Here are some recurring development decisions I make when maintaining my personal website/blog, with some accompanying rationale.
An interesting article which helps the author – and his readers – understand some of the lesser-used and more obscure HTML elements.
I’m interested by Shoelace’s MO as a collection of pre-rolled, customisable web components. The idea is that it lets individuals and teams start building with web components – components that are web-native, framework-agnostic and portable – way more quickly.
I guess it’s a kind of Bootstrap for web components? I’m interested to see how well it’s done, how customisable the components are, and how useful it is in real life. Or if nothing else, I’m interested to see how they built their components!
It’s definitely an interesting idea.
There’s a great section on Source order and layers in Every Layout’s Imposter layout. It’s a reminder that when needing to layer one element on top of the other you should:
- favour a modern layout approach such as CSS Grid over absolute positioning; and
- not apply
z-indexunless it’s necessary.
which elements appear over which is, by default, a question of source order. That is: if two elements share the same space, the one that appears above the other will be the one that comes last in the source.
z-indexis only necessary where you want to layer positioned elements irrespective of their source order. It’s another kind of override, and should be avoided wherever possible.
An arms race of escalating z-index values is often cited as one of those irritating but necessary things you have to deal with using CSS. I rarely have z-index problems, because I rarely use positioning, and I’m mindful of source order when I do.
it can also leave you feeling like it’s impossible to keep up or learn it all. And that’s because you can’t! The field is literally too big to learn everything. “Keeping up” is both impossible and overrated. It’s the path to burnout.
Something we often talk about in our Design System team is that components should not be like Swiss Army Knives. It’s better for them to be laser-focused because by limiting their scope to a single task they are more reusable and support a more extensible system through composition.
Responsive design for tables is tricky. Sure, you can just make the table’s container horizontally scrollable but that’s more a developer convenience than a great user experience. And if you instead try to do something more clever, you can run into challenges as I did in the past. Still, we should strive to design good narrow screen user experiences for tables, alongside feasible technical solutions to achieve them.
Whether I’m thinking about inclusive hiding, hamburger menus or web components one UI pattern I keep revisiting is the disclosure widget. Perhaps it’s because you can use this small pattern to bring together so many other wider aspects of good web development. So for future reference, here’s a braindump of my knowledge and resources on the subject.
I’ve written previously about the important differences between buttons and links. While reviewing some “component refresh” design mocks at work yesterday I noticed the designs were a bit unclear in this regard so I sent the designers a little decision-tree, which I’m noting here for future reference.
Alex Page, a Design System engineer at Spotify, has just asked:
And there are lots of interesting examples in the replies.
Browser devtools have made redesigning a site such a pleasure. I love writing and adjusting a CSS file right in the sources panel and seeing design changes happen as I type, and saving it back to the file. (…) Designing against live HTML allows happy accidents and discoveries to happen that I wouldn't think of in an unconstrained design mockup
I feel very late to the party here. I tend to tinker in the DevTools Element Styles panel rather than save changes. So, inspired by Scott, I’ve just tried this out on my personal website. Here’s what I did.
At work in our Design System team, we’ve been doing a lot of content and documentation writing for a new reference website. So it was really timely to read Jeremy Keith of Clearleft’s new post on the process of writing Learn Responsive Design for Google’s web.dev resource. The course is great, very digestible and I highly recommend it to all. But I also love this new post’s insight into how Google provided assistance, provided a Content handbook as “house style” for writing on web.dev and managed the process from docs and spreadsheets to Github. I’m sure there will be things my team can learn from that Content Handbook as we go forward with our technical writing.
Great tutorial (with accompanying video) from Adam Argyle which starts with a useful definition of what a
Toast is and is not:
Toasts are non-interactive, passive, and asynchronous short messages for users. Generally they are used as an interface feedback pattern for informing the user about the results of an action. Toasts are unlike notifications, alerts and prompts because they're not interactive; they're not meant to be dismissed or persist. Notifications are for more important information, synchronous messaging that requires interaction, or system level messages (as opposed to page level). Toasts are more passive than other notice strategies.
Warning: this entry is a work-in-progress and incomplete. That said, it's still a useful reference to me which is why I've published it. I’ll flesh it out soon!
