The latest ways to deal with the cascade, inheritance and specificity

The cascade is such an intrinsic part of CSS that they put it right there in the name. If you’ve ever needed to use !important to affect specificity in the cascade, you’ll know that it can be a tricky thing to deal with. In the early days of CSS, it was common to see highly specific selectors like this:

#sidebar ul li {}

We’re all much better at managing specificity nowadays. It’s a widely accepted best practice to keep specificity low and flat—to shun ID selectors, to make liberal use of classes, and to avoid unnecessary nesting. But there are still plenty of situations where a more specific selector will be useful. With the introduction of a newly proposed pseudo-class, more support of the shadow DOM, and the use of the all property, we will soon be able to handle inheritance and specificity in new and exciting ways.

The :is Pseudo-Class

Lea Verou recently proposed this new pseudo-class specifically designed to control specificity. It’s already made its way to the CSS Level 4 Selectors spec. Lea has a write up of why it’s useful and there’s some coverage of it in the CSS-Tricks almanac.

Let’s take :not as an example. The specificity of :not is equal to the specificity of its argument. This makes using :not rather painful. Take the following as an example:

See the Pen :not and specificity by CSS-Tricks (@css-tricks) on CodePen.

We might expect that the .red class would have higher specificity because it is lower in the cascade. However, for any styles to override div:not(.foobar) they would need to at least match the specificity of a combined element selector (div) and class selector (.foobar). Another approach would be div.red, but there is a better way. This is where :is can help.

div:is(:not(.foobar)) { background-color: black;
}

The :not selector no longer adds any specificity, so the total specificity of the above selector is simply that of one element selector (div). The .red class would now be able to override it in the cascade. Once implemented, specificity hacks will be a thing of the past.

Shadow DOM

Today, many people are using classes in HTML like this:

<form class="site-search site-search--full"> <input type="text" class="site-search__field"> <button type="Submit" class="site-search__button">search</button>
</form>

When using shadow DOM, rather than following a verbose naming convention, we’ll be able to omit classes altogether. Styles defined within the shadow DOM are scoped to apply only within the component. Styling can be achieved with simple element selectors without worrying about whether the selectors will interfere with elements elsewhere on the page.

See the Pen shadow dom by CSS GRID (@cssgrid) on CodePen.

It’s liberating to write such easy CSS. No more effort spent naming things. Shadow DOM looks like it is finally making its way to full browser support. It’s likely to make it into the next release of Firefox while Edge have implementation as a high priority.

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.

Desktop

Chrome Opera Firefox IE Edge Safari
53 40 No No No TP

Mobile / Tablet

iOS Safari Opera Mobile Opera Mini Android Android Chrome Android Firefox
11.0-11.2 No No 62 62 No

The all Property

The all property is a way of setting all CSS properties at once—everything from align-content to z-index. What values does it accept? I can’t think of any use case when I’d want all properties to inherit, but that’s an option. Then there’s initial which is more like applying a CSS reset where all the styles are gone. No padding. No margin. The initial value is set per property, regardless of the element it is applied to. The initial value of display is inline, even if you apply it to a div. The font-style of an em tag is normal, as is the font-weight of a strong tag. Link text will be black. You get the idea. (You can find the initial value of any CSS property on MDN.) This does perhaps limit its usefulness, going further than we might like by removing all styles, regardless of context.

See the Pen all: initial by CSS GRID (@cssgrid) on CodePen.

Sadly, the most useful value for all is also the least widely implemented: revert. It can remove the styles that you as a developer have applied, while leaving the default user-agent styles intact. We’ve all seen a page of HTML without a stylesheet—black Times New Roman on a white (transparent) background with blue underlined links. If you really want to avoid inheritance, then all: revert has you covered. All divs will be display: block and spans will be inline. All em tags will be italic and strong tags will be bold. Links will be blue and underlined.

See the Pen all: revert by CSS GRID (@cssgrid) on CodePen.

This browser support data is from Caniuse, which has more detail. A number indicates that browser supports the feature at that version and up.

Desktop

Chrome Opera Firefox IE Edge Safari
No No No No No 9.1

Mobile / Tablet

iOS Safari Opera Mobile Opera Mini Android Android Chrome Android Firefox
9.3 No No No No No

The future?


