Article Archives

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David Merfield:

There are lots of clever one-liners for generating random colors:

'#' + Math.floor(Math.random()*16777215).toString(16);

Unfortunately, this code naturally produces lots of greys and browns and murky greens.

randomColor generates attractive colors by default. More specifically, randomColor produces bright colors with a reasonably high saturation. This makes randomColor particularly useful for data visualizations and generative art.…


First Impression of GitHub Desktop

GitHub Desktop was released late last week.

Wait, doesn't GitHub already have two desktop apps? If the same question crossed your mind when you first read that, then you are not alone. Yes, GitHub did have two desktop apps—one for Mac OS and one for Windows—but decided to unify them into a single app. Instead of GitHub for Mac and GitHub for Windows, we are now left with just GitHub Desktop.

I was planning to write up a …


Making Charts with CSS

There are many ways to make visual representations of data: bar charts, line graphs, scatter diagrams, sparklines... not to mention the many ways in which you can implement them on the web. In this post I'll be looking at plain CSS methods for styling data. …


Building A Circular Navigation with CSS Clip Paths

The following is guest post by Sara Soueidan. Sara is always doing wonderful creative work, and then does an equally wonderful job explaining all the ins and outs of how it was done with web tech. Here, she'll walk us through building a circular menu in what (should be) the simplest possible way.


Strategies for Cache-Busting CSS

Major performance gains are to be had from browser caching CSS. You ensure your server is set up to send headers that tell the browser to hang onto the CSS file for a given amount of time. It's a best-practice that many if not most sites are doing already.

Hand-in-hand with browser caching is cache busting. Say the browser has the CSS file cached for one year (not uncommon). Then you want to change the CSS. You need a …

Sponsor: An Event Apart

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Office Hours (A new thing at CSS-Tricks where offer live help)

That's right, a new benefit for being a Lodge member!

Office Hours is for live help with web design and development. When office hours are in session, you'll be able to talk directly to another human being about any problem you might be having with web design or development.

Feel free to join us during our live office hours to get the best help we can offer on anything web design or development. Or because you like hanging out and …


Localizing Times in JavaScript

Say you have a time you'd like to display on your site. You've entered it in your time zone. You can always be specific and say something like: 3:00 PM Eastern Standard Time. Then leave it up to whoever is reading to convert it to their local time. Every Time Zone is a great site for that.

But it can be nice to localize the time for the reader. Time zone conversion is notoriously confusing. And it's the type …

Learning Fluency

Sara Simon's recent Burlington Ruby Conf talk, repurposed as an essay. It's about exploring different approaches to becoming fluent in a programming language. But, it's also about:

[W]hat we can learn about software development when we step away from our computers and into kitchens. When we step away from our computers and into newsrooms. When we step into chess tournaments. When we step into foreign languages classes. When we step onstage.

It's a long, deep read that rewards rereading.…

The WordPress Template Hierarchy

A visual and linked-up version of the template hierarchy. If you work on WordPress sites, it's good to know how everything kinda waterfalls down towards the index.php file. That file is what will be be used to render any page, unless there is a more specific one present. It looks complicated, but it allows you get pretty specific with your templating without having to do much other than plop a file in.

The newest member is `singular.php`, coming in 4.3, …

How DNS Works

A cleverly illustrated website that takes a look at what happens after you enter a URL into the browser. This answers questions like what is a root server and what the heck is an IP address?…


Scroll Drawing

We've taken an in-depth look at how SVG line drawing works before. It's a clever trick where you use dashed lines for the stroke, but the gap in the dash is so long it covers the entire path. Then you can move it such that it covers the entire path again, which makes it appear as if it's drawing itself.

Using a bit of JavaScript, we can get a little fancier, drawing the shape to completion as page is scrolled …

Push Notifications for the Web

This isn't the regular Notifications API, this is more like phone notifications, where you don't even have to (have the app open || be on the website) for it to work. Uses the fancy new Service Workers.

It requires and opt-in, so it's only as spammy as you let it be. I can imagine some pretty useful stuff: "Your bus is behind schedule", "You've got a new match", "Your website isn't responding"... things you want to know faster than …

Sponsor: ParallaxOne, a Free WordPress Theme by Themeisle

After building (probably) the most popular WordPress theme of 2015, the team at Themeisle used everything they learned to release something even better: ParallaxOne.

