reset", like typographic defaults or box-sizing?
  • Do you include "toolbox" classes for common needs? Or leave that for other projects to handle?
  • Are you concerned about the size of it?
  • Do you use a preprocessor or any other tooling?

Take a look at Vanilla CSS Un-Reset. Loads of opinions here, starting with the idea that it's meant to re-style elements after you un-style then with a reset. It set's the body font size in pt, set a very specific monospace font stack, includes a ol ol ol ol selector, a clearfix, and alignment helper classes. No judgment there. People make things to help with their own problems and I'm sure this was helpful to the creator. But we can see the opinions shine through there.

Now look at MiniReset.css. Very different! It does wipe out type styles "so that using semantic markup doesn't affect the styling", but leaves some defaults in place on purpose "so that buttons and inputs keep their default layout", puts in some things that don't have cross-browser problems but are useful globally (box-sizing), and adds some minor responsive design helpers.

Totally different set of opinions there.

Jonathan Neal created a reset called santize.css that is very clear about it's opinions. Search for the word "opinionated" in the source code and you'll see it 19 times. All these are choices that Jonathan made based on research and what seem to be modern best practices, and no doubt sprinkled with his own needs and desires for what should be in a reset.

/* * Remove the text shadow on text selections (opinionated). * 1. Restore the coloring undone by defining the text shadow (opinionated). */ ::-moz-selection { background-color: #b3d4fc; /* 1 */ color: #000000; /* 1 */ text-shadow: none; } ::selection { background-color: #b3d4fc; /* 1 */ color: #000000; /* 1 */ text-shadow: none; } The word "reset"

Personally, I think it's useful to think of all of them under the same umbrella term and just be aware of the philosophical differences. But, Normalize intentionally separates itself:

A modern, HTML5-ready alternative to CSS resets

Sanitize calls itself a CSS library and doesn't use the word "reset" anywhere except to cite the Meyer reset.


Reboot is interesting as it's perhaps the newest player in this world. It's file history dates back to 2015, which is probably related to Bootstrap 4 taking a while to drop after Bootstrap 3. Reboot doesn't have its own repo, it's a part of Bootstrap. Here's the direct file and the docs.

The way they think about it is interesting:

Reboot builds upon Normalize, providing many HTML elements with somewhat opinionated styles using only element selectors. Additional styling is done only with classes. For example, we reboot some <table> styles for a simpler baseline and later provide .table, .table-bordered, and more.

You can have a class that does styling, but if you use a reset, you don't have to overload that class with reset styles that handle cross-browser consistency issues.

// // Tables // table { border-collapse: collapse; // Prevent double borders } caption { padding-top: $table-cell-padding; padding-bottom: $table-cell-padding; color: $text-muted; text-align: left; caption-side: bottom; } th { // Matches default `<td>` alignment by inheriting from the `<body>`, or the // closest parent with a set `text-align`. text-align: inherit; }

It's definitely opinionated, but in a way that rolls with Bootstrap nicely. The fact that it's buried within Bootstrap is pretty good signaling this is designed for that world, not as a drop-in for any project. That said, I did my best to compile a straight CSS version of it here.

Tailoring a reset based on browser support

So long as we're talking about the past and future of resets, it's worth mentioning Browserslist again, which is a standardized format for declaring what browsers/versions a project supports.

A reset could be built in a such a way that the things it includes know why they are there. Exactly what browser and version it is there to support. Then if browserslist configuration says that particular browser isn't supported by this project anyway, that CSS could be removed.

That's what PostCSS Normalize does.

Reboot, Resets, and Reasoning is a post from CSS-Tricks

Chrome Summit: New Bar for Web Experiences

LukeW - Sun, 10/22/2017 - 2:00pm

At the Chrome Dev Summit in San Francisco, Thao Tran and Chris Wilson discussed the user experience benefits made possible by new Web technologies with a number of case studies. Here's my notes from their talk: The new bar for web experiences

  • New modern Web technologies provide an unparalleled opportunity to raise the user experience bar for Web sites/apps.
  • It's not enough to just provide a useful service, you also have to deliver a great experience. This is what people expect now online.
  • The Web is great for reach, but now it needs to get better at delivering richness.
  • Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) are really just a higher bar for user experiences. They are not really a new type of app but a way to drive significant UX improvements on the Web.
  • Pillars of PWAs Fast, Integrated, Reliable, and Engaging.
  • User expect fast loading, instant applications.
  • After 3 seconds of waiting for a Web page to load on the desktop, 53% of people will abandon the site.
  • The average mobile Web page takes an average of 19 seconds to load on 3G. 60% of worldwide mobile connections are still on 2G networks.
  • Ele.me is the biggest food ordering service in China. They serve 260 million users, 1.3 million restaurants, and 99% of their orders happen on mobile. Their Progressive Web App was designed to work especially well in flaky network conditions. They get skeleton screens up in 400ms and fully interactive in 2seconds.
  • Fast loading pages is the key goal of AMP pages. After 2 years, there are over 4 billion AMP pages on over 25 million domains.
  • Overstock.com has built interactive AMP pages for their product search and browse. They are seeing an 8% increase in conversion and 36% increase in revenue.
  • Tasty.com used AMP to achieve first meaningful paint in under 3 seconds using a single responsive code base.
  • Experiences built on the Web should feel just as responsive and natural as those built on other platforms.
  • People expect apps to launch from home screen, have access to hardware, preserve identity, play media, etc.
  • Jio media used the Media API (in their PWA) to integrate media controls and enable offline listening. They are seeing 10% longer average session times then on their native apps.
  • Mercado Libre uses Web push notifications to allow buyers to get replies from sellers. Their prompt dialog has a 41% opt-in rate for their Web Push notifications.
  • PetLove uses the one-tap sign-in API to get 2x more users to go to checkout signed in. They got 2.8x increase in conversions; 2.7x increase in time spent; and a 8x smaller size site then their native app.
  • Starbucks PWA uses auto-sign and provides an offline payment barcode (20% pay with bar code in store) using Service Workers.
  • A typical Web checkout experience in 7-8 steps on mobile. Swim Outlet's took 2min+ to finish. They implemented Payment Request and saw 80% reduction in checkout times.
  • Web sites typically don't get access to powerful APIs without asking for permission. As a result, people end up seeing a lot of permission dialogs.
  • In Chrome for Android, 90% of the time people dismiss or ignore permission dialogs. After 3 times, Chrome blocks this permission request for a week.
  • Starting in Chrome 63, these requests will be modal and force people to decide. Which should reduce the number of dialogs people see.
  • Without context, sites get 40% less permission grants then those that explain why they are asking.
  • People expect their apps to work with a network connection or not. Unfortunately mobile sites are often in an online/offline state due to network issues.
  • Uber used a Progressive Web App for global access especially on low end devices. It is 50kb (for the core app) and is interactive in 3 seconds on 2G.
  • Instagram uses offline support to allow people to store images when the browser is offline. They start to upload when the connection returns.
  • eBay is using service workers to store previously viewed items for offline browsing.
  • An engaging app goes beyond being functional and uses today's modern Web technologies to create a delightful user experience.
  • Trivago used many of these capabilities in their PWA and saw big results: 67% of users who are interrupted by a period of offline come back to browse and a 97% increase in conversion.
  • West Elm launched a PWA beta, ran usability tests, rolled out to 10% traffic, rearchitected their platform to use Web components, then rolled out to 25% mobile traffic. This resulted in 15% increase in average time spent and a 9% life in revenue per visit.
  • There's lots of capabilities in PWAs being adopted by many sites all over the World. These companies are raising the user experience bar on the Web and you can too.


