Skip to main content
Bookmark

Ruthlessly eliminating layout shift on netlify.com, by Zach Leatherman

Direct Link

I love hearing about clever front-end solutions which combine technologies and achieve multiple goals. In Zach’s post we hear how Netlify’s website suffered from layout shift when conditionally rendering dismissible promo banners, and how he addressed this by rethinking the problem and shifting responsibilities around the stack.

Here’s my summary of the smart ideas covered in the post:

  • decide on the appropriate server-rendered content… in this case showing rather than hiding the banner, making the most common use case faster to load
  • have the banner “dismiss” button’s event handling script store the banner’s href in the user’s localStorage as an identifier accessible on return visits
  • process lightweight but critical JavaScript logic early in the <head>… in this case a check for this banner’s identifier existing in localStorage
  • under certain conditions – in this case when the banner was previously seen and dismissed – set a “state” class (banner--hide) on the <html> element, leading to the component being hidden seamlessly by CSS
  • build the banner as a web component, the first layer of which being a custom element <announcement-banner> and the second a JavaScript class to enhance it
  • delegate responsibility for presenting the banner’s “dismiss” button to the same script responsible for the component’s enhancements, meaning that a broken button won’t be presented if that script were to break.

So much to like in there!

Here are some further thoughts the article provoked.

Web components FTW #

It feels like creating a component such as this one as a web component leads to a real convergence of benefits:

  • tool-free, async loading of the component JS as an ES module
  • fast, native element discovery (no need for a document.querySelector)
  • enforces using a nice, idiomatic class providing encapsulation and high-performing native callbacks
  • resilience and progressive enhancement by putting all your JS-dependent stuff into the JS class and having that enhance your basic custom element. If that JS breaks, you still have the basic element and won’t present any broken elements.

Even better, you end up with framework-independent, standards-based component that you could share with others for reuse elsewhere, just like Zach did.

Multiple banners #

I could see there being a case where there are multiple banners during the same time period. I guess in that situation the localStorage banner value could be a stringified object rather than a simple, single-URL string.

Setting context on the root #

It’s really handy to have a way to exert just-in-time control over the display of a server-rendered element in a way that avoids flashes of content… and adding a class to the <html> element offers that. In this approach, we run the small amount of JavaScript required to test a local condition (e.g. checking for a value in localStorage) really early. That lets us process our conditional logic before the element is rendered… although this also means that it’s not yet available in the DOM for direct manipulation. But adding a class to the HTML element means that we can pre-prepare CSS to use that class as a contextual selector for hiding the element.

We’re already familiar with the technique of placing classes on the root element from libraries like modernizr and some font-loading approaches, but this article serves as a reminder that we can employ it whenever we need it.

Handling the close button #

Zach’s approach to handling the banner’s dismiss button was interesting. He makes sure that it’s not shown unless the web component’s JavaScript runs successfully which is great, but rather than inject it with JavaScript he includes it in the initial HTML but hidden with CSS, and his method of hiding is opacity.

We use opacity to toggle the close button so that it doesn’t reflow the component when it’s enabled via JavaScript.

I think what Zach’s saying is that the alternatives – inserting the button with JS, or toggling the hidden attribute or its CSS counterpart display:none – would affect geometry causing the browser to perform layout… whereas modifying opacity does not.

I love that level of diligence! Typically I prefer to delegate responsibility for inserting JS-dependent buttons to JavaScript because in comparison to including a button in the server-rendered HTML then hiding it, it feels more resilient and a more maintainable separation of concerns. However as always the best solution depends on the situation.

If I were going down Zach’s route I think I’d replace opacity with visibility since the latter hiding method removes the hidden element from the document which feels more accessible, while still avoiding triggering the reflow that display would.

Side-thoughts #

In a server-side scripted application – one using Rails or PHP, for example – you could alternatively handle persisting state with cookies rather than localStorage… allowing you to test for the presence of the cookie on the server then handle conditional rendering of the banner on the server too, rather than needing classes which trigger hiding. I can see an argument for that. Thing is though, not everyone’s working in that environment. Zach has provided a standalone solution.

References #

External Link Bookmark Note Entry Search