There are lots of different strands of web development. You try your best to be good at all of them, but there’s only so much time in the day! Animation is an area where I know a little but would love to know more, and from a practical perspective I’d certainly benefit from having some road-ready solutions to common challenges. As ever I want to favour web standards over libraries where possible, and take an approach that’s lean, accessible, progressively-enhanced and performance-optimised.
Here’s my attempt to break down web animation into bite-sized chunks for ocassional users like myself.
Just taking a moment for some musings on which way the front-end wind is blowing (from my perspective at least) and how that might practically impact my approach on the next small-ish website that I code.
A classic talk by Jeremy Keith on progressive enhancement and the nature of the web and its technologies.
Jeremy Keith’s new course for Google’s web.dev learning platform is fantastic and covers a variety of aspects of responsive design including layout (macro and micro), images, icons and typography.
For future reference, here are my tips.
It’s a few years old now, but this tutorial from Heydon Pickering on how to create an accessible, progressively enhanced user interface comprised of multiple collapsible and expandable sections is fantastic. It covers using the appropriate HTML elements (buttons) and ARIA attributes, how best to handle icons (minimal inline SVG), turning it into a web component and plenty more besides.
Jeremy Keith deconstructs the cheeseburger icon and—referencing Luke Wroblewski’s Obvious Always Wins mantra—argues that while icons alone look tasty they risk users failing to understand and engage.
A Storybook UI explorer containing the components and layouts for making the front end of a BBC web experience.
A history of Design Systems by Jay Hoffman taking in (amongst other milestones) the notion of Front-end Style Guides, followed by the arrival of Bootstrap, then Brad Frost’s Atomic Design, culminating in the dawn of the Design System movement with Jina Anne’s Clarity Conference.
On the web buttons and links are fundamentally different materials. However some design and development practices have led to them becoming conceptually “bundled together” and misunderstood. Practitioners can fall into the trap of seeing the surface-level commonality that “you click the thing, then something happens” and mistakenly thinking the two elements are interchangeable. Some might even consider them as a single “button component” without considering the distinctions underneath. However this mentality causes our users problems and is harmful for effective web development. In this post I’ll address why buttons and links are different and exist separately, and when to use each.
Here’s an accessibility tip that’s new to me. When the content of a heading, anchor, or other semantic HTML element contains smaller “chunks” of
em (etc), the VoiceOver screen reader on Mac and iOS annoyingly fails to announce the content as a single phrase and instead repeats the parent element’s role for each inner element. We can fix that by adding an inner “wrapper” element inside our parent and giving it
A new animation library, built on the Web Animations API for the smallest filesize and the fastest performance.
Harry Roberts (who created ITCSS for organising CSS at scale but these days focuses on performance) has just given a presentation about the importance of getting the content, order and optimisation of the
<head> element right, including lots of measurement data to back up his claims. Check out the slides: Get your Head Straight
Here’s something to keep in mind when designing and developing forms. GOV.UK’s accessibility team found last year that there are some accessibility issues with the “conditional reveal” pattern, i.e. when selecting a particular radio button causes more inputs to be revealed.
In this journal entry, Jeremy Keith argues that when it comes to accessibility testing it’s not just about finding issues—it’s about finding the issues at the right time.
I’ve been really interested in the subject of Web Performance since I read Steve Souders’ book High Performance Websites back in 2007. Although some of the principles in that book are still relevant, it’s also fair to say that a lot has changed since then so I decided to pull together some current tips. Disclaimer: This is a living document which I’ll expand over time. Also: I’m a performance enthusiast but not an expert. If I have anything wrong, please let me know.
line-height on the web is a tricky thing, but this tool offers a clever solution.
Lots of different options for running a local web server. Choose from npx, ruby, python and many more.
There are many colour contrast checking tools but I like this one from Erik Kennedy (of Learn UI Design) a lot. It features an intuitive UI using simple, human language that mirrors the task I’m there to achieve, and it’s great that if your target colour doesn’t have sufficient contrast to meet accessibility guidelines it will intelligently suggest alternatives that do.
SVG Gobbler is a browser extension that finds the vector content on the page you’re viewing and gives you the option to download, optimize, copy, view the code, or export it as an image.
