Weekly Platform News: Mozilla WebThings, Internet Explorer mode, GraphQL

Šime posts regular content for web developers on webplatform.news.

Mozilla WebThings provides complete privacy for user data

Josephine Lau: Smart home companies require that users’ data goes through their servers, which means that people are giving up their privacy for the convenience of a smart home device (e.g., smart light bulb).

We’ve learned that people are concerned about the privacy of their smart home data. And yet, when there’s no alternative, they feel the need to trade away their privacy for convenience.

Mozilla WebThings is an alternative approach to the Internet of Things that stores user data in the user’s home. Devices can be controlled locally via a web interface, and the data is tunneled through a private HTTPS connection.

A diagram showing how Mozilla doesn’t store user data in the cloud, unlike smart home vendors.

An Internet Explorer mode is coming to Edge

Fred Pullen: The next version of Edge will include an Internet Explorer mode for backward compatibility with legacy websites. Edge will also for the first time be available on older versions of Windows (including Windows 7 and 8.1).

By introducing Internet Explorer mode, we’re effectively blurring the lines between the browsers. From an end-user standpoint, it seems like a single browser. … You can use IE mode to limit the sites that instantiate Internet Explorer just to the sites that you approved.

Quick hits: Other interesting articles

Introducing the first Microsoft Edge preview builds for macOS (Microsoft Edge Blog)

Edge Canary (analogous to Chrome Canary) is now officially available on macOS. This version of Edge updates daily.

With our new Chromium foundation, you can expect a consistent rendering experience across the Windows and macOS versions of Microsoft Edge.


#EmberJS2019 More Accessible Than Ever (Yehuda Katz)

Navigating from one page to another in a client-side web app provides no feedback by default in virtually all popular routing solutions across the client-side ecosystem.

Their goal is to make Ember’s router more accessible and screen reader friendly.


Opinion: Five developer trends to watch in 2019 (DeveloperTech)

The article includes a good, short explanation of what GraphQL is and what problems it solves.


Part 2: What the Fr(action)? (CSS IRL)

Read the last section (“Intrinsic and extrinsic sizing”). All three columns have the size 1fr but the middle one is wider because of its content. This can be prevented by using the size minmax(0, 1fr) instead.


Parallel streaming of progressive images (Cloudflare Blog)

Instead of loading from top to bottom, progressive images appear blurry at first and become sharper as more data loads.

The benefits of progressive rendering are unique to JPEG (supported in all browsers) and JPEG 2000 (supported in Safari). GIF and PNG have interlaced modes, but these modes come at a cost of worse compression. WebP doesn’t even support progressive rendering at all. This creates a dilemma: WebP is usually 20%-30% smaller than a JPEG of equivalent quality, but progressive JPEG appears to load 50% faster.

The post Weekly Platform News: Mozilla WebThings, Internet Explorer mode, GraphQL appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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Code as Documentation: New Strategies with CSS Grid

I work for Supercool, a fast-moving design agency that makes custom built sites for arts clients, powered by the off-the-shelf system, Craft CMS; it’s high-spec graphic design with relatively demanding typography and art direction. Over the past few months we’ve been moving to CSS grid. We’re transitioning slowly, allowing ourselves to discover new paradigms and design methods, instead of simply porting old habits to a new syntax.

So far, we’ve developed a number of really useful strategies for keeping track of the layout. I’ve written a couple of surprisingly nifty mixins, using named areas and templates, and we’ve hit upon some basic conventions to create highly readable code. I thought it would be valuable to walk through a fully-developed production implementation of a single major component using grid, digging in to some of the design questions it throws up and steering you away from some pitfalls we’ve encountered. CSS grid is a large spec, with lots of possible approaches and lots of right ways to do things, but at some point you have to lock down your method and get it live.

I’m expecting some basic familiarity with CSS, Sass, BEM, and some interest in the task of prototyping fully-realized, accessible, custom frameworks with 50+ components from Sketch or Photoshop-type documents on a tight timeline (say, a week).

First, let’s identify and separate out the design into distinct coding tasks and plan how we’ll approach them:

  1. Type: The designer has already defined a type system.
  2. Colors: First, we build a theme model and then include that in the partial.
  3. Content: What elements are in this block? What are its variations? This is where our BEM mixin comes in.
  4. Layout: This is how the content is placed in the block. You might want to skip directly to this.
  5. Conventions: This is exactly how we choose to write all the above. There are many right answers in CSS, so what is important is that we all just agree to a convention, the rules of the road. This really comes first, but for the sake of this article, we’ll conclude here.

Type system

We use utility classes (e.g. h-text--h1, h-text--badge) for type styles. There may be a hundred type styles in a project. We export those styles from Sketch right into our Patternlab using Typex. That’s a whole other article on its own, so let’s just stipulate type as handled. We won’t bring type into our component partial.