Css Tricks - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 10:41am

It was awesome to hear Charlotte Dann on CodePen Radio the other day, who is Kickstarting a new jewelry business. The idea is that you draw your own jewelry (everything you draw looks awesome because it's on this interesting hexagon grid) and then it gets actually made. This tying together of her passions sprang to life on CodePen.

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Hexatope is a post from CSS-Tricks

Breaking down CSS Box Shadow vs. Drop Shadow

Css Tricks - Fri, 10/20/2017 - 5:57am

Drop shadows. Web designers have loved them for a long time to the extent that we used to fake them with PNG images before CSS Level 3 formally introduced them to the spec as the box-shadow property. I still reach for drop shadows often in my work because they add a nice texture in some contexts, like working with largely flat designs.

Not too long after box-shadow was introduced, a working draft for CSS Filters surfaced and, with it, a method for drop-shadow() that looks a lot like box-shadow at first glance. However, the two are different and it's worth comparing those differences.

For me, the primary difference came to light early on when I started working with box-shadow. Here's a simple triangle not unlike the one I made back then.

See the Pen CSS Caret by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

Let's use this to break down the difference between the two.

Box Shadow

Add a box-shadow on that bad boy and this happens.

See the Pen CSS Caret Box Shadow by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

It's annoying, but makes sense. CSS uses a box model, where the element's edges are bound in the shape of a rectangle. Even in cases where the shape of the element does not appear to be a box, the box is still there and that is was box-shadow is applied to. This was my "ah-ha moment" when understanding the box in box-shadow.

CSS Filter Drop Shadow

CSS Filters are pretty awesome. Take a gander at all the possibilities for adding visual filters on elements and marvel at how CSS suddenly starts doing a lot of things we used to have to mockup in Photoshop.

Filters are not bound to the box model. That means the outline of our triangle is recognized and the transparency around it is ignored so that the intended shape receives the shadow.

See the Pen CSS Caret Drop Shadow by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

Deciding Which Method to Use

The answer is totally up to you. The simple example of a triangle above might make it seem that filter: drop-shadow() is better, but it's not a fair comparison of the benefits or even the possibilities of both methods. It's merely an illustration of their different behaviors in a specific context.

Like most things in development, the answer of which method to use depends. Here's a side-by-side comparison to help distinguish the two and when it might be best to choose one over the other.

Box Shadow Drop Shadow Specification CSS Backgrounds and Borders Module Level 3 Filter Effects Module Level 1 Browser Support Great Good Supports Spread Radius Yes, as an optional fourth value No Blur Radius Calculation is based on a pixel length Calculation is based on the stdDeviation attribute of the SVG filter Supports inset shadows Yes No Performance Not hardware accelerated Hardware accelerated in browsers that support it. It's a heavy lift without it. Wrapping Up

The difference between box-shadow and filter: drop-shadow() really boils down to the CSS box model. One sees it and the other disregards it. There are other differences that distinguish the two in terms of browser support, performance and such, but the way the two treat the box model is the key difference.

Update: Amelia identified another key difference in the comments where the spread of the radius for drop-shadow() is calculated differently than box-shadow and even that of text-shadow. That means that the spread radius you might specify in box-shadow is not one-to-one with the default spread value for drop-shadow, so the two are not equal replacements of one another in some cases.

Let's cap this off with a few other great examples illustrating that. Lennart Schoors also has a nice write-up with practical examples using tooltips and icons that we previously called out.

See the Pen Drop-shadow vs box-shadow (2) by Kseso (@Kseso) on CodePen.

See the Pen box-shadow & drop-shadow by qnlz (@qnlz) on CodePen.

See the Pen Drop-shadow vs box-shadow (3) en png´s by Kseso (@Kseso) on CodePen.

Breaking down CSS Box Shadow vs. Drop Shadow is a post from CSS-Tricks

MDN Product Advisory Board

Css Tricks - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 5:09am

We all know and love MDN for already being the best documentation for web features out there. It looks like it's poised to get even better with Google and Microsoft both joining a new board.

Mozilla's vision for the MDN Product Advisory Board is to build collaboration that helps the MDN community collectively maintain MDN as the most comprehensive, complete, and trusted reference documenting the most important aspects of modern browsers and web standards.

Interesting none of them mentioned WebPlatform, the previous attempt at this that kinda fizzled out. This effort seems a little more likely to succeed as it already has a successful foundation, actual staff, and a benevolent dictator in Mozilla. It's great to see browsers complete on user features but cooperate on standards and education.

Worth a shout that we dabble in "docs" for CSS features ourselves here at CSS-Tricks with the Almanac, but if anything in there is worth taking for a unified resource like MDN, be our guest. Not to mention everything public on CodePen is MIT, and there are loads of Pens that demonstrate web features wonderfully. For instance, that's why I built this one.

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MDN Product Advisory Board is a post from CSS-Tricks

5 Tips for Starting a Front-End Refactor

Css Tricks - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 12:20am

For the last two weeks, I've been working on a really large refactor project at Gusto and I realize that this is the first time that a project like this has gone smoothly for me. There haven't been any kinks in the process, it took about as much time as I thought it would, and no-one appears to be mad at me. In fact, things have gone almost suspiciously well. How did this happen and what was the issue?

Well, we had a problem with how our CSS was organized. Some pages in our app loaded Bootstrap and some didn't. Others were loading only our app styles and some weren't loading the styles we served from our component library, a separate repo that includes all our forms, buttons, and variables, etc. This led to all sorts of design inconsistencies but most important of all it wasn't clear how to write CSS in our app. Do the component library styles override Bootstrap? Does Bootstrap override the app styles? It was scary stuff.

The goal was a rather complex one then. First, I needed to figure out how our styles were loaded in the app. Second, I wanted to remove Bootstrap from our node_modules and make a new Sass file with all those styles. Third, I then had to remove all our Bootstrap styles and place them into the component library where we would be able to refactor every line of Bootstrap into each individual component (so all the styles for the Tabs.jsx component was styled only by the Tabs.scss file). All of this work should reduce the amount of CSS we write by thousands of lines and generally make our codebase more readable and much more developer-friendly for the future.

However, before I started I knew that everything would have to be extraordinarily organized because this would involve a big shakeup in terms of our codebase. There will be spreadsheets! There will be a single, neat and tidy pull request! Lo, and behold! There will be beautiful, glorious documentation for everyone to read.

So here are some tips on making sure that big refactor projects go smoothly, based on my experience working on this large and complex codebase. Let's begin!

Tip #1: Gather as much data as you can

For this project, I needed to know a bunch of stuff beforehand, namely in the form of data. This data would then serve as metrics for success because if I could show that we could safely remove 90% of the CSS in the app then that's a huge win that the rest of the team can celebrate.

My favorite tool for refactoring CSS these days is Chrome's Coverage tab in DevTools and that's because it can show you just how much CSS is applied to any given page. Take a look here:

And it showed me everything I needed: the number of CSS files we generated, the overall size of those files and how much CSS we can safely delete from that page.

Tip #2: Make a list of everything you have to do

The very first refactor project I worked on at Gusto was a complete nightmare because I jumped straight into the codebase and started blowing stuff up. I'd remove a class here, an element there, and soon enough I found myself having changed thousands of lines of CSS and breaking hundreds of automated tests. Of course, all of this was entirely my fault and it caused a bunch of folks to get mad at me, and rightly so!

This was because I hadn't written down a list of everything that I wanted to do and the order I needed to do it in. Once you do this you can begin to understand just how big the scope of the project really is.

Tip #3: Keep focused

The second reason I made such a huge mistake on my first refactor project was that I wasn't focused on a very specific task. I'd just change things depending on how I felt, which isn't any way to manage a project.