The miscellany of rival unstandardized methods for writing CSS-in-JS was an attempt to sidestep these same issues. That approach has gained popularity over the last several years. Some of its proponents have deemed inheritance, the cascade and specificity as fundamentally flawed design decisions of the language. The CSS Working Group at the W3C is responding by improving the power of CSS and the native web platform. It will be interesting to see the outcome…


The latest ways to deal with the cascade, inheritance and specificity is a post from CSS-Tricks

Making CSS Animations Feel More Natural

It used to be that designers designed and coders coded. There was no crossover, and that’s the way it was. But with the advent of CSS transitions and animations, those lines are blurring a bit. It’s no longer as simple as the designer dictating the design and the coder transcribing—designers must now know something about code, and coders must know something about design in order to effectively collaborate.

As an example, let’s say a designer asks a developer to make a box bounce. That’s it—no additional instruction. Without some cross-knowledge and a common vocabulary, both sides are a little lost in this communication: the developer doesn’t have enough information to fully realize the designer’s vision, but the designer doesn’t really know what the options are and how to communicate them. With a very basic interpretation, you might end up with something that looks like this:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 1 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

Not very exciting. Although, to be fair, this does meet all of the criteria given. We can definitely do better than this, though.

The first thing to look at is the timing function. In the above example, we’re using a linear timing function, which means that the box is constantly moving at the same speed. In some cases, this is desirable; however, in the real world, motion usually doesn’t work like that.

An easy fix is to simply change the timing function to ease. This makes the beginning and ending of each animation a little slower than the middle part, which adds a more natural look to some animations. Here’s the box with the easing function turned on:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 2 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

This is a slight improvement, but there’s still a lot of work to be done. The box still looks mechanical and stiff, with the same animation occurring in the same timeframe over and over. Adding a slight delay between bounces adds some visual contrast that seems a little more natural:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 3 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

The box now looks like it’s jumping rather than simply moving up and down. There’s a little wind-up and cool-down between jumps that mimics what a live creature might do if given the same instruction. Even though we have no reference for what a jumping box would look like, we all have a pretty good idea of what a jumping creature would look like. Because we know what would happen in nature, by mimicking that, the animation feels more natural. But we can do more to make that wind-up feel a little more weighty.

If you watch cartoons, you’ll notice that natural movements are often exaggerated, creating a caricature of real life. When done well, this can feel just as natural as something in the real world, with the added bonus of infusing a little charm and character into the animation.

At this stage, collaboration between the designer and developer is crucial — but many designers may not even be aware that these options exist. It may be up to the developer to pitch this possibility to the designer.

By adding some subtle distortion to the scale of the box, we can add a lot to the animation:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 4 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

Now, the box has character. It feels alive. There are many things to tweak, but this is already moving much farther than the original instruction — in a very good way!

We’re going to go a step further and add a little rebound at the end of the jump:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 5 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

The second bounce is making this feel more alive, but something still seems off. The bounce looks stiff compared to the rest of the animation. We need to add another bit of distortion like we did for the wind-up:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 6 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

That subtle distortion at the end makes the rebound seem much more natural. Overall, a huge improvement from our basic linear bounce in the first example.

That right there may be exactly what we’re looking for, but further tweaks to the rate of movement can be made with a custom cubic Bézier curve:

See the Pen Bouncing Box 7 by Brandon Gregory (@pulpexploder) on CodePen.

Without both the designer and the developer aware of basic animation principles and controls, this level of customization is impossible. Really, this article just scratches the surface of both fields. If you’re a web designer or a web developer who works with designers, I’d strongly urge you to read up on both.

For animation principles, The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation by Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas is a great primer on how to make that caricature of real life seem alive and real. With that common language in place, communication and collaboration between designers and developers becomes much easier.

For the technical controls and variations of CSS animation, the possibilities are nearly endless. Delay and timing are simple to adjust. As mentioned, if you don’t like the out-of-the-box ease timing function, it’s very possible to create your own using a cubic-bezier(). You can also adjust the level of distortion you want to bring the animation closer to or further from reality. The important thing is that both the designer and developer are thinking about these variations rather than blindly taking everything without customization. Shared knowledge and collaboration can make even simple animations into great ones.

More Resources

  • 12 basic principles of animation – Wikipedia post outlining the concepts introduced in The Illusion of Life.
  • The Guide to CSS Animation: Principles and Examples – Smashing Magazine article providing a comprehensive guide to CSS animations.
  • Animation in Design Systems – 24 Ways article by Sarah Drasner
  • Animation property – CSS-Tricks almanac entry covering the property and its values
  • Transition property – CSS-Tricks almanac entry covering the property and its values
  • CubicBezier.com – Resource to create custom animation curves with a user interface.

