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Owl logo Keith J. Grant


HTML5 Sectioning and Landmark Elements

An open map on the dashboard of a car
A little while ago, I wrote about the <dialog> element. But there are plenty of interesting HTML elements that have been around longer, since HTML5 was first introduced, so I’ve decided to expand it into a series. Every now and then, I stumble across an element I haven’t heard of before. Some are interactive, and provide a surprising amount of functionality with little to no JavaScript. Others provide helpful semantic meaning and a welcome alternative to “div soup” in complex pages.
05 Mar 2018
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Introducing Sidecar

A little over a year ago, my wife bought me a copy of Liquid Intelligence by Dave Arnold. It’s a book by a renowned bartender on making cocktails. I enjoyed making drinks before this, but this book really got me hooked. In the time since, I’ve been honing my skills. And I’ve been collecting cocktail recipes. Testing them, tweaking them, and sharing them. I have a little book of notecards on a ring, full of the recipes I have tested and deemed worthy of making again.
19 Jan 2018
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Meet the New Dialog Element

Old iron mailbox with the word 'letters' emblazoned on front

HTML 5.2 has introduced a new <dialog> element for native modal dialog boxes. At first glance, it seems fairly straightforward (and it is), but as I’ve been playing around with it, I’ve found it has some nice features that might be easy to miss.

11 Jan 2018
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Mal and Kaylee from Firefly dressed up for the ball

My new site design is live! I’ve been working on this one for a while, and it just so happened to coincide with the #newwwyear activity on Twitter. I’m calling this theme Shindig.

02 Jan 2018
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OOCSS and Grid

A stack of old leather-bound books

OOCSS was the first of the many CSS methodologies. Since it arrived on the scene, the industry has moved on to newer, more strongly prescriptive methodologies like SMACSS, BEM, and ITCSS. These newer approaches dominate the conventional wisdom today. But CSS grid is here now, and I find it presents some challenges to this wisdom. I think it’s time we give OOCSS a little attention again, because it has an important idea to offer in the world of CSS grid.

13 Dec 2017
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Code, Not Clojure

I’m going to make two declarations that might sound contradictory:

  1. CSS is code.
  2. CSS is not a programming language.

Many developers get these backwards.

08 Sep 2017
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Transitioning Gradients

In, CSS, you can’t transition a background gradient. It sure would be nice if you could:

.gradient {
  background-image: linear-gradient(
    to right,
    hsl(211, 100%, 50%),
    hsl(179, 100%, 30%)
  transition: background-image 0.5s linear;

.gradient:hover {
  background-image: linear-gradient(
    to bottom,
    hsl(344, 100%, 50%),
    hsl(31, 100%, 40%)

But, no. It jumps from one gradient to the other immediately, with no smooth transition between the two. So let’s hack it!

05 Jul 2017
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Thoughts on Self-Documenting CSS

One of the best programming books I’ve ever read is Clean Code by Robert C. Martin. If you have never read it, add it to your list.

Every comment represents a failure to make the code self explanatory. Robert C. Martin

09 Jun 2017
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Memorizing Alignment Properties

Do you often find yourself looking up a Flexbox cheat sheet? Wish you could just commit all those properties to memory and be done with it? Here’s how I memorized them.

05 May 2017
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What Grid Can Do That Tables Can’t

There’s a kind of narrative out there that’s basically, “Silly CSS wonks: first they tell us tables are bad, now they give us grid.” Nevermind that this is completely ignorant of the original argument against tables for layout (tables were never bad for layout because of the way they looked on screen; they were bad because of what they did to your markup). It’s true that grid looks a lot like tables at first glance.
12 Apr 2017
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Don’t QWOP Your Way Through CSS

QWOP, if you haven’t played it, is a ridiculous running game. Instead of pressing, say, the right arrow key to run, you must control each of the runner’s muscles independently. Pressing the keys Q, W, O, and P will each extend one leg or bend one knee. Coordinating them all is incredibly difficult, and you are usually lucky if you can make a full stride before falling on your head.
07 Apr 2017
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CSS is Not Broken

Coding in any language is hard before you spend time mastering it. Imagine what your JavaScript would look like if you never took the time to learn about OOP or functional programming principles? Just because you expect CSS to be easy, doesn’t mean the language is broken when you find it is not. A lot of people have gone on about how horrible JavaScript is. JavaScript is not horrible. It is an incredible language.
24 Mar 2017
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More thoughts on CSS in JS

At a previous job, I was brought in to a team of Java devs to provide a little JS support. They had been using something called PrimeFaces, basically a bunch of front-end components you drop into JSF pages. Working with it was horrid. In short, these devs knew nothing about JavaScript or the front-end, but this tool let them sort of hack a UI together. It abstracted away all the tools needed for really working in the front end.
20 Mar 2017
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A better approach to CSS aspect ratios

There’s an old hack for creating elements with a fixed aspect ratio that involves using a percentage-based padding. You may be familiar with it. It looks something like this: .tile { height: 0; overflow: hidden; padding-bottom: 25%; background-color: bisque; } The element is forced to have no height, then its bottom padding is set to the actual desired height. This produces an element something like this: 4:1 aspect ratio This works because of a peculiar quirk of padding: Any padding specified in percent computes to a percentage of the element’s width—even if it is a top or bottom padding.
14 Mar 2017
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It’s Both

I’m a JavaScript developer. I have experience working in large web applications and dealing with the problems that come from scaling up. I studied Computer Science in college and love solving problems of software architecture. I’m also (in case you somehow missed it) a “CSS Guy”. I learned CSS during its infancy in the mid-nineties and have worked to stay up to speed ever since. When I look out at the industry today, it kind of feels like watching parents fight.
27 Jan 2017
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Hello, World Wide IndieWeb!

It’s a new year, so it’s time for a new design! Only this time, the update is more than just a CSS revamp. This year, I join the “IndieWeb”. If you don’t know what that is, read on. Let me introduce you to the newest social network: it’s called the World Wide Web and it’s more than 25 years old. The decentralized social web Social networks bother me. I don’t mean the privacy issues or mysterious sorting algorithms.
23 Jan 2017
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Let’s Talk About Separation of Concerns

There’s been a lot of talk lately about good old Separation of Concerns — primarily in the context of React and the use of inline styles or CSS-in-JS. Advocates of these approaches argue that the language we use (be it JS, HTML, or CSS) is an arbitrary line to draw. And I would say: Yes, language is, for the most part, an arbitrary line. But that’s beside the point. So let’s get one thing straight.
23 Dec 2016
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Your Team Needs a UX Engineer

Recently, after I mentioned that I was the only one on my team that writes the CSS, someone replied, “You’re lucky”. It stuck with me, and I’ve been thinking about it since. The thing is, it’s not luck. It was a deliberate decision made early when the team was first put together. And I think the rest of the developers on my team would think themselves lucky for not having to touch the CSS.
02 Oct 2016
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CSS in Depth

My book is finally for sale! The MEAP is available on Manning’s website. The first three chapters are available now, and others will be rolling out steadily (I’ve actually already completed drafts of six chapters at this point). Until the end of August, you can use my code mlgrant2 for 50% off. Follow @CSSinDepth on Twitter for updates.
24 Aug 2016
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Save Scoped CSS

Update June 23, 2016: The editor’s draft has been updated again. It looks like @scope is gone for good, so this post is now a moot point. The way forward now lies in the Shadow DOM. About a year ago, I wrote about a promising feature of CSS, scoping. I love the idea of this feature, and I think it could be one of the most important changes in the near future of CSS.
09 Jun 2016
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