But once you've made that list of tasks you can then break it down even further into each individual pull request that you'll have to make. So you might already be doing this but I would thoroughly recommend trying to keep each commit as focused and as small as you can. You'll need to be patient, a quality I certainly lack, and determined. Slow, small steps during a refactoring project is always better than a single large, unfocused pull request with dozens of unrelated commits in them.

If you happen to notice a new issue with the CSS or with the design as you're refactoring then don't rush to fix it, trust me. It'll be a distraction. Instead, focus on the task at hand. You can always return to that other thing later.

Tip #4: Tell everyone you're working on this project

This might just be something that I struggle with personally but I never realized until recently just how much of front-end development is a community effort. The real difficulty of the work doesn't depend on whether you know the fanciest CSS technique, but rather how willing you are to communicate with the rest of your team.

Tell everyone you're working on this project to make sure that there isn't anything you overlooked. Refactoring large codebases can lead to edge cases that can then lead to overwhelmingly painful customer-facing problems. In our case, if I messed up the CSS then potentially thousands of people wouldn't be paid that week by our app. Every little bit of information can only help you make this refactor process as efficient and as smooth as possible.

Tip #5: Document as much as you can

I really wish I could find the precise quote, but somewhere deep in Ellen Ullman's excellent book Life in Code she writes about how programming is sort of like a bad translation of a book. Outside the codebase we have ideas, thoughts, knowledge. And when we convert those ideas into code something inexplicable is lost forever, regardless of how good you are at programming.

amzn_assoc_tracking_id = "csstricks-20"; amzn_assoc_ad_mode = "manual"; amzn_assoc_ad_type = "smart"; amzn_assoc_marketplace = "amazon"; amzn_assoc_region = "US"; amzn_assoc_design = "enhanced_links"; amzn_assoc_asins = "0374534519"; amzn_assoc_placement = "adunit"; amzn_assoc_linkid = "195e7b7f883bf4a3b3340e6144828552";

One small tip that helps that translation process is writing really detailed messages in the pull request itself. Why are you doing this? How are you going about it? How do you plan to test that your refactor didn't break everything? That's precisely the sort of information that will help someone in the future learn more about your original intent and what your goals were.

Wrapping up

I learnt all this stuff the really hard, long stupid way. But if you happen to follow these tips then large front-end projects are bound to go a whole lot smoother, both for you and your team. I guarantee it.

5 Tips for Starting a Front-End Refactor is a post from CSS-Tricks

Sponsor: Media Temple

Css Tricks - Thu, 10/19/2017 - 12:03am

(This is a sponsored post.)

Media Temple is my web host here at CSS-Tricks. I still remember what it was like buying my first web hosting, pointing a domain name to it, FTPing into that server, and having the files I put there appear in the web browser. Powerful stuff, kids. Watch out or you might try to turn it into a career!

I've upgraded my server a few times since then, but it's still a pretty standard grade Media Temple server that happily hosts this site with little trouble. When there is anything weird, I use the same support system to get help as is available to anybody else, and they always go out of there way to investigate what's going on and explain what's up.

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Sponsor: Media Temple is a post from CSS-Tricks

A Look Back at the History of CSS

Css Tricks - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 7:00am

When you think of HTML and CSS, you probably imagine them as a package deal. But for years after Tim Berners-Lee first created the World Wide Web in 1989, there was no such thing as CSS. The original plan for the web offered no way to style a website at all.

There's a now-infamous post buried in the archives of the WWW mailing list. It was written by Marc Andreessen in 1994, who would go on to co-create both the Mosaic and Netscape browsers. In the post, Andreessen remarked that because there was no way to style a website with HTML, the only thing he could tell web developers when asked about visual design was, “sorry you're screwed.

10 years later, CSS was on its way to full adoption by a newly enthused web community. *W**hat happened along the way?*

Finding a Styling Language

There were plenty of ideas for how the web could theoretically be laid out. However, it just was not a priority for Berners-Lee because his employers at CERN were mostly interested in the web as a digital directory of employees. Instead, we got a few competing languages for web page layout from developers across the community, most notably from Pei-Yaun Wei, Andreesen, and Håkon Wium Lie.

Take Pei-Yuan Wei, who created the graphical ViolaWWW Browser in 1991. He incorporated his own stylesheet language right into his browser, with the eventual goal of turning this language into an official standard for the web. It never quite got there, but it did provide some much-needed inspiration for other potential specifications.

ViolaWWW upon release

In the meantime, Andreessen had taken a different approach in his own browser, Netscape Navigator. Instead of creating a decoupled language devoted to a website's style, he simply extended HTML to include presentational, unstandardized HTML tags that could be used to design web pages. Unfortunately, it wasn't long before web pages lost all semantic value and looked like this:

<MULTICOL COLS="3" GUTTER="25"> <P><FONT SIZE="4" COLOR="RED">This would be some font broken up into columns</FONT></P> </MULTICOL>

Programmers were quick to realize that this kind of approach wouldn't last long. There were plenty of ideas for alternatives. Like RRP, a stylesheet language that favored abbreviation and brevity, or PSL96 a language that actually allowed for functions and conditional statements. If you’re interested in what these languages looked like, Zach Bloom wrote an excellent deep dive into several competing proposals.

But the idea that grabbed everyone's attention was first proposed by Håkon Wium Lie in October of 1994. It was called Cascading Style Sheets, or just CSS.

Why We Use CSS

CSS stood out because it was simple, especially compared to some of its earliest competitors.

window.margin.left = 2cm font.family = times h1.font.size = 24pt 30%

CSS is a declarative programming language. When we write CSS, we don't tell the browser exactly how to render a page. Instead, we describe the rules for our HTML document one by one and let browsers handle the rendering. Keep in mind that the web was mostly being built by amateur programmers and ambitious hobbyists. CSS followed a predictable and perhaps more importantly, forgiving format and just about anyone could pick it up. That's a feature, not a bug.

CSS was, however, unique in a singular way. It allowed for styles to cascade. It's right there in the name. Cascading Style Sheets. The cascade means that styles can inherit and overwrite other styles that had previously been declared, following a fairly complicated hierarchy known as specificity. The breakthrough, though, was that it allowed for multiple stylesheets on the same page.

See that percentage value above? That's actually a pretty important bit. Lie believed that both users and designers would define styles in separate stylesheets. The browser, then, could act as a sort of mediator between the two, and negotiate the differences to render a page. That percentage represents just how much ownership this stylesheet is taking for a property. The less ownership, the more likely it was to be overwritten by users. When Lie first demoed CSS, he even showed off a slider that allowed him to toggle between user-defined and developer-defined styles in the browser.

This was actually a pretty big debate in the early days of CSS. Some believed that developers should have complete control. Others that the user should be in control. In the end, the percentages were removed in favor of more clearly defined rules about which CSS definitions would overwrite others. Anyway, that's why we have specificity.

Shortly after Lie published his original proposal, he found a partner in Bert Bos. Bos had created the Argo browser, and in the process, his own stylesheet language, pieces of which eventually made its way into CSS. The two began working out a more detailed specification, eventually turning to the newly created HTML working group at the W3C for help.

It took a few years, but by the end of 1996, the above example had changed.

html { margin-left: 2cm; font-family: "Times", serif; } h1 { font-size: 24px; }

CSS had arrived.

The Trouble with Browsers

While CSS was still just a draft, Netscape had pressed on with presentational HTML elements like multicol, layer, and the dreaded blink tag. Internet Explorer, on the other hand, had taken to incorporating some of CSS piecemeal. But their support was spotty and, at times, incorrect. Which means that by the early aughts, after five years of CSS as an official recommendation, there were still no browsers with full CSS support.

