This new resource on Web Components from Keith Cirkel and Kristján Oddsson of GitHub (and friends) is looking great so far.
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 never properly understood when you would need to use the ARIA
presentation role. This is perhaps in part because it is often used inappropriately, for example in situations where
aria-hidden would be more appropriate. However I think the penny has finally dropped.
My colleague Anda and I just had a good conversation about tabs, and specifically the company’s tabs component. I’ve mentioned before that our tabs are unconventional and potentially confusing, and Anda was interested to hear more.
Yesterday the Design System team received a tentative enquiry regarding making table cells editable. I’m not yet sure whether or not this is a good idea – experience and spidey sense tell me it’s not – but regardless I decided to start exploring so as to base my answer on facts and avoid being overly cautious.
Keith Cirkel of Github has written about how they think about browsers and it’s interesting. In summary Github achieve:
- improved performance;
- exploiting new native technologies; and
- universal user access/inclusion
…via a progressive enhancement strategy that ensures a basic experience for all but delivers an enhanced experience to most. Their tooling gets a bit deep/exotic in places but I think the basic premise is:
- decide on what our basic experience is, then use native HTML combined with a bare minimum of other stuff to help old browsers deliver that; and
- exploit new JS features in our enhanced experience (the one most people will get) to make it super lean and fast
My team will soon be refactoring our modal dialogue component. Ours has a few deficiencies, needs better developer experience and documentation, is not built to our Design System component standards, and could use a resilience boost from some progressive enhancement.
Here’s a new development in the Web Components story, and one that may have positive implications for resilience, performance and progressive enhancement.
Alex Page, a Design System engineer at Spotify, has just asked:
And there are lots of interesting examples in the replies.
After a couple of years of reading about web components (and a lot of head-scratching), I’ve finally got around to properly creating one… or at least a rough first draft!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
A while back, Jake Archibald tweeted:
Don't render buttons on the server that require JS to work.
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.
Lean, hackable, extensible slide deck framework
I’ve been on the lookout for a lightweight, web standards based slide deck solution for a while and this one from Lea Verou could well be perfect.
Here’s a nice, lightweight and framework-free drag and drop UI solution, that’s sure to come in handy.
Drag and drop so simple it hurts
Max’s demo is really clever and features lots of interesting web component related techniques.
I came up with this demo of a book store. Each of the books is draggable and can be moved to one of three sections, with varying available space. Depending on where it is placed, different styles will be applied to the book.
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
hrefin the user’s localStorage as an identifier accessible on return visits
<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
- 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
- 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.
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
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
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.
If I were going down Zach’s route I think I’d replace
visibility since the latter hiding method removes the hidden element from the document which feels more accessible, while still avoiding triggering the reflow that
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.
I’ve played with the various HTML5 Observer APIs (
MutationObserver) a little over the last few years—for example using
ResizeObserver in a container query solution for responsive grids. But in all honesty their roles, abilities and differences haven’t yet fully stuck in my brain. So I’ve put together a brief explainer for future reference.
Trys shows us how to use the Nunjucks
macro to create encapsulated components. This works out less leaky and more predictable than an
include preceded by variables assigned with
The Great Divide between so-called front-end developers is real! Here, Brad Frost proposes some modern role definitions.
Here’s Chris Ferdinandi’s curated list of organisations which use vanilla JS to build websites and web apps.
Jeremy Keith takes us through his thought process regarding the choice of link or
button when planning accessible interactive disclosure elements.
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.
A fantastic so-called “Scroll Story” from Robin Rendle. In his own words it’s “an elaborate blog post where I rant about a thing” however given the beautiful typography, layout and illustrations on show I think he’s selling it a little short!
In web development it’s useful when we can say “if the browser supports X, then we know it also supports Y”.
Even though more and more people get access to the internet every day, not all of them have fast gigabit connections or unlimited data. Using the media query prefers-reduced-data we can keep our sites accessible to everyone.
Scott Jehl’s experimental take on a container/element query aimed at letting us set responsive styles for our elements based on their immediate context rather than that of the viewport.
I made a quick and minimal take on approximating Container/Element Queries using a web component and basic CSS selectors.
I don’t often store things in a
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?
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 (
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.
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.
Here’s a brilliant discussion between Gerry McGovern and Jeremy Keith on that problem, suggesting tactics to help fix things such as performance budgets, introducing tactics at the design stage to mimic slow connections and other access constraints, optimising for return visits, progressive enhancement and more.
I wanted there to be an easy way to complete crosswords together that didn’t need people to pass a phone back and forth or for a copy of the crossword to be made in a shared Google Spreadsheet.
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 the same vein as Jeremy Keith’s recent blog post, Hydration, which calls out some of the performance and user experience problems associated with current Server Side Rendering approaches, I think Jake Archibald is absolutely bang on the money here.
The BBC Global Experience Language (GEL) Technical Guides are a series of framework-agnostic, code-centric recommendations and examples for building GEL design patterns in websites. They illustrate how to create websites that comply with all BBC guidelines and industry best practice, giving special emphasis to accessibility.
The situation we have now is the worst of both worlds: server-side rendering followed by a tsunami of hydration. It has a whiff of progressive enhancement to it (because there’s a cosmetic separation of concerns) but it has none of the user benefits.
I wanted to see if it was possible to create SVG charts that would work without JS. Well, it is. I've also created an experimental Svelte component library called Pancake to make these techniques easier to use.
For many years I’ve placed script elements just before the closing
body tag rather than in the
<head>. Since a standard
<script> element is render-blocking, the theory is that by putting it at the end of the document – after the main content of the page has loaded – it’s no longer blocking anything, and there’s no need to wrap it in a
DOMContentLoaded event listener.
It turns out that my time-honoured default is OK, but there is a better approach.
My notes and reminders for handling promises with
await In Real Life.
Just because Stimulus.js is designed to work primarily with existing HTML doesn’t mean it can’t use JSON APIs when the need arises.
A disclosure component is the formal name for the pattern where you click a button to reveal or hide content. This includes things like a “show more/show less” interaction for some descriptive text below a YouTube video, or a hamburger menu that reveals and hides when you click it.
When it comes to webfonts, if you want to serve an accessible and high performance experience across device types it’s not as straightforward as just specifying your fonts in CSS then hoping for the best.
I learned something new today when developing in the Firefox Dev Tools console (although this applies to Chrome too)—something which was really useful and which I thought I’d share.
$$('selector') into the console (replacing selector as desired) and it’ll give you back all matching elements on the page.
I previously noted Keith J Grant’s article on the HTML
dialog element which promised a native means of handling popups and modal dialogues. I’ve not yet used
dialog in production, partly because of spotty browser support (although there is a polyfill) but also partly because—for reasons I couldn’t quite put my finger on after reading the spec—it just didn’t feel like the finished article.
A brief explainer (for future-me and anyone else it helps) on what promises are and how to use them. Note: this is not an official definition, but rather one that works for me.
See all tags.