Making CSS Animations Feel More Natural is a post from CSS-Tricks

WordPress User Survey Data for 2015-2017

A grand total of 77,609 responses from WordPress users and professionals collected by Automattic between 2015 and 2017. The stats for 2015 and 2016 have been shared at the annual State of the Word address and 2017 marks the first time they have been published on WordPress News.

A few items that caught my attention at first glance:

  • Between 66% and 75% of WordPress users installed WordPress on their own. In other words, they were savvy enough to do it without the help of a developer. Hosting providers were next up and clocked in at 13-14% of installs.
  • WordPress professionals described their clients as large and enterprise companies only 6-7% of the time. I guess this makes sense if those companies are relying on in-house resourcing, but I still would have pegged this higher.
  • What do users love most about WordPress? It’s simple and user-friendly (49-52%). What frustrates them most about it? Plugins and themes (19-28%). Seems like those two would go hand-in-hand to some degree.

I’m not a statistician and have no idea how much the results of these surveys accurately reflect the 26% of all sites on the internet that are powered by WordPress, but it sure is interesting.

Direct Link to Article — Permalink


WordPress User Survey Data for 2015-2017 is a post from CSS-Tricks

Careful Now

Tom Warren’s “Chrome is turning into the new Internet Explorer 6” for The Verge has a title that, to us front-end web developers, suggests that Chrome is turning into a browser far behind in technology and replete with tricky bugs. Aside from the occasional offhand generic, “Chrome is getting so bad lately,” comments you hear, we know that’s not true. Chrome often leads the pack for good web tech.

Instead, it’s about another equally concerning danger: developers building sites specifically for Chrome. In theory, that’s not really a thing, because if you build a website with web standards (of which there isn’t really much of an alternative) it’ll work in Chrome like any other modern web browser. But it is a thing if you build the site to somehow block other browsers and only allow Chrome. Warren:

Google has been at the center of a lot of “works best with Chrome” messages we’re starting to see appear on the web. Google Meet, Allo, YouTube TV, Google Earth, and YouTube Studio Beta all block Windows 10’s default browser, Microsoft Edge, from accessing them and they all point users to download Chrome instead. Google Meet, Google Earth, and YouTube TV are also not supported on Firefox with messages to download Chrome.

I wouldn’t call it an epidemic but it’s not a good trend. Best I can tell, it’s server-side UA sniffing that entirely blocks the sites:

Sheesh.

If anything, I’d think you’d just let people use the site and display a warning if you’re really worried some particular feature might not work. Or even better, fix it. I have no behind-the-scenes knowledge of why they made the choice to block certain browsers, but it’s hard to imagine a technical limitation that would force it. And if it is, I’d suggest letting it be very publicly known to incentivize the other browsers to support what is needed, assuming it’s an established standard.

Even more concerning than browser-specific websites is seeing browsers ship non-standardized features just because they want them, not behind any vendor prefix or flag. There was a time when web developers would have got out the pitchforks if a browser was doing this, but I sense some complacency seeping in.

These days, the vibe is more centered around complaining about other browsers lack of support for things. For example, one browser ships something, we see one green dot in caniuse, and we lambast the other browsers to catch up. Instead, we might ask, was it a good idea to ship that feature yet?

No modern browser is shipping vendor prefixes anymore since we all ultimately decided that was a bad idea. A side effect of that is that shipping a new feature in CSS or JavaScript is all the riskier. I would think shipping an unprefixed feature to a stable version of the browser would mean the feature is standardized and not going to significantly change. Yet, it’s been happening.

In CSS, Chrome shipped motion-* properties, but then that all changed to offset-*, and the old motion-* properties just stopped working. That’s more than just annoying, that kind of thing helps developers justify saying, “I just build this site for Chrome, if you wanna use it, use Chrome.” Fine for a demo, perhaps, but bad for the web industry as a whole. Again, I have no special insight into why this happens, I’m just a developer looking in from the outside.

Here’s another CSS one I just saw the other day. People are excited about text-decoration-skip: ink; because it looks great and helps people. They are using it a lot. But apparently, that’s not the correct name for it? It’s been changed to text-decoration-skip-ink: auto; and so Chrome 64 is canning text-decoration-skip: ink;. This stuff is hard to keep up with even while actively trying.

Chris Krycho had a take on it recently as well:

Over the past few years, I’ve increasingly seen articles with headlines that run something like, “New Feature Coming To the Web” — followed by content which described how Chrome had implemented an experimental new feature. “You’ll be able to use this soon!” has been the promise.

The reality is a bit more complicated. Sometimes, ideas the Chrome team pioneers make their way out to the rest of the browsers and become tools we can all use. Sometimes… they get shelved because none of the other browsers decide to implement them.