That came from kind of a strange place.

When Tantek Çelik joined Internet Explorer for Macintosh in 1997, his team was pretty small. A year later, he was made the lead developer of the rendering engine at the same as his team was cut in half. Most of the focus for Microsoft (for obvious reasons) was on the Windows version of Internet Explorer, and the Macintosh team was mostly left to their own devices. So Starting with the development of version 5 in 2000, Çelik and his team decided to put their focus where no one else was, CSS support.

It would take the team two years to finish version 5. During this time, Çelik spoke frequently with members of the W3C and web designers using their browser. As each piece slid into place, the IE-for-Mac team verified on all fronts that they were getting things just right. Finally, in March of 2002, they shipped Internet Explorer 5 for Macintosh. The first browser with full CSS Level 1 support.

Doctype Switching

But remember, the Windows version of Internet Explorer had added CSS to their browser with more than a few bugs and a screwy box model, which describes the way elements are calculated and then rendered. Internet Explorer included attributes like border and padding inside the total width and height of an element. But IE5 for Mac, and the official CSS specification called for these values to be added to the width and height. If you ever played around with box-sizing you know exactly the difference.

Çelik knew that in order to make CSS work, these differences would need to be reconciled. His solution came after a conversation with standards-advocate Todd Fahrner. It's called doctype switching, and it works like this.

We all know doctypes. They go at the very top of our HTML documents.

<!DOCTYPE html>

But in the old days, they looked like this:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.0//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/REC-html40/strict.dtd">

That's an example of a standards-compliant doctype. The //W3C//DTD HTML 4.0//EN is the crucial bit. When a web designer added this to their page the browser would know to render the page in "standards mode," and CSS would match the specification. If the doctype was missing, or an out of date one was in use, the browser would switch to "quirks mode" and render things according to the old box model and with old bugs intact. Some designers even intentionally opted to put their site into quirks mode in order to get back the older (and incorrect) box model.

Eric Meyer, sometimes referred to as the godfather of CSS, has gone on record and said doctype switching saved CSS. He's probably right. We would still be using browsers packed with old CSS bugs if it weren't for that one, simple trick.

The Box Model Hack

There was one last thing to figure out. Doctype switching worked fine in modern browsers on older websites, but the box model was still unreliable in older browsers (particularly Internet Explorer) for newer websites. Enter the Box Model Hack, a clever trick from Çelik that took advantage of a little-used CSS attribute called voice-family to trick browsers and allow for multiple widths and heights in the same class. Çelik instructed authors to put their old box model width first, then close the tag in a small hack with voice-family, followed by their new box model width. Sort of like this:

div.content { width: 400px; voice-family: ""}""; voice-family: inherit; width: 300px; }

Voice-family was not recognized in older browsers, but it did accept a string as its definition. So by adding an extra } older browsers would simply close the CSS rule before ever getting to that second width. It was simple and effective and let a lot of designers start experimenting with new standards quickly.

The Pioneers of Standards-Based Design

Internet Explorer 6 was released in 2001. It would eventually become a major thorn in the side of web developers everywhere, but it actually shipped with some pretty impressive CSS and standards support. Not to mention its market share hovering around 80%.

The stage was set, the pieces were in place. CSS was ready for production. Now people just needed to use it.

In the 10 years that the web hurtled towards ubiquity without a coherent or standard styling language, it's not like designers had simply stopped designing. Not at all. Instead, they relied on a backlog of browser hacks, table-based layouts, and embedded Flash files to add some style when HTML couldn't. Standards-compliant, CSS-based design was new territory. What the web needed was some pioneers to hack a path forward.

What they got was two major redesigns just a few months apart. The first from Wired followed soon after by ESPN.

Douglas Bowman was in charge of the web design team for Wired magazine. In 2002, Bowman and his team looked around and saw that no major sites were using CSS in their designs. Bowman felt almost an obligation to a web community that looked to Wired for examples of best practices to redesign their site using the latest, standards-compliant HTML and CSS. He pushed his team to tear everything down and redesign it from scratch. In September of 2002, they pulled it off and launched their redesign. The site even validated.

ESPN released their site just a few months later, using many of the same techniques on an even larger scale. These sites took a major bet on CSS, a technology that some thought might not even last. But it paid off in a major way. If you pulled aside any of the developers that worked on these redesigns, they would give you a laundry list of major benefits. More performant, faster design changes, easier to share, and above all, good for the web. Wired even did daily color changes in the beginning.

Dig through the code of these redesigns, and you'd be sure to find some hacks. The web still only lived on a few different monitor sizes, so you may notice that both sites used a combination of fixed width columns and relative and absolute positioning to slot a grid into place. Images were used in place of text. But these sites laid the groundwork for what would come next.

CSS Zen Garden and the Semantic Web

The following year, in 2003, Jeffrey Zeldman published his book Designing with Web Standards, which became a sort of handbook for web designers looking to switch to standards-based design. It kicked off a legacy of CSS techniques and tricks that helped web designers imagine what CSS could do. A year later, Dave Shea launched the CSS Zen Garden, which encouraged designers to take a basic HTML page and lay it out differently using just CSS. The site became a showcase of the latest tips and tricks, and went a long way towards convincing folks it was time for standards.

Slowly but surely, the momentum built. CSS advanced, and added new attributes. Browsers actually raced to implement the latest standards, and designers and developers added new tricks to their repertoire. And eventually, CSS became the norm. Like it had been there all along.

Enjoy learning about web history? Jay Hoffmann has a weekly newsletter called The History of the Web you can sign up for here.

A Look Back at the History of CSS is a post from CSS-Tricks

On-Site Search

Css Tricks - Wed, 10/18/2017 - 3:13am

CSS-Tricks is a WordPress site. WordPress has a built-in search feature, but it isn't tremendously useful. I don't blame it, really. Search is a product onto itself and WordPress is a CMS company, not a search company.

You know how you can make a really powerful search engine for your site?

Here you go:

<form action="https://google.com/search" target="_blank" type="GET"> <input type="search" name="q"> <input type="submit" value="search"> </form>

Just a smidge of JavaScript trickery to enforce the site it searches:

var form = document.querySelector("form"); form.addEventListener("submit", function(e) { e.preventDefault(); var search = form.querySelector("input[type=search]"); search.value = "site:css-tricks.com " + search.value; form.submit(); });

I'm only 12% joking there. I think sending people over to Google search results for just your site for their search term is perfectly acceptable. Nobody will be confused by that. If anything, they'll be silently pleased.

Minor adjustments could send them to whatever search engine. Like DuckDuckGo:



  1. They will leave your site
  2. They will see ads

To prevent #1, Google has long-offered a site search product where you can create and configure a custom search engine and embed it on your own site.

There has been lots of news about Google shutting down that service. For example, "Google site search is on the way out. Now what?" Eeek! This was quite confusing to me.

Turns out, what they are really are shutting down what is known as Google Site Search (GSS), which is an enterprise product. It shuts down entirely on April 1, 2018. Google has another product called Google Custom Search Engine (CSE) that doesn't seem to be going anywhere.

CSE is the thing I was using anyway. It has a free edition which has ads, and you can pay to remove them, although the pricing for that is also very confusing. I literally can't figure it out. For a site like CSS-Tricks, it will be hundreds or possibly thousands a year, best I can tell. Or you can hook up your own AdSense and at least attempt to make money off the ads that do show.

In the wake of all that, I thought I'd try something new with search. Algolia is a search product that I'd heard of quite a few people try, and it seems pretty beloved. With a little help from the wonderfully accommodating Algolia team, we've had that going for the last few months.