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Dynamic Web Typography with Typekit

Typekit has started to roll out a new feature called Dynamic Subsetting which greatly reduces the size of each font file that's sent over the network. This post Tom Newton describes the current solution for doing this with Latin fonts. The process is a little hacky at the moment but I'm sure they'll be spreading this feature to other languages properly in the future.…

Designing for Performance

Lara Hogan has just published her excellent book Designing for Performance for free online. She takes a good look at what makes a website feel slow and how that experience affects design and business goals:

Page speed is increasingly important for websites. If you're looking for a page load time benchmark for your site, this is it: users expect pages to load in two seconds, and after three seconds, up to 40% of users will abandon your site. Moreover, …

Quantity Queries

Using :nth-child (and friends), you can write selectors that target elements when they have a certain number of siblings. So you can write CSS that, for example, styles widgets to be 33.33% wide if there are exactly 3 of them.

The selectors are a bit complicated though, so this tool by Drew Minns is pretty helpful.

And perhaps controversially, a PostCSS plugin for the same.…


The Gray Gray Ghost That I Call Home

There is a great scene in Cold Mountain where Inman, who is AWOL from the army in The Civil War, is walking through the woods on a horse opposite Bosie, the deputy charged with catching people like Inman. The two are at a gunpoint standoff:

Bosie: Tell you what I got on my side.
Inman: What have you got on your side?
Bosie: The confidence of youth.

Bosie is absolute in his convictions. Inman had done wrong and for that …

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Debugging CSS Keyframe Animations

Creating CSS animations may be about learning the syntax, but mastering a beautiful and intuitive-feeling animation requires a bit more nuance. Since animations command so much attention, it's important to refine our code to get the timing right and debug things when they go wrong. After tackling this problem myself, I thought I'd collect some of the tools that exist to aid in this process.…

Understanding Proxy Browsers

A new series of posts by Tim Kadlec on proxy browsers and why some people need them:

I'd venture to say that most developers and designers are not big fans of proxy browsers—assuming they pay attention to them at all. They don't behave in ways a typical browser does, which leads to frustration as we see our carefully created sites fall apart for seemingly no reason at all. And frankly, most of us don't really need to use them on …

Motion along path in CSS

From the "I barely knew this was a thing and you can already play with it in browsers" files:

Motion paths allow authors to animate any graphical object along an author-specified path.

I suspect Chrome jumped on this because it's something that was only otherwise doable in SMIL, which they are ditching. I believe this is the first time the full path syntax has made it into CSS? (e.g. motion-path: path('M100,250 C 100,50 400,50 400,250');).

There are some demos

On The Verge

A fun bit of #hotdrama around mobile web performance.

Apparently it's possible to be of the opinion that slow, sucky websites are the fault of browsers and not the fact that the websites are jam packed with garbage assets.…

Position an element relatively to another element

Not possible currently in CSS, but there is a discussion happening around syntax like:

.el { position: element(#target) }

Of course there are tons of details, gotchas, and edge cases, but it sounds likely.…


Chrome yanked position: sticky;, but Firefox and Safari still have it. Dudley Storey shows how to do the common sidebar pattern where a chunk follows you as you scroll down, but only when there is room for it. He does it in CSS, and the demo polyfills support with stickyfill.…

Modern CSS Layout, power and responsibility

Rachel Andrew reminds us that the power new CSS layout methods gives us could be used to form new anti-patterns:

With this power comes great responsibility. For just as it will be possible for a developer to start out with a beautifully semantic, well structured document and use Grid and Flexbox to meet the design requirements, it will be possible for them to stop caring about the document structure at all. Worse, I believe there will be a strong temptation, …

Thinking Ahead: CSS Scroll Snap Points

Guil Hernandez introduces how easy sliders (with nice UX) will be with very simple HTML and CSS' brand new scroll-snap-* properties. CSS is moving fairly fast these days, with features like this moving from "never heard of it" to:

... browser support for CSS scroll snap points is limited to IE10+ and Firefox 39+. But it looks like Safari 9 will include support, and you can enable scroll snap points in Chrome Canary.

before you know it. The Chrome support …


The Difference Between Minification and Gzipping

These are both things that you do to assets on your website (things like .css files and .js files). They are both things that reduce the size of the file, making it more efficient in crossing the network between servers and browsers. As in, good for performance. The network is the speed bottleneck of the web and reducing file size helps.