Here’s a smart and comprehensive tutorial from Andy Bell on how to create a progressively enhanced narrow-screen navigation solution using a custom element. Andy also uses
Proxy for “enabled” and “open” state management,
ResizeObserver on the custom element’s containing
header for a Container Query like solution, and puts some serious effort into accessible focus management.
Unlike other HTML5 elements such as
nav, it’s never been particularly clear to me when is appropriate to use
section. This is due in large part to many experts having expressed that it doesn’t quite work as intended.
Here’s a lovely Design System that interestingly uses Eleventy for its reference website and other generated artefacts:
Here are my current go-to resources when building a new site using Eleventy (11ty).
Astro looks very interesting. It’s in part a static site builder (a bit like Eleventy) but it also comes with a modern (revolutionary?) developer experience which lets you author components as web components or in a JS framework of your choice but then renders those to static HTML for optimal performance. Oh, and as far as I can tell theres no build pipeline!
Astro lets you use any framework you want (or none at all). And if most sites only have islands of interactivity, shouldn’t our tools optimize for that?
Here’s a handy JS package for “copy to clipboard” functionality that’s lightweight and installable from npm.
Some excellent favicon tips from Chris Coyier, referencing Andrey Sitnik’s recent article of the same name.
I always appreciate someone looking into and re-evaluating the best practices of something that literally every website needs and has a complex set of requirements.
The Great Divide between so-called front-end developers is real! Here, Brad Frost proposes some modern role definitions.
Last time I tried Source Code Pro as my monospaced typeface for code examples in blog posts, it didn’t work out. When viewed in Firefox it would only render in black meaning that I couldn’t display it in white on black for blocks of code. This led to me conceding defeat and using something simpler.
An excellent article from Brad Frost in which he gives us some vocabulary for separating context-agnostic components intended for maximal use from specific variants and one-offs.
Chris Coyier takes the new CSS
aspect-ratio property for a spin and tests how it works in different scenarios.
Here’s Chris Ferdinandi’s curated list of organisations which use vanilla JS to build websites and web apps.
Here’s Andy Bell recommending using CSS
clamp() to control your wrapper/container
width because it supports setting a preferred value in
vw to ensure sensible gutters combined with a maximum tolerance in
rem—all in a single line of code.
If we use clamp() to use a viewport unit as the ideal and use what we would previously use as the max-width as the clamp’s maximum value, we get a much more flexible setup.
Jeremy Keith takes us through his thought process regarding the choice of link or
button when planning accessible interactive disclosure elements.
A handy tool which lets you type in a URL then inspects that page’s meta tags and shows you how it will be presented on popular websites.
Chris Coyier checks out Sizzy, Polypane et al and decides which suits him best.
There are a number of these desktop apps where the goal is showing your site at different dimensions all at the same time. So you can, for example, be writing CSS and making sure it’s working across all the viewports in a single glance.
Over the last couple of days I’ve witnessed a good example of progressive enhancement “In Real Life”. And I think it’s good to log and share these validations of web development best practices when they happen so that their benefits can be seen as real rather than theoretical.
Need to overlay one HTML element on top of and fully covering another, such as a heading with translucent background on top of an image? Michelle Barker has us covered with this blog post in which she creates an
overlay utility to handle this. She firstly shows how it can be accomplished with positioning, then modernises her code using the
inset CSS logical property, before finally demonstrating a neat CSS Grid based approach.
Here’s a lovely intrinsically responsive (no media queries) photo gallery solution from Stephanie Eckles. It can accommodate differently sized images and achieves its layout by a combination of flexbox features (
flex-basis) and by applying
object-fit: cover to photos to make them fully cover their parent list items.
Here’s a list of useful terminal commands for my reference and yours.
Here’s a (work in progress) list of useful (Mac) Browser DevTools tips, tricks and keyboard shortcuts for my reference and yours. This is a work in progress and I’ll update it as I go.
In web development it’s useful when we can say “if the browser supports X, then we know it also supports Y”.
Here’s a list of useful Screen Reader commands and tips for my reference and yours. This is a work in progress and I’ll update it as I go.
Here are five bite-sized and practical chunks of advice for creating accessible forms.