If we were to set up an implementation difficulty scale where my HTML/JavaScript form up there is a 1 and spinning up your own server and feeding Solr a custom data structure and coming up with your own rating algorithms is a 10, Algolia is like a 7. It's pretty heavy duty nerdy stuff.

With Alogolia, you need to bring all your own data and stucture and get it over to Algolia, as all the search magic happens on their servers. Any new/changed/deleted data needs to be pushed there too. It's not your database, but generally any database CRUD you do will need to go to Algolia too.

On that same difficulty scale, if you're adding Algolia to a WordPress site, that goes down to a 3 or 4. WordPress already has it's own data structure and Algolia has a WordPress plugin to push it all to them and keep it all in sync. It's not zero work, but it's not too bad. The plugin also offers a UI/UX replacement over the default WordPress search form, which offers "instant results" as a dropdown. It really is amazingly fast. Submit the form anyway, and you're taken to a full-page search results screen that is also taken over by Algolia.

For disclosure, I'm a paying customer of Algolia and there is no sponsorship deal in place.

It's a pretty damn good product. As one point of comparison, I've gotten exactly zero feedback on the switch. Nobody has written in to tell me they noticed the change in search and now they can't find things as easily. And people write in to tell me stuff like that all the time, so not-a-peep feels like a win.

I'm paying $59 a month for superfast on-page search with no ads.

It's almost a no-brainer win, but there are a few downsides. One of them is the ranking of search results. It's pretty damn impressive out of the box, returning a far more relevant set of results than native WordPress search would. But, no surprise, it's no Google. Whatever internal magic is happening is trying it's best, but it just doesn't have the data Google has. All it has is a bunch of text and maybe some internal linking data.

There are ways to make it better. For example, you can hook up your Google Analytics data to Algolia, essentially feeding it popularity data, so that Algolia results start to look more like Google results. It's not a trivial to set up, but probably worth it!


What do y'all use for search on your sites?

On-Site Search is a post from CSS-Tricks

I haven’t experienced imposter syndrome, and maybe you haven’t either

Css Tricks - Tue, 10/17/2017 - 7:31am

In recent years it’s become trendy to discuss how we all apparently suffer from this imposter syndrome - an inability to internalize one's accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud”.

I take two issues with this:

  • it minimizes the impact that this experience has on people that really do suffer from it.
  • we’re labelling what should be considered positive personality traits - humility, an acceptance that we can’t be right all the time, a desire to know more, as a “syndrome” that we need to “deal with”, “get over” or “get past”.

It's not an officially recognized syndrome (yet?), but you can have medical diagnoses that are like imposter syndrome. A general feeling that you're faking it or don't know as much as you should isn't it.

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I haven’t experienced imposter syndrome, and maybe you haven’t either is a post from CSS-Tricks

Prettier + Stylelint: Writing Very Clean CSS (Or, Keeping Clean Code is a Two-Tool Game)

Css Tricks - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 10:58pm

It sure is nice having a whole codebase that is perfectly compliant to a set of code style guidelines. All the files use the same indentation, the same quote style, the same spacing and line-break rules, heck, tiny things like the way zero's in values are handled and how keyframes are named.

It seems like a tall order, but these days, it's easier than ever. It seems to me it's become a two-tool game:

  1. A tool to automatically fix easy-to-fix problems
  2. A tool to warn about harder-to-fix problems

Half the battle: Prettier

Otherwise known as "fix things for me, please".

Best I can tell, Prettier is a fairly new project, only busting onto the scene in January 2017. Now in the last quarter of 2017, it seems like everybody and their sister is using it. They call it an Opinionated Code Formatter.

The big idea: upon save of a document, all kinds of code formatting happens automatically. It's a glorious thing to behold. Indentation and spacing is corrected. Quotes are consistent-ified. Semi colons are added.

Run Prettier over your codebase once and gone are the muddy commits full of code formatting cruft. (You might consider making a temporary git user so one user doesn't look like they've commited a bazillion lines of code more than another, if you care about that.) That alone is a damn nice benefit. It makes looking through commits a heck of a lot easier and saves a bunch of grunt work.

As this post suggest, Prettier is only half the battle though. You'll notice that Prettier only supports a handful of options. In fact, I'm pretty sure when it launched it didn't have any configuration at all. Opinionated indeed.

What it does support are things that are easy to fix, requiring zero human brainpower. Use double quotes accidentally (uggkch muscle memory) when your style guide is single quotes? Boom - changed on save.

There are other potential problems that aren't as easy to fix. For example, you've used an invalid #HEX code. You probably wouldn't want a computer guessing what you meant there. That's better to just be visually marked as an error for you to fix.

That's where this next part comes in.

The other half of the battle: Stylelint

Otherwise known as "let me know about problem, so I can fix them".

Stylelint is exactly that. In fact, in that GIF above show Prettier do it's thing, you saw some red dots and red outlines in my Sublime Text editor. That wasn't Prettier showing me what it was going to fix (Prettier displays no errors, it just fixes what it can). That was Stylelint running it's linting and showing me those errors.

Whereas Prettier supports 10ish rules, Stylelint supports 150ish. There is a standard configuration, but you can also get as fine-grained as you want there and configure how you please. David Clark wrote about it here on CSS-Tricks last year.

With these warnings so clearly visible, you can fix them up by hand quickly. It becomes rather second nature.

Getting it all going

These tools work in a wide variety of code editors.

These are the Prettier editor integrations. Between all these, that probably covers 96% webdevnerds.

It's very easy to think "I'll just install this into my code editor, and it will work!" That gets me every time. Getting these tools to work is again a two-part game.

  1. Install code editor plugin.
  2. Do the npm / yarn installation stuff. These are node-based tools. It doesn't mean your project needs to have anything to do with node in production, this is a local development dependency.

These are intentionally separated things. The meat of these tools is the code that parses your code and figures out the problems it's going to fix. That happens through APIs that other tools can call. That means these tools don't have to be rewritten and ported to work in a new environment, instead, that new environment calls the same APIs everyone else does and does whatever it needs to do with the results.

Above is a barebones project in Sublime Text with both Prettier and Stylelint installed. Note the `package.json` shows we have our tools installed and I'm listing my "packages" so you can see I have the Sublime Text Plugin jsPrettier installed. You can also see the dotfiles there that configure the rules for both tools.

Don't let the "js" part mislead you. You could use this setup on the CSS of your WordPress site. It really doesn't matter what your project is.

Getting more exotic

There is certainly leveling up that can happen here. For example:

  • You might consider configuring Stylelint to ignore problems that Prettier fixes. They are going to be fixed anyway, so why bother looking at the errors.
  • You might consider updating your deployment process to stop if Stylelint problems are found. Sometimes Stylelint is showing you an error that will literally cause a problem, so it really shouldn't go to production.
  • We mostly talked about CSS here, but JavaScript is arguably even more important to lint (and Prettier supports as well). ES Lint is probably the way to go here. There are also tools like Rubocop for Ruby, and I'm sure linters for about every language imaginable.

Prettier + Stylelint: Writing Very Clean CSS (Or, Keeping Clean Code is a Two-Tool Game) is a post from CSS-Tricks

Making The Case For ‘Boring’ UX Design

Usability Geek - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 12:59pm
In design, ‘boring’ is often treated as a dirty word. And it is not just in design: the boring fallacy is pervasive. The notion that ‘normal is boring’ is commonly spouted as...
Categories: Web Standards

The Art of Comments

Css Tricks - Mon, 10/16/2017 - 5:23am

I believe commenting code is important. Most of all, I believe commenting is misunderstood. I tweeted out the other day that "I hear conflicting opinions on whether or not you should write comments. But I get thank you's from junior devs for writing them so I'll continue." The responses I received were varied, but what caught my eye was that for every person agreeing that commenting was necessary, they all had different reasons for believing this.