Many times, when this latter tack happens, developers grouse about the other browser makers who are “holding the web back.” But there is a fundamental problem in this way of looking at things: Chrome isn’t the standard. The fact that Chrome proposes something, and even the fact that a bunch of developers like it, does not a standard make. Nor does it impose an obligation to other browsers to prioritize it, or even to ship it.

This isn’t all to throw Chrome under the bus. I’m a Chrome fan. I’m sure there are examples from all the major vendors in the same vein. I’d just like my two cents to be careful now. The web is the best platform to build for and generally heading in a direction that makes that even truer. The easiest way to screw that up is not being careful with standards.


Careful Now is a post from CSS-Tricks

Tales of a Non-Unicorn: A Story About the Roller Coaster of Job Searching

Hey there! It’s Lara, author of the infamous”Tales of a Non-Unicorn: A Story About the Trouble with Job Titles and Descriptions” from a couple years back. If you haven’t read that original article, I recommend skimming it to give you some context for this one, but I think you’ll still find value here even if you don’t.

A lot has happened since I wrote that article in 2015, and this follow-up has been in the works for a good six months. I ended up, not with a solution for the job titles conundrum or a manifesto about the importance of HTML and CSS, rather a simple, honest story about my roller coaster ride.

Okay, enough dilly-dally. Let’s go!

<story>

In the aftermath of the FizzBuzz drama in 2015, I doubled down on my freelance business and did really well. I got a great contract gig with startup in New York refactoring a Haml/Bootstrap situation that paid the bills and then some. I hired an assistant and started the Tackle Box, an online school sort-of-thing where I taught web development and WordPress. I made a little money off that one, too. I spoke at a handful of conferences and meetups, taught a bunch of classes, and generally had the pedal to the metal.

Then I got really, really tired.

I was sick of writing emails, sick of sending invoices, and sick of being on the computer all the damn time. I wanted to go to work and then leave work at work; something that is very hard to do in our industry, and extra difficult when you are your own boss. I enjoyed coding sometimes, but it was all about the billable hour. Why should I write code or be on the computer at all if I’m not being paid for it? This was burnout, that thing that’s become a weird, convoluted rite of passage in our industry.

I wanted to shut down Lara Schenck, LLC and be a ski bum. And you know what? I did. It was time for a break, and I took one for about six months.

Ski Bum Sabbatical

I left New York City in August of 2016 and moved back to my family’s farm near Pittsburgh. I got a job cleaning horse stalls for $7/hr at the stable where I used to ride when I was a kid. My plan was to gradually ramp down business while I lived rent-free and prepared myself for the simple life. That December, I would be starting work as a bartender at Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge in Alta, Utah, a tiny ski town outside of Salt Lake City. Room and board were included in the job; I’d make enough pocket money for booze, and my life would consist of skiing, sleeping, and socializing. No emails.

Image of a sign for the Town of Alta, population 370, elevation 8,460
Just down the winding road from Alta Ski Area.

The simple life was okay for a little bit, but bartending at a 3:2 beer bar and skiing every day wasn’t as fulfilling as I’d hoped. I cut the season short and moved to Los Angeles in March with my partner at the time. We had a mutual friend with an open room in Hollywood, and I was starved for city-living. (I have since learned that LA is not the city-living I expected, at all, but that’s another conversation.)

Time to Get a Job (for real this time)

I formally announced I was back on the scene, reached out to old clients and people from my New York network, and was even on a podcast out of the gate. None of that translated into much paying work. Luckily, I had a cushion of savings to float me for a few months (Freelancing Rule #1: You must have savings), but my heart just wasn’t in the freelance hustle this time. The prospect of negotiating contracts and engaging new leads was nauseating rather than exciting, and the small business website work I did was no longer the challenging and invigorating experience it had been before.

I decided to get a full-time job, for real this time. Once again, I wanted to work on a team and on bigger projects. I was tired of doing everything myself, and I wanted to learn from and share my experience with others. And, you know, a regular paycheck.

I set to work applying for jobs, putting long hours into carefully crafted cover letters. I had several promising interviews, got my hopes way up a couple of times, and received zero job offers. For one particular role, I’d gotten as far as discussing salary requirements and start dates, and was expecting an offer letter within the week. Then, the next week they were all of a sudden no longer hiring. I didn’t run into any FizzBuzz, for better or for worse.