- Always label your inputs.
- Highlight input elements on focus.
- Break long forms into smaller sections/pages.
- Provide error messages (rather than just colour-based indicators)
- Avoid horizontal layout forms unless necessary.
This is why, over years of building for the web, I have learned that I can significantly cut down on the entropy my future self will have to face by authoring web projects in vanilla HTML, CSS, and JS. I like to ask myself questions like:
- Could this be done with native ES modules instead of using a bundler?
- Could I do this with DOM scripting instead of using a JS framework?
- Could I author this in CSS instead of choosing a preprocessor?
In order to code modern component designs we often need to hide then reveal elements. At other times we want to provide content to one type of user but hide it from another because it’s not relevant to their mode of browsing. In all cases accessibility should be front and centre in our thoughts. Here’s my approach, heavily inspired by Scott O’Hara’s definitive guide Inclusively Hidden.
Rachel Andrew explains how to write CSS for a nicely optimised printed page that uses a minimum of ink and paper and ensures that content is easy to read.
I’ve just read The A11Y Project’s page on
As most of us know, the HTML
alt attribute is for providing “alternate text” descriptions of images to help ensure people do not miss out on information conveyed by graphics. This can help people using assistive technology such as screen readers, and in situations where images are slow or fail to load.
The article made some interesting points and even though I’ve been using the
alt attribute for years I found three common cases where I could improve how I do things.
When advocating accessible web practices for a commercial website, the question of “what does the law require us to do?” invariably arises.
Here’s an interesting tool for creating and sharing small-ish web pages without having to build a website or organise hosting.
itty.bitty takes html (or other data), compresses it into a URL fragment, and provides a link that can be shared. When it is opened, it inflates that data on the receiver’s side.
Hidde de Vries explains why an HTML heading should never be immediately followed by another.
When you use a heading element, you set the expectation of content.
aria-labelledbyattributes do the same thing but in different ways. Sometimes the two attributes are confused and this has unintended results. This post describes the differences between them and how to choose the right one.
Sometimes you want to create a line break after an inline element, while retaining that inline element’s inline status.
Daniel Post shared a really cool performance-optimisation trick for Eleventy on Twitter the other day. When statically generating your site you can loop through your pages and, for each, use PurgeCSS to find the required CSS, then inline that into the
<head>. This way, each page contains only the CSS it needs and no more!
I’ve just installed this on my personal site. I was already inlining my CSS into the
<head> but the promise of only including the minimum CSS that each specific page needs was too good to resist.
Turned out it was a breeze to get working, a nice introduction to Eleventy transforms, and so far it’s working great!
I’ve been thinking about Scott Jehl’s “simplest way to load external CSS asynchronously” technique. I’m interested in its use of an inline (
From Steve Schoger:
A collection of repeatable SVG background patterns for you to use on your web projects.
A human-friendly datepicker. Supports natural language manual input through Chrono.js. Fully accessible with keyboard and screen reader.
Sam Dutton advises how to use cross-platform browser features to build sign-in forms that are secure, accessible and easy to use.
Who said navigation has to be in the header of every page? If your front end is extremely lightweight or if you have a long list of menu items to display in your navigation, the most practical method might be to create a separate page to list them all.
Scott Jehl of Filament Group demonstrates a one-liner technique for loading external CSS files without them delaying page rendering.
Given what we can now do with CSS, do we still need Sass?
Sass was the hare. CSS is the tortoise. Sass blazed the trail, but now native CSS can achieve much the same result.
Here’s how I’d handle various common SVG icon scenarios with accessibility in mind.
SVGs enable full-screen hi-res visuals with a file-size near 5KB and
are well-supported by all modern browsers. What's not to love?
A font pairing app that helps you match fonts – useful for pairing a webfont with a suitable fallback. You can place the fonts on top of each other, side by side, or in the same line. You can adjust your fallback font’s size and position to get a great match.
If you’re using a web font, you're bound to see a flash of unstyled text (or FOUC), between the initial render of your websafe font and the webfont that you’ve chosen. This usually results in a jarring shift in layout, due to sizing discrepancies between the two fonts. To minimize this discrepancy, you can try to match the fallback font and the intended webfont’s x-heights and widths. This tool helps you do exactly that.