Commenting is a more nuanced thing than we give it credit for. There is no nomenclature for commenting (not that there should be) but lumping all comments together is an oversimplification. The example in this comic that was tweeted in response is true:

From Abstrusegoose

This is where I think a lot of the misconceptions of comments lie. The book Clean Code by Robert C. Martin talks about this: that comments shouldn't be necessary because code should be self-documenting. That if you feel a comment is necessary, you should rewrite it to be more legible. I both agree and disagree with this. In the process of writing a comment, you can often find things that could be written better, but it's not an either/or. I might still be able to rewrite that code to be more self-documenting and also write a comment as well, for the following reason:

Code can describe how, but it cannot explain why.

This isn't a new concept, but it's a common theme I notice in helpful comments that I have come across. The ability to communicate something that the code cannot, or cannot concisely.

All of that said, there is just not one right way or one reason to write a comment. In order to better learn, let's dig into some of the many beneficial types of comments that might all serve a different purpose, followed by patterns we might want to avoid.

Good comments What is the Why

Many examples of good comments can be housed under this category. Code explains what you'd like the computer to take action on. You'll hear people talk about declarative code because it describes the logic precisely but without describing all of the steps like a recipe. It lets the computer do the heavy lifting. We could also write our comments to be a bit more declarative

/* We had to write this function because the browser interprets that everything is a box */

This doesn't describe what the code below it will do. It doesn't describe the actions it will take. But if you found a more elegant way of rewriting this function, you could feel confident in doing so because your code is likely the solution to the same problem in a different way.

Because of this, less maintenance is required (we'll dig more into this further on). If you found a better way to write this, you probably wouldn't need to rewrite the comment. You could also quickly understand whether you could rewrite another section of code to make this function unnecessary without spending a long time parsing all the steps to make the whole.

Clarifying something that is not legible by regular human beings

When you look at a long line of regex, can you immediately grok what's going on? If you can, you're in the minority, and even if you can at this moment, you might not be able to next year. What about a browser hack? Have you ever seen this in your code?

.selector { [;property: value;]; }

what about

var isFF = /a/[-1]=='a';

The first one targets Chrome ? 28, Safari ? 7, Opera ? 14, the second one is Firefox versions 2-3. I have written code that needs something like this. In order to avoid another maintainer or a future me assuming I took some Salvia before heading to work that day, it's great to tell people what the heck that's for. Especially in preparation for a time when we don't have to support that browser anymore, or the browser bug is fixed and we can remove it.

Something that is clear and legible to you is not necessarily clear to others

Who's smart? We are! Who writes clean code? We do! We don't have to comment, look how clear it is. The problem with this way of thinking is that we all have deeper knowledge in different areas. On small teams where people's skillsets and expertise are more of a circle than a venn diagram, this is less of an issue than big groups that change teams or get junior devs or interns frequently. But I'd probably still make room for those newcomers or for future you. On bigger teams where there are junior engineers or even just engineers from all types of background, people might not outrightly tell you they need you to comment, but many of these people will also express gratitude when you do.

Comments like chapters of a book

If this very article was written as one big hunk rather than broken up into sections with whitespace and smaller headings, it would be harder to skim through. Maybe not all of what I'm saying applies to you. Commenting sections or pieces allows people to skip to a part most relevant to them. But alas! You say. We have functional programming, imports, and modules for this now.

It's true! We break things down into smaller bits so that they are more manageable, and thank goodness for that. But even in smaller sections of code, you'll necessarily come to a piece that has to be a bit longer. Being able quickly grasp what is relevant or a label for an area that's a bit different can speed up productivity.

A guide to keep the logic straight while writing the code

This one is an interesting one! These are not the kind of comments you keep, and thus could also be found in the "bad patterns" section. Many times when I'm working on a bigger project with a lot of moving parts, breaking things up into the actions I'm going to take is extremely helpful. This could look like

// get the request from the server and give an error if it failed // do x thing with that request // format the data like so

Then I can easily focus on one thing at a time. But when left in your code as is, these comments can be screwy to read later. They're so useful while you're writing it but once you're finished can merely be a duplication of what the code does, forcing the reader to read the same thing twice in two different ways. It doesn't make them any less valuable to write, though.

My perfect-world suggestion would be to use these comments at the time of writing and then revisit them after. As you delete them, you could ask "does this do this in the most elegant and legible way possible?" "Is there another comment I might replace this with that will explain why this is necessary?" "What would I think is the most useful thing to express to future me or other from another mother?"

This is OK to refactor

Have you ever had a really aggressive product deadline? Perhaps you implemented a feature that you yourself disagreed with, or they told you it was "temporary" and "just an AB test so it doesn't matter". *Cue horror music* … and then it lived on… forever…

As embarrassing as it might be, writing comments like

// this isn't my best work, we had to get it in by the deadline

is rather helpful. As a maintainer, when I run across comments like this, I'll save buckets of time trying to figure out what the heck is wrong with this person and envisioning ways I could sabotage their morning commute. I'll immediately stop trying to figure out what parts of this code I should preserve and instead focus on what can be refactored. The only warning I'll give is to try not to make this type of coding your fallback (we'll discuss this in detail further on).

Commenting as a teaching tool

Are you a PHP shop that just was given a client that's all Ruby? Maybe it's totally standard Ruby but your team is in slightly over their heads. Are you writing a tutorial for someone? These are the limited examples for when writing out the how can be helpful. The person is literally learning on the spot and might not be able to just infer what it's doing because they've never seen it before in their lives. Comment that sh*t. Learning is humbling enough without them having to ask you aloud what they could more easily learn on their own.

I StackOverflow'd the bejeezus outta this

Did you just copy paste a whole block of code from Stack Overflow and modify it to fit your needs? This isn't a great practice but we've all been there. Something I've done that's saved me in the past is to put the link to the post where I found it. But! Then we won't get credit for that code! You might say. You're optimizing for the wrong thing would be my answer.

Inevitably people have different coding styles and the author of the solution solved a problem in a different way than you would if you knew the area deeper. Why does this matter? Because later, you might be smarter. You might level up in this area and then you'll spend less time scratching your head at why you wrote it that way, or learn from the other person's approach. Plus, you can always look back at the post, and see if any new replies came in that shed more light on the subject. There might even be another, better answer later.

Bad Comments

Writing comments gets a bad wrap sometimes, and that's because bad comments do indeed exist. Let's talk about some things to avoid while writing them.

They just say what it's already doing

John Papa made the accurate joke that this:

// if foo equals bar ... If (foo === bar) { } // end if

is a big pain. Why? Because you're actually reading everything twice in two different ways. It gives no more information, in fact, it makes you have to process things in two different formats, which is mental overhead rather than helpful. We've all written comments like this. Perhaps because we didn't understand it well enough ourselves or we were overly worried about reading it later. For whatever the reason, it's always good to take a step back and try to look at the code and comment from the perspective of someone reading it rather than you as the author, if you can.

It wasn't maintained

Bad documentation can be worse than no documentation. There's nothing more frustrating than coming across a block of code where the comment says something completely different than what's expressed below. Worse than time-wasting, it's misleading.

One solution to this is making sure that whatever code you are updating, you're maintaining the comments as well. And certainly having less and only more meaningful comments makes this upkeep less arduous. But commenting and maintaining comments are all part of an engineer's job. The comment is in your code, it is your job to work on it, even if it means deleting it.