I started to question why my designer/developer skillset appeared to hold so little value now when I’d felt so in demand just a year ago. I stubbornly refused to learn React just so I could have it on my resume—I’m great at other important things, why can’t people see that?! I wondered whether the five years of self-employment was a hindrance, or was there something fundamentally wrong with how I interviewed? Did I shoot myself in the foot with this whole “non-unicorn” thing in the first place?

These months were a major ego-check. It turns out, full-time jobs aren’t something you can just “get.” It’s just not that easy, for me at least.

The Value of HTML and CSS

Responding to job posts with those carefully crafted cover letters had a very low return on investment so I decided to change my approach. Instead of putting my time into writing said cover letters, I would focus on writing about real things and becoming a better developer, and the jobs would come to me. I launched a well-thought-out redesign of my website, published a Reverse Job Post, and buckled down on my JavaScript studies.

This was right around the time Mandy Michael wrote “Is there any value in people who cannot write JavaScript?” which hit the nail on the head. I wrote a question into ShopTalk show about this phenomenon and mentioned to Chris that I’d love to come on the show and talk about it if they’d like. The next day, Chris invited both Mandy and me to come on the show and hash it out:

HTML and CSS are valuable, but intimate knowledge of them has become more of a specialist role. Perhaps, one can position their skills as HTML, CSS, plus something else (e.g. UI design or WordPress). The nature of products and rapid feature releases deem quality HTML and CSS an afterthought at many companies so at the moment, maybe the demand just isn’t there. Perhaps the rise in accessibility awareness, design systems, and time lost debugging bad CSS will change the tide?

The episode was well received; I was obviously not the only one struggling with this issue. I made a Github repository called Front-end Discourse with the intention of gathering and synthesizing opinions and coming up with a plan of action on the job titles front. Chris even wrote about the job titles conundrum here on CSS-Tricks. The momentum was there; this could be my thing!

But then…I let it die.

An Unexpected Twist

A few days after the ShopTalk episode came out, I received this tweet:

Image of tweet asking Lara if she is still looking for a job, with a link to job post at careers.google.com/jobs

Umm…that’s a link to a Google job post.

I thought it was a joke at first, but nope, the tweet author sent me an email later that day, and it was the real deal! They’d been referred to me by a benevolent figure in the web industry whom I’d never met. I had a call with them and another member of their team, and it was magical. They told me all about a new team starting within Developer Relations at Google that would be working to improve the “Web Content Ecosystem.” Web Content Ecosystem? That’s WordPress! And they were recruiting me! Holy sh#t, this actually happens!

This was my dream job, not a front-end designer/developer role. I didn’t even know this was a job! I had already been doing this work on my own time for several years: teaching and speaking about WordPress, writing informational blog posts, recording videos, and helping people use WordPress more responsibly. And they would move me to San Francisco! I was not a huge fan of Los Angeles.

Unfortunately, Google doesn’t just “give” people jobs…you have to interview.

Computer Science Bootcamp

Now we have me, the designer who applied for a JS job and failed FizzBuzz, preparing for the Google interview otherwise known as the grandparent of all technical white-boarding interviews. It was time to swallow any feelings I had toward this interviewing style and get to work.

I had three weeks until a “coaching call” that would unofficially determine whether or not I could skip the technical phone screening and jump straight to the day of on-site interviews because, duh, this was meant to be. Luckily, this coincided with a lull in freelance work, which had also been picking up, so for about a week and a half, I put myself through a self-directed computer science bootcamp. On the way, I wrote a bunch of blog posts about what I learned.

Oh, how I longed to write that Tales of a Non-Unicorn: I GOT A JOB AT GOOGLE, F@#KERS!!! follow-up for all those Reddit haters after it was said and done!

The day of the coaching call arrived, and it was fantastic! I was a little slow on the coding question, but it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought, I aced the role-related questions, and the interviewer was excellent. I heard back from the recruiter who was coordinating with me, and he said I could go straight to the on-site interviews.

In the meantime, I went to WordCamp US in Nashville where this particular team at Google was a sponsor. I got to meet a few of the folks I’d be working with, and it seemed like such a great fit. This Google interest and being at WordCamp made me question why, at the beginning of my job search, I had seen my knowledge of WordPress as such a secondary skillset. WordPress is everywhere! And its awesome! I mean, sure, it’s not that “cool” yet, but mark my words, it will be in the “cool” ranks soon enough.

The Non-Unicorn Interviews at Google

In the week leading up to the interview, I focused on researching the role and beefing up my passion for improving WordPress and helping those who work with it. This was not a software engineering role, after all; in Developer Relations, passion for and knowledge of your subject is more important than knowing binary tree traversal, right?