With throttling, you run a function immediately, then wait a specified amount of time before running it again. Any additional attempts to run it before that time period is over are ignored.
With debouncing, after the relevant event fires a specified time period must pass uninterrupted in order for your function to run. When the time period has passed uninterrupted, that last attempt to run the function is the one that runs, with any previous attempts ignored.
We’re not going to try to replicate everything that the browser does by default with a native select element. We’re going to literally use a select element when any assistive tech is used. But when a mouse is being used, we’ll show the styled version and make it function as a select element.
Kieth Cirkel explains how using npm to run the
scripts field of
package.json is a great, simple alternative to more complex build tools. The article is now quite old but because it contains so many goodies, and since I’ve been using the approach more and more (for example to easily compile CSS on my personal website), it’s definitely worth bookmarking and sharing.
npm’s scripts directive can do everything that these build tools can, more succinctly, more elegantly, with less package dependencies and less maintenance overhead.
A combination of asynchronously loading CSS, asynchronously loading font files, opting into FOFT, fast-fetching asynchronous CSS files, and warming up external domains makes for an experience several seconds faster than the baseline.
Modern CSS Solutions for Old CSS Problems
A handy tool that generates the required HTML and CSS for various section separator effects (including diagonal lines, spikes, and waves) by cleverly manipulating backgrounds and generated content.
grep.app searches code from over a half million public repositories on GitHub.
Here’s Chris Ferdinandi with a list of resources to help those who are new to web development get started. I’m keeping this one handy so I can share it with any friends who’re thinking of getting into this game.
In this tutorial we'll use the box-shadow property to create a layered card component, and animate it on hover.
Let’s create a pure CSS effect that changes the color of a text link on hover – but slide that new color in instead of simply swapping colors.
In this post we have seen that with just a sprinkling of HTML attributes we can improve the login experience for our users, particularly on mobile devices.
Fast screen sharing with multiplayer control, drawing & video.
You have a “card” component which includes a heading, some text, an image, and a link to the full article, and it’s working great. Then along comes a UX requirement that the full card (not just the button or link) should be clickable. This is where things get complicated.
On at least two ocassions I’ve found myself scratching my head when an attempted push to a newly-created Github repo is met with authentication failures, despite me being sure I’m using the correct credentials.
Here’s the lowdown on the issue and how to resolve it.
I’m finding Codepen to be more and more valuable not only for testing out new code and ideas, but also – when working on large applications – as a time-saving rapid prototyping environment which sidesteps the overhead of back-end set-up. Here are some tips which I’ve found useful, for future reference.
Here’s a list of useful (Mac-based) VS Code tips for my reference and yours.
RegExr is an online tool to learn, build, & test Regular Expressions.
My notes and reminders for handling promises with
await In Real Life.
I’m no Ruby engineer however even as a front-end developer I’m sometimes called upon to work on Rails applications that require me to know my way around. Here are my notes and reminders.
Subgrid for CSS Grid Layout has arrived in Firefox and it looks great. Here’s how I wrapped my head around the new concepts.
Thanks to a great tip from Lucas Hugdahl on Twitter, here’s how to use CSS custom properties (variables) in your transforms so you don't need to rewrite the whole
transform rule in order to
transition (animate) a single property.
Skinning your prototypes just got easier - colors.css is a collection of skin classes to use while prototyping in the browser.
"Ok, as part of your interview test for junior developer, we want you to put some words, an image and some links onto a webpage. We use Node, Docker, Kubernetes, React, Redux, Puppeteer, Babel, Bootstrap, Webpack,
Here’s how to improve performance and prevent layout jank when browsers load responsive images.
Here, Ed provides some handy code to convert a Markdown-formatted string into HTML in Nunjucks via an Eleventy shortcode.
Every now and then something comes along in the world of web design that represents a substantial shift. The launch of Every Layout, a new project from Heydon Pickering and Andy Bell, feels like one such moment.
Now that we have the HTML attribute
loading we can set
loading="lazy" on our website’s media, and the loading of non-critical, below-the-fold media will be deferred until the user scrolls to them.