If your comments are of good quality to begin with, and express why and not the how, you may find that this problem takes care of itself. For instance, if I write

// we need to FLIP this animation to be more performant in every browser

and refactor this code later to go from using getBoundingClientRect() to getBBox(), the comment still applies. The function exists for the same reason, but the details of how are what has changed.

You could have used a better name

I've definitely seen people write code (or done this myself) where the variable or functions names are one letter, and then comment what the thing is. This is a waste. We all hate typing, but if you are using a variable or function name repeatedly, I don't want to scan up the whole document where you explained what the name itself could do. I get it, naming is hard. But some comments take the place of something that could easily be written more precisely.

The comments are an excuse for not writing the code better to begin with

This is the crux of the issue for a lot of people. If you are writing code that is haphazard, and leaning back on your comments to clarify, this means the comments are holding back your programming. This is a horse-behind-the-cart kind of scenario. Unfortunately, even as the author it's not so easy to determine which is which.

We lie to ourselves in myriad ways. We might spend the time writing a comment that could be better spent making the code cleaner to begin with. We might also tell ourselves we don't need to comment our code because our code is well-written, even if other people might not agree.

There are lazy crutches in both directions. Just do your best. Try not to rely on just one correct way and instead write your code, and then read it. Try to envision you are both the author and maintainer, or how that code might look to a younger you. What information would you need to be as productive as possible?

People tend to, lately, get on one side or the other of "whether you should write comments", but I would argue that that conversation is not nuanced enough. Hopefully opening the floor to a deeper conversation about how to write meaningful comments bridges the gap.

Even so, it can be a lot to parse. Haha get it? Anyways, I'll leave you with some (better) humor. A while back there was a Stack Overflow post about the best comments people have written or seen. You can definitely waste some time in here. Pretty funny stuff.

The Art of Comments is a post from CSS-Tricks

Getting Nowhere on Job Titles

Css Tricks - Sun, 10/15/2017 - 9:37pm

Last week on ShopTalk, Dave and I spoke with Mandy Michael and Lara Schenck. Mandy had just written the intentionally provocative "Is there any value in people who cannot write JavaScript?" which guided our conversation. Lara is deeply interested in this subject as well, as someone who is a job seeking web worker, but places herself on the spectrum as a non-unicorn.

Part of that discussion was about job titles. If there was a ubiquitously accepted and used job title that meant you were specifically skilled at HTML and CSS, and there was a market for that job title, there probably wouldn't be any problem at all. There isn't though. "Web developer" is too vague. "Front-end developer" maybe used to mean that, but has been largely co-opted by JavaScript.

In fact, you might say that none of us has an exactly perfect job title and the industry at large has trouble agreeing on a set of job titles.

Lara created a repo with the intent to think all this out and discuss it.

If there is already a spectrum between design and backend development, and front-end development is that place in between, perhaps front-end development, if we zoom in, is a spectrum as well:

I like the idea of spectrums, but I also agree with a comment by Sarah Drasner where she mentioned that this makes it seem like you can't be good at both. If you're a dot right in the middle in this specrum, you are, for example, not as good at JavaScript as someone on the right.

This could probably be fixed with some different dataviz (perhaps the size of the dot), or, heaven forbid, skill-level bars.

More importantly, if you're really interested in the discussion around all this, Lara has used the issues area to open that up.

Last year, Geoff also started thinking about all our web jobs as a spectrum. We can break up our jobs into parts and map them onto those parts in differnet ways:

See the Pen Web Terminology Matrix by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham) on CodePen.

See the Pen Web Terminology Venn Diagram by Geoff Graham (@geoffgraham) on CodePen.

That can certainly help us understand our world a little bit, but doesn't quite help with the job titles thing. It's unlikely we'll get people to write job descriptions that include a data visualization of what they are looking for.

Jeff Pelletier took a crack at job titles and narrowed it down to three:

Front-end Implementation (responsive web design, modular/scalable CSS, UI frameworks, living style guides, progressive enhancement & accessibility, animation and front-end performance).

Application Development (JavaScript frameworks, JavaScript preprocessors, code quality, process automation, testing).

Front-end Operations (build tools, deployment, speed: (app, tests, builds, deploys), monitoring errors/logs, and stability).

Although those don't quite feel like titles to me and converting them into something like "Front-end implementation developer" doesn't seem like something that will catch on.

Cody Lindley's Front-End Developer Handbook has a section on job titles. I won't quote it in full, but they are:

  • Front-End Developer
  • Front-End Engineer (aka JavaScript Developer or Full-stack JavaScript Developer)
  • CSS/HTML Developer
  • Front-End Web Designer
  • Web/Front-End User Interface (aka UI) Developer/Engineer
  • Mobile/Tablet Front-End Developer
  • Front-End SEO Expert
  • Front-End Accessibility Expert
  • Front-End Dev. Ops
  • Front-End Testing/QA

Note the contentious "full stack" title, in which Brad Frost says:

In my experience, “full-stack developers” always translates to “programmers who can do frontend code because they have to and it’s ‘easy’.” It’s never the other way around.

Still, these largely feel pretty good to me. And yet weirdly, almost like there is both too many and too few. As in, while there is good coverage here, but if you are going to cover specialties, you might as well add in performance, copywriting, analytics, and more as well. The more you add, the further away we are to locking things down. Not to mention the harder it becomes when people crossover these disciplines, like they almost always do.

Oh well.

Getting Nowhere on Job Titles is a post from CSS-Tricks

A Bit on Buttons

Css Tricks - Sat, 10/14/2017 - 4:46am

The other day we published an article with a bonafide CSS trick where an element with a double border could look like a pause icon, and morph nicely into a CSS triangle looking like a play icon. It was originally published with a <div> being the demo element, which was a total accessibility flub on our part, as something intended to be interacted with like this is really a <button>.

It also included a demo using the checkbox hack to toggle the state of the button. That changes the keyboard interaction from a "return" click to a "space bar" toggle, but more importantly should have had a :focus state to indicate the button (actually a label) was interactive at all.

Both have been fixed.


Adam Silver has an interesting post where the title does a good job of setting up the issue:

But sometimes links look like buttons (and buttons look like links)

Buttons that are buttons aren't contentious (e.g. a form submit button). Links that are links aren't contentious. The trouble comes in when we cross the streams.

Buttons (that have type="button") are not submit buttons. Buttons are used to create features that rely on Javascript. Behaviours such as revealing a menu or showing a date picker.

A call-to-action "button" is his good example on the other side. They are often just links that are styled like a button for prominence. This whole passage is important:

In Resilient Web Design Jeremy Keith discusses the idea of material honesty. He says that “one material should not be used as a substitute for another, otherwise the end result is deceptive”.

Making a link look like a button is materially dishonest. It tells users that links and buttons are the same when they’re not.

In Buttons In Design Systems Nathan Curtis says that we should distinguish links from buttons because “button behaviours bring a whole host of distinct considerations from your simple anchor tag”.

For example, we can open a link in a new tab, copy the address or bookmark it for later. All of which we can’t do with buttons.

Call to action buttons— which again, are just links?—?are deceptive. Users are blissfully unaware because this styling removes their natural affordance, obscuring their behaviour.

We could make call to action buttons look like regular links. But this makes them visually weak which negates their prominence. Hence the problem.

I find even amongst <button>s you can have issues, since what those buttons do are often quite different. For example, the Fork button on CodePen takes you to a brand new page with a new copy of a Pen, which feels a bit like clicking a link. But it's not a link, which means it behaves differently and requires explanation.


I'll repeat Adam again here:

Buttons are used to create features that rely on Javascript.

Buttons within a <form> have functionality without JavaScript, but that is the only place.

Meaning, a <button> is entirely useless in HTML unless JavaScript is successfully downloaded and executed.