Google flew me to San Francisco and put me up in a nice hotel. I had a full day of four interviews—usually, it’s five, one was canceled—and a long, enjoyable lunch with the folks I’d been in touch with from the get-go. I didn’t feel great about my performance in the technical parts of the interviews, but I did my best and my strategy was to come off as a great coworker who knows when to ask for help. When in doubt, I remembered the strong correlation between “hard interview” and “received offer” on Google’s Glassdoor profile.

Back in LA, freelance work kept me busy while I waited for a verdict, which wasn’t long. I felt relatively zen about the whole thing. Yes, I had my hopes up, but if it didn’t work out, I at least had work to pay the bills, and it wasn’t going half-bad. I’d been contracting with an agency and learning a lot; it wasn’t the small business WordPress sites I’d been building all by myself previously.

The Thursday after my Monday interview, I got a call from my recruiter contact. They were not going to proceed with the approval process at this time. He said I showed some very promising “Google-y” qualities, but my performance in the coding portion of the interviews wasn’t strong enough. He said he had it in his calendar to reconnect with me in six months, and that he would keep an eye out for less technical roles that might be a better fit.

…oof.

Incredibly, I was able to fend off the majority of the anger and the “I’m a failure and I suck at everything” thoughts that go hand-in-hand with rejection, maybe in part because I received such a nice email from one of the people I’d been in touch with throughout the process. He had applied three times before he got a job there—which apparently is not uncommon—and this simply meant I’d be taking a slightly different path. They were all bummed I didn’t make it.

This brings us back to the present. I don’t feel sour about algorithms or white-boarding interviews…I have another one to get ready for in six months! Unless, of course, another really awesome opportunity comes my way in the meantime. Who knows.

This whole job search has been such a ridiculous roller coaster of hopes slowly going up then crashing down. If there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that I still don’t know where I’ll end up, but I’m doing my best and I’ll keep doing it until the right thing comes along.

Silhouette of a car on a roller coaster about to go down a large hill

</story>

Whew, that was a lot! Thanks for making it this far. A+ for you, reader!

Post-Mortem

Before I wrap this thing up, I want to make a few observations about this whole job searching process that I hope can help others on their roller coaster ride.

  1. Algorithms and white-boarding interviews aren’t necessarily bad. I think they can be implemented badly. The Big Tech Companies are fully aware that they miss out on great candidates because of algorithm questions, but this interviewing strategy is so good at filtering out bad candidates that they keep it around. It sucks for us, but I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Plus, I learned a hell of a lot of stuff preparing for it, and it’s made me a better developer and better human being.
  2. Write a “Reverse Job Post.” I don’t recall where I learned about it, but here’s mine for reference. Even if no one reads it, it’s a great way to figure out what type of job and company you are looking for, and you could totally paste a link to it in the cover letter field for an application and call it a day.
  3. Learn computer science fundamentals. I know we are already inundated with things to learn, so it’s hard to preach this, but having context for what the tools we use actually are has helped me a lot. For example, two months ago I would have had a hard time wrapping my mind around GraphQL, but in my interview preparation I learned about graphs and tree data structures, so I was able to understand the concept relatively easily. Cracking the Coding Interview is not a good place to start, BaseCS and the Impostor’s Handbook are. Also, stay tuned for some relevant articles here on CSS-Tricks, from yours truly!
  4. Don’t spend all of your time on job boards. It’s a crapshoot. I think there are great job boards, but in general, no matter how quality the listing, whether or not the position is actually available or accurately represented in the post is a toss-up.
  5. Be vocal. I doubt any of this Google stuff would have happened if I hadn’t written into ShopTalk show and asked Chris to have me on the episode. If you have an impulse to write something or have a question or feel the urge to tweet at someone you don’t know, do it (but be a good person about it, obviously). The more web people that know you exist, the more likely it is that something will come your way.

Those are some things that helped me, but I still don’t have a job, so maybe don’t listen to what I say. I don’t know. It’s an incredibly difficult and demeaning process, and there’s no secret sauce that works for everyone. Our industry is a young one, and as far as I’m aware, there is no such thing as a surefire career path in web development.

I hope I don’t write another “Tales of a Non-Unicorn” installment. The whole idea of a “unicorn” is bogus, anyway. We are all just people, with different levels of knowledge in different areas, and if you can honestly say you’re doing your best then I think that’s all you can do.

What I will be writing, however, are some “Computer Science Study Guides” for the self-taught developer, here on CSS-Tricks, and maybe some stuff about how cool WordPress is nowadays. At the very least, “Intro To Algorithms” will be coming at you, soon!