Last Tuesday, 20/8/19 I made the train trip east for a day at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
“I’ll just make a few small tweaks to my website…” said I. Cut to three sleep-deprived days later and I’ve rebuilt it, SSG/JAMstack-stylee with Eleventy and Netlify and entirely re-coded the front-end. Silly, but so far so good, and it’s greasy fast!
A collection of resources for finding that curly quote or em dash character quickly.
For a while now I’ve been using gulp-autoprefixer as part of my front-end build system. However, I’ve just removed it from my boilerplate. Here’s why.
The most popular drop-in solution to the EU Cookie Law requirements.
Knowing how best to serve, size and format favicons and other icons for the many different device types and operating systems can be a minefield. My current best practice approach is to create a 260px × 260px (or larger) source icon then upload it to Real Favicon Generator.
Excellent tutorials by David DeSandro. I’ve already used the card flip and it worked really well.
This slider/carousel certainly looks nice, and I like author David DeSandro’s work, having taken inspiration from his 3d Card Flip tutorial for a recent project. I’d just like to dig into it a little further to see how it fares in terms of accessibility before using it in the wild.
Some simple but inspiring work here from Seattle-based web developer Katherine Kato. I really like the use of space, the typography, the colour palette and the use of CSS grid for layout.
Sometimes, for reasons unknown, we find that clicking or tapping an element just isn’t working. Here’s a CSS-based approach that might help.
Polypane is a browser built specifically for developing responsive websites. It can present typical device resolutions side-by-side (for example iphone SE next to iphone 7 next to iPad) but also has some nice features such as automatically creating views based on your stylesheet’s media query breakpoints.
The HTML attribute
aria-current allows us to indicate the currently active element in a sequence. It’s not only great for accessibility but also doubles as a hook to style that element individually.
I realised last night while watching a presentation by Lea Verou that I could streamline my CSS Grid layouts.
A while back I read a great SVG icon tip from Andy Bell which I’d been meaning to try and finally did so today. Andy recommended that for icons with text labels we set the
height of the icons to
1em since that will size them proportionately to the adjacent text and additionally lets us use
font-size to make any further sizing tweaks.
Here’s how to check the application you’re running locally on your MacBook on your iPhone.
Sometimes when coding a UI element you want a shadow around the whole box. However, most CSS box-shadow examples/tutorials tend to show inset box-shadows or ones that otherwise sit off to the side.
Here’s how to apply
box-shadow to the whole box for a simple but nice effect.
And here’s how it looks:
When taking the DIY approach to building a new server, Certbot is a great option for installing secure certificates. However, sometimes you can run into problems. Here, I review the main recurring issues I’ve encountered and how I fixed them.
In all my years of spinning up “HTML Typographic Elements” lists or pages as a reference for designers, I didn’t realise that the W3C provide the very thing I needed in their HTML Element Sampler. These pages provide comprehensive dummy content covering all the main typographic elements which is really handy when designing a website’s typographic styles and pattern library.
I’ve used Git for many years but it can still trip me up. At times I’ve worked primarily in a GUI (like Sourcetree or Fork), and other times directly on the command line. I’ve worked on projects where I’ve been the sole developer and others where I’m part of a large team. Regardless of the tools or context, I’ve learned there are certain need-to-knows. Here’s a list of useful Git concepts and commands for my reference and yours.
Rubadub have a new mobile app that delivers the RaD crew’s top vinyl recommendations (the best around) direct to your phone.
John Allsopp’s classic article in which he looks at the medium of web design through the prism of the Tao Te Ching, and encourages us to embrace the web’s inherent flexibility and fluidity.
It’s time to throw out the rituals of the printed page, and to engage the medium of the web and its own nature.
It’s choc-full of quotable lines, but here are a few of my favourites:
We must “accept the ebb and flow of things.”
Everything I’ve said so far could be summarized as: make pages which are adaptable.
The web’s greatest strength, I believe, is often seen as a limitation, as a defect. It is the nature of the web to be flexible, and it should be our role as designers and developers to embrace this flexibility, and produce pages which, by being flexible, are accessible to all. The journey begins by letting go of control, and becoming flexible.
dialog: a new, easier, standards-based means of rendering a popup or modal dialogue.
See all tags.