Taken to an extreme logical conclusion, you should never use a <button> (or type="button") in HTML outside of a form. Since JavaScript is required for the button to do anything, you should inject the button into place with JavaScript once it's functionality is already ready to go.

Or if that's not possible...

<button disabled title="This button will become functional once JavaScript is downloaded and executed"> Do Thing </button>

Then change those attributes once ready.

A Bit on Buttons is a post from CSS-Tricks

Writing Smarter Animation Code

Css Tricks - Fri, 10/13/2017 - 5:02am

If you've ever coded an animation that's longer than 10 seconds with dozens or even hundreds of choreographed elements, you know how challenging it can be to avoid the dreaded "wall of code". Worse yet, editing an animation that was built by someone else (or even yourself 2 months ago) can be nightmarish.

In these videos, I'll show you the techniques that the pros use keep their code clean, manageable, and easy to revise. Scripted animation provides you the opportunity to create animations that are incredibly dynamic and flexible. My goal is for you to have fun without getting bogged down by the process.

We'll be using GSAP for all the animation. If you haven't used it yet, you'll quickly see why it's so popular - the workflow benefits are substantial.

See the Pen SVG Wars: May the morph be with you. (Craig Roblewsky) on CodePen.

The demo above from Craig Roblewsky is a great example of the types of complex animations I want to help you build.

This article is intended for those who have a basic understanding of GSAP and want to approach their code in a smarter, more efficient way. However, even if you haven't used GSAP, or prefer another animation tool, I think you'll be intrigued by these solutions to some of the common problems that all animators face. Sit back, watch and enjoy!

Video 1: Overview of the techniques

The video below will give you a quick behind-the-scenes look at how Craig structured his code in the SVG Wars animation and the many benefits of these workflow strategies.

Although this is a detailed and complex animation, the code is surprisingly easy to work with. It's written using the same approach that we at GreenSock use for any animation longer than a few seconds. The secret to this technique is two-fold:

  1. Break your animation into smaller timelines that get glued together in a master (parent) timeline.
  2. Use functions to create and return those smaller timelines.

This makes your code modular and easy to edit.

Video 2: Detailed Example

I'll show you exactly how to build a sequence using functions that create and return timelines. You'll see how packing everything into one big timeline (no modular nesting) results in the intimidating "Wall of Code". I'll then break the animation down into separate timelines and use a parameterized function that does all the heavy lifting with 60% less code!

Let's review the key points...

Avoid the dreaded wall of code

A common strategy (especially for beginners) is to create one big timeline containing all of the animation code. Although a timeline offers tons of features that accommodate this style of coding, it's just a basic reality of any programming endeavor that too much code in one place will become unwieldy.

Let's upgrade the code so that we can apply the same techniques Craig used in the SVG wars animation...

See the Pen Wall of Code on CodePen.

Be sure to investigate the code in the "JS" tab. Even for something this simple, the code can be hard to scan and edit, especially for someone new to the project. Imagine if that timeline had 100 lines. Mentally parsing it all can be a chore.

Create a separate timeline for each panel

By separating the animation for each panel into its own timeline, the code becomes easier to read and edit.

var panel1 = new TimelineLite(); panel1.from(...); ... var panel2 = new TimelineLite(); panel2.from(...); ... var panel3 = new TimelineLite(); panel3.from(...); ...

Now it's much easier to do a quick scan and find the code for panel2. However, when these timelines are created they will all play instantly, but we want them sequenced.

See the Pen

No problem - just nest them in a parent timeline in whatever order we want.

Nest each timeline using add()

One of the greatest features of GSAP's timeline tools (TimelineLite / TimelineMax) is the ability to nest animations as deeply as you want (place timelines inside of other timelines).

The add() method allows you add any tween, timeline, label or callback anywhere in a timeline. By default, things are placed at the end of the timeline which is perfect for sequencing. In order to schedule these 3 timelines to run in succession we will add each of them to a master timeline like so:

//create a new parent timeline var master = new TimelineMax(); //add child timelines master.add(panel1) .add(panel2) .add(panel3);

Demo with all code for this stage:

See the Pen

The animation looks the same, but the code is much more refined and easy to parse mentally.
Some key benefits of nesting timelines are that you can:

  • Scan the code more easily.
  • Change the order of sections by just moving the add() code.
  • Change the speed of an individual timeline.
  • Make one section repeat multiple times.
  • Have precise control over the placement of each timeline using the position parameter (beyond the scope of this article).
Use functions to create and return timelines

The last step in optimizing this code is to create a function that generates the animations for each panel. Functions are inherently powerful in that they:

  • Can be called many times.
  • Can be parameterized in order to vary the animations they build.
  • Allow you to define local variables that won't conflict with other code.

Since each panel is built using the same HTML structure and the same animation style, there is a lot of repetitive code that we can eliminate by using a function to create the timelines. Simply tell that function which panel to operate on and it will do the rest.

Our function takes in a single panel parameter that is used in the selector string for all the tweens in the timeline:

function createPanel(panel) { var tl = new TimelineLite(); tl.from(panel + " .bg", 0.4, {scale:0, ease:Power1.easeInOut}) .from(panel + " .bg", 0.3, {rotation:90, ease:Power1.easeInOut}, 0) .staggerFrom(panel + " .text span", 1.1, {y:-50, opacity:0, ease:Elastic.easeOut}, 0.06) .addLabel("out", "+=1") .staggerTo(panel + " .text span", 0.3, {opacity:0, y:50, ease:Power1.easeIn}, -0.06, "out") .to(panel + " .bg", 0.4, {scale:0, rotation:-90, ease:Power1.easeInOut}); return tl; //very important that the timeline gets returned }

We can then build a sequence out of all the timelines by placing each one in a parent timeline using add().

var master = new TimelineMax(); master.add(createPanel(".panel1")) .add(createPanel(".panel2")) .add(createPanel(".panel3"));

Completed demo with full code:

See the Pen

This animation was purposefully designed to be relatively simple and use one function that could do all the heavy lifting. Your real-world projects may have more variance but even if each child animation is unique, I still recommend using functions to create each section of your complex animations.

Check out this example in the wonderful pen from Sarah Drasner that's built using functions that return timelines to illustrate how to do exactly that!

See the Pen

And of course the same technique is used on the main GSAP page animation:

See the Pen


You may have noticed that fancy timeline controller used in some of the demos and the videos. GSDevTools was designed to super-charge your workflow by allowing you to quickly navigate and control any GSAP tween or timeline. To find out more about GSDevTools visit greensock.com/GSDevTools.


Next time you've got a moderately complex animation project, try these techniques and see how much more fun it is and how quickly you can experiment. Your coworkers will sing your praises when they need to edit one of your animations. Once you get the hang of modularizing your code and tapping into GSAP's advanced capabilities, it'll probably open up a whole new world of possibilities. Don't forget to use functions to handle repetitive tasks.

As with all projects, you'll probably have a client or art director ask:

  • "Can you slow the whole thing down a bit?"
  • "Can you take that 10-second part in the middle and move it to the end?"
  • "Can you speed up the end and make it loop a few times?"
  • "Can you jump to that part at the end so I can check the copy?"
  • "Can we add this new, stupid idea I just thought of in the middle?"

Previously, these requests would trigger a panic attack and put the entire project at risk, but now you can simply say "gimme 2 seconds..."

Additional Resources

To find out more about GSAP and what it can do, check out the following links:

CSS-Tricks readers can use the coupon code CSS-Tricks for 25% off a Club GreenSock membership which gets you a bunch of extras like MorphSVG and GSDevTools (referenced in this article). Valid through 11/14/2017.

Writing Smarter Animation Code is a post from CSS-Tricks

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