How about you, reader?

Have you been on this roller coaster ride, too? Where did you end up? What advice can you offer to those of us who are still in the midst of our journey?


Tales of a Non-Unicorn: A Story About the Roller Coaster of Job Searching is a post from CSS-Tricks

Monitoring unused CSS by unleashing the raw power of the DevTools Protocol

From Johnny’s dev blog:

The challenge: Calculate the real percentage of unused CSS

Our goal is to create a script that will measure the percentage of unused CSS of this page. Notice that the user can interact with the page and navigate using the different tabs.

DevTools can be used to measure the amount of unused CSS in the page using the Coverage tab. Notice that the percentage of unused CSS after the page loads is ~55%, but after clicking on each of the tabs, more CSS rules are applied and the percentage drops down to just ~15%.

That’s why I’m so skeptical of anything that attempts to measure “unused CSS.” This is an incredibly simple demo (all it does is click some tabs) and the amount of unused CSS changes dramatically.

If you are looking for accurate data on how much unused CSS is in your codebase, in an automated fashion, you’ll need to visit every single URL on your site and trigger every possible event on every element and continue doing that until things stop changing. Then do that for every possible state a user could be in—in every possible browser.

Here’s another incredibly exotic way I’ve heard of it being done:

  1. Wait a random amount of time after the page loads
  2. Loop through all the selectors in the CSSOM
  3. Put a querySelector on them and see if it finds anything or not
  4. Report those findings back to a central database
  5. Run this for enough time on a random set of visitors (or all visitors) that you’re certain is a solid amount of data representing everywhere on your site
  6. Take your set of selectors that never matched anything and add a tiny 1px transparent GIF background image to them
  7. Run that modified CSS for an equal amount of time
  8. Check your server logs to make sure those images were never requested. If they were, you were wrong about that selector being unused, so remove it from the list
  9. And the end of all that, you have a set of selectors in your CSS that are very likely to be unused.

Clever, but highly unlikely that anyone is using either of these methods in a consistent and useful way.

I’m a little scared for tools like Lighthouse that claim to audit your unused CSS telling you to “remove unused rules from stylesheets to reduce unnecessary bytes consumed by network activity.” The chances seem dangerously high that someone runs this, finds this so-called unused CSS and deletes it only to discover it wasn’t really unused.

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Monitoring unused CSS by unleashing the raw power of the DevTools Protocol is a post from CSS-Tricks

`font-size` With All Viewport Units

We’ve covered fluid type a number of times. This page probably covers it in the best detail. It’s a little more complicated than simply using a vw unit to set the font-size since that’s far too dramatic. Ideally, the font-size is literally fluid between minimum and maximum values.

Someday there will be min-font-size and max-font-size (probably), but until then, our fluid type implementations will probably need to resort to some @media queries to lock those mins/maxes.

Or…

Around a year ago Matt Smith documented a technique I had missed. It calculates font-size using a little bit of vw, a little bit of vh, and a little bit of the smaller of the two…

:root { font-size: calc(1vw + 1vh + .5vmin);
}

Of course, it depends on the font and what you are doing with it, but it seems to me this tempers the curve such that you might not really need a min and max.

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`font-size` With All Viewport Units is a post from CSS-Tricks

A Round-Up of 2017 Round-Ups

This week marked the beginning of a new year and with it came a slew of excellent write-ups from folks in our industry reflecting on the year past. We thought it would be nice to compile them together for easy reference. If you know of any others that should be on everyone’s radar, please leave it in the comments.

Now on to the round-up of round-ups!

Rachel Andrew

Having been wandering the globe talking about CSS Grid for almost five years, Grid finally shipped in browsers in 2017. This was good, as I didn’t really want to be some kind of CSS vapourware lady. I knew Grid was important the first time I read the initial spec. I had no idea how my championing of the specification would change my life, and allow me to get to work with so many interesting people.

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Geri Coady

One of my biggest achievements this year was the release of my second book, Color Accessibility Workflows, published by A Book Apart. I’m hugely grateful for any opportunity to talk about color and how it can impact people in the digital world, and writing for A Book Apart has long been a dream of mine.

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Monica Dinculescu

You can tell I hate writing year in reviews because this one is really, really late. I tend to hate bragging, and I definitely hate introspective and, in particular, I always think I am underperforming (and that’s fine). However, that’s usually not true, and writing a year in review forces me to see the awesome things I did, so even if I did end up underperforming, at least I can learn from that. That’s the whole point of post-mortems, right?