But these two things are distinctly different. If you didn't already know that, it's worth understanding.…


Front End Development is Development

There is some sentiment out there that front end development isn't real development. It's a swaggering, trollish sentiment. Still, it's fun to puff our chests back sometimes. Let's try to put a point on why front end development is every bit as difficult and worthy of the title as any other subset.…

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Animations: the Angular Way

The following is a guest post by Ben Simmons (@bdsimmons15). Ben gives us a hand here in wrapping our heads around how to think about approaching animations on a website using Angular. Angular has a helper module for animation, but doesn't actually do the animation for you. Which turns out to be pretty smart.


The Trouble With Preprocessing Based on Future Specs

Let's say there are rumblings from the deep (read: early Editor's Drafts of potential future web tech specifications) that demonstrate some potential future code syntax. Say that syntax looks pretty awesome and we want it to be useable right now. That's the idea behind some preprocessing these days. …


The Asset Handover

When working in teams made up of designers and front end developers, there can be a lot of frustration and confusion when it comes to handing assets over from one team member to another. These might be design mockups or icons or high fidelity imagery for banners and the like. Regardless of the content of these handovers, there can always be improvements to this process.…

Sponsor: An Event Apart

Set yourself apart. Get better at what you do today and find out how you'll be doing your job in a year or two. An Event Apart—three days of design, code, and content for people who make websites—is where ideas like responsive design and mobile first were launched, and where this year’s attendees are already learning how grid layout, CSS shapes, and other advanced techniques will fundamentally change…well, everything. Don't miss it!

At the upcoming Chicago show, Dave Rupert …

jQuery 3.0 (alpha)

Lots of great stuff in this release, like animations taking advantage of requestAnimationFrame.

You should do serious testing before upgrading though. Not just because this is alpha, but because .show() and .hide() work a lot differently now. They don't do any fancy stuff to work with the CSS or return elements to the display type they were before hidden. These are hugely used methods. Chances are you have a few in your code base.

The best practice has become: …


Print Stylesheet Approaches: Blacklist vs Whitelist

The "blacklist" is a common approach to print stylesheets. We know that people probably don't need to see our site navigation if they print out an article on our site. So we hide it from print like we would hide it from the screen (display: none;).

Is there a way to reverse that?…


I joined Saron Yitbarek on her podcast where we had a wonderful conversation about some of my history and the projects I work on.…

I Left My System Fonts in San Francisco

A post by Craig Hockenberry that details how to use the San Francisco system font for your website if you're running El Capitan.

I especially like Craig's suggestion for a new syntax when using any operating system's font, so for example in iOS that would probably be San Francisco or Helvetica Neue whilst in Android it would be Roboto. He suggests that we declare a system keyword in the font-family rule (although this won't work in any browsers today):


The Front End Developer’s Dilemma

Hello, my name is Geoff and I am a web designer. At least, that's what I tell people I do for a living, because it's what most people understand.

The truth is, I am a front end developer. If you read this blog with any sort of regularity, then I don't even need to bother explaining that job title.

Or do I?…

React.js Introduction For People Who Know Just Enough jQuery To Get By

Here's an eloquent, step-by-step intro to React.js that takes a different approach then a lot of the other tutorials out there:

Of people who have never tried out React, some are comfortable with frontend JS frameworks like Backbone, Ember, or Angular. Some know JavaScript pretty well. Some know just enough jQuery to get by. A tutorial that's effective for one group may not be optimal for the other groups.

In this tutorial, I'm targeting the third group I mentioned: people …

Sponsored: Ask Me Anything on is a community news site of marketing professionals focused on the idea of inbound marketing. You might think of inbound marketing as the good kind of marketing. You know, blogging, podcasting, making videos, sponsoring cool sites (#wink), and stuff like that. There is always loads of interesting and useful marketing information over there.

Over on, Chris will be answering anything you want to know. Got questions about HTML, CSS, podcasting, the marketing of Chris' projects, or anything else? …


It sounds tounge-in-cheek, but it's not. As Una Kravets says:

That sounds crazy, but it makes sense when you break it down.

You (usually) need a naming strategy, abstractions, and a plan to keep specificity in check, so these ideas all together make sense.…

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