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Sarah Drasner

This year has been a surreal one for me. I’ve had years that were particularly tough, years that trended more cheerfully, but 2017 was unique and bizarre because I felt an immense guilt in my happiness.

I think this might have been the year I found the most personal happiness, but the giant caveat in everything was watching the world divide, watching racism, sexism and hatred rise, and seeing some real damage that incurred on people’s lives around the world.

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Brad Frost

Throughout 2017, when people asked how I was doing, I’d say “Great…for the things I can control.” 2017 was a rough year at a macro level for everybody, and I found myself coping with the state of the world in a number of different ways. But on a personal level, I had a rewarding year full of a lot of work, a lot of travel, and even some major life changes.

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Geoff Graham

It feels kind of weird to include my own round-up, but whatever.

I’ve typically set goals for myself at the start of each year and followed up on them somewhere towards the end of the year. Unfortunately, the last time I did that out loud was in 2014. I’ve been pretty quiet about my goals and general life updates since then and it’s certainly not for lack of things to write about. So, I’m giving this whole reflection thing the ol’ college go once again.

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Jeremy Keith

Jeremy published 78 blog posts in 2017 (or 6.5 per month as he calculates it) and noted his personal favorites.

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Zach Leatherman

I had an incredibly productive year of side projects, learning, and blog posts—I can attribute almost all of that rediscovered time and energy to quitting Facebook very early in the year. It’s also been amazing to see my daughter grow and learn—she turned two this year and I really love being a dad. We now have our own secret handshake and it’s my favorite thing.

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Ethan Marcotte

And finally, one of the things I’m most proud of is, well, this little website, which I launched hastily just over a year ago. And over the last entirely-too-eventful year, I’ve surprised myself with just how much it helped to be blogging again. Because while the world’s been not-so-lightly smoldering, it felt—and feels—good to put words in a place where I can write, think, and tinker, a place that isn’t Twitter, a place that’s mine.

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Eric Meyer

While this is not so much a reflection on the past year, Eric did mark the new year with a livestream redesign of his personal website—the first design update in 13 years.

My core goal was to make the site, particularly blog posts, more readable and inviting. I think I achieved that, and I hope you agree. The design should be more responsive-friendly than before, and I think all my flex and grid uses are progressively enhanced. I do still need to better optimize my use of images, something I hope to start working on this week.

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Dave Rupert

My big work task this year was building a Pattern Library and it’s exciting to see that work beginning to roll out. The most gratifying aspect is seeing the ultimate Pattern Library thesis proven out: Speed. Pages load faster, CMS integrations are faster, and we can successfully turn out new production pages within a 1-day turnaround.

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David Walsh

David used the new year to think about and plot upcoming goals.

Every turn of the year is a new opportunity to start over, set goals, and renew optimism that time can heal wounds and drive us to change and achieve. For me 2018 is my most important year in a long time; 2018 needs to serve as a turning point for this blog and my career.

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Trent Walton

Dave, Reagan, and I celebrated our 10th official year as Paravel. In addition to some shorter-term projects, we undertook a large-scale pattern library and front-end update that is rolling out in phases this year. We’ve also enjoyed bringing in 6+ collaborators/teams to assist with projects when the need has arisen. I bet we do more of this in 2018—collaborating with friends has been fun.

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CSS-Tricks

Think we’d leave out our own round-up? Of all the site stats Chris shared in this post, this one nicely summed up the action around here in 2017:

We were on a publishing roll though! We published 595 posts, blowing away last year with only 442, the previous record. We also published 50 pages (i.e. snippets/videos/almanac entries) beating 43 last year. Certainly, we’re in favor of quality over quantity, but I think this is a healthy publishing pace when our goal is to be read, in a sense, like a magazine.

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A Round-Up of 2017 Round-Ups is a post from CSS-Tricks

Front-End Performance Checklist

Vitaly Friedman swings wide with a massive list of performance considerations. It’s a well-considered mix of old tactics (cutting the mustard, progressive enhancement, etc.) and newer considerations (tree shaking, prefetching, etc.). I like the inclusion of a quick wins section since so much can be done for little effort; it’s important to do those things before getting buried in more difficult performance tasks.

Speaking of considering performance, Philip Walton recently dug into what interactive actually means, in a world where we throw around acronyms like Front-End Checklist.

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Front-End Performance Checklist is a post from CSS-Tricks

26 Fabulous Scripts Fonts

(This is a sponsored post.)

Just $9.

They are nicely constructed as well, with stylistic alternates, ligatures, punctuation, extra characters, and multilingual support.

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26 Fabulous Scripts Fonts is a post from CSS-Tricks