Color usage

See the Pen
CSS Variable fallbacks mixin v2
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

Theming is a few tiny mixins dropped in, so we ideally won’t see a ton of color rules in our partial. We store them all together in a _themer.scss partial in our “Mixins and Models” library, so we can be sure to follow the design system of the site. This way, when someone comes back to the build later on, they have a key reference partial describing the design and branding rules. When building and maintaining numerous sites in broadly the same market — but each all with different brand spec — you’ve gotta make sure you don’t mix up one brand with another! So, much like type, we abstract the color rules away from the partial. In essence, we’re really only looking at layout (as much as possible) in our _header.scss file.

Given that we agree the convention to always theme using our mixin, this is how it would be included on an element:

@include var($ property, $ value);

Then we’ll set a theme model, of how colors work on this particular site and apply that theme to a component with:

@include theme;

Here’s the sample theme model we’re going to use with this page header. It’s super simple.

See the Pen
theme model
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

We’re pairing a color with black or white. We depend on a contrast rule and flip them for emphasis, maybe on events, like hover, or a highlighted call to action. This is all we need to do to make that happen and now we have a document of how color should really work on this site. We can go to and check against if we need to debug or expand the UI.

We also want to prep inheritance to help us, so let’s identify some helpful conventions:

  • Set the fills on SVG icons to currentColor in your pipeline (and default size them as width: 1em; height: 1em; font-size: inherit; in the CSS while we’re at it).
  • Set <body> and <a> to currentColor) at base.
  • Write shorthand, inheriting borders (e.g. 1px solid or 1px solid currentColor).

Using this theme model, we might generate any number of themes, perhaps storing them as utility classes, or looping over a list of modifiers inside a component, or just allowing the user to set variables right on the block in the CMS. When IE 11 drops below 1% in our stats, we can do much more with variables, but this is enough for our current purposes.

Let’s not get side-tracked. What about grid?!

Content components

Grid lets us describe exactly what content we have in each partial in a new way. It’s really a game changer for design agencies building new UI for every project and we’re discovering new (and fun) applications for it as we explore.

To give context: we customize each interface for our clients, with custom fields made to suit their specific needs and their content model, using Craft CMS. We have internal tools that pull in events from ticketing APIs and create entries from that data, which may then be edited and expanded (or created entirely) in the CMS. The client can fill in or edit named fields in permanent page regions, and also add in whole designed, branded content blocks into the layout of each page as they build them.

There’s a lot of UI. The clients have a lot of control over content and we have a lot of control over the HTML, so we can ensure a high standard of accessible, semantic code on the page. We develop the content model together during discovery and then turn ’em loose on content creation. They add what they want and we ensure that it works and always looks right. Better than right! Super. (Sorry! :P)

So, as a developer, I have to balance competing priorities:

  • Accessibility, usability
  • Branding and graphic design
  • Performance
  • Maintenance and codebase health

Let’s look at those one by one:

Accessibility

Accessible, logical HTML is my jam. At minimum, I require a green accessibility score on Lighthouse score for my projects. (Who am I kidding, I want that delicious 100!) Core paths and pages are tested with a couple of screen readers, the keyboard tab, keyboard navigation), low vision simulators, dasher, voice access and binary switch. (I also work for Robots and Cake so this is a big part of my development.) I add giant clickable phone numbers and email addresses to pages over and over. I just want to get people where they are going.

I’ve been concerned about the way content can be re-ordered with grid (and flexbox, for that matter). Having gone through a few builds now, I actually think grid can help us with this problem. With CSS Grid, there’s no reason to move around HTML in service to the layout. We can go back to thinking about the whole document as a logical, linear sequence as our first concern.

Branding vs. Performance vs. Maintenance

Arts venues require high-spec graphic design, unified across print and web, and have constantly changing materials (e.g. programs, brochures, tickets, posters, microsites, etc.) they need to get out to their audiences, including contractual marketing obligations that must be met. As you can imagine, we have a lot of high quality large images we have to prioritize and typically come with strong print-led branding. That means we may be serving around fifteen custom fonts (including weight variations, display faces, etc.) and complex CSS to the page as well. We have to keep ourselves as lean as we can. We are shipping CSS that’s around 20 KB nano Gzipped at the moment but I’m working on reducing it further.

However, we do keep the grid area names full length by setting reduce identifiers to false in our PostCSS task. It’s vastly more useful to have the layout maps available in DevTools than it is to save those few bytes. For maintenance, self-documentation, and the sake of your future self who is debugging this site without repo access on a delayed train in Sowerby Bridge: keep the maps.

Code health

The way to balance all these competing needs is to articulate and agree on conventions so that there’s less to fix in testing and so that solved problems stay solved. We examine all the components we build and make sure they always start with a heading, that links go places, and buttons trigger actions, that countable objects are delivered as a list and preceded by a landmark heading, that navs are <nav> and times are <time> and div soup is eaten for breakfast— the basics.

With CSS Grid, there’s no excuse to move around HTML in service to the layout. Your content can always flow logically while changes in layout happen in CSS. And, as there’s no need for margins or padding to create gutters, you can simply declare:

.o-grid .o-grid { width:100%; }

…to be sure any number of nested groups all visually occupy the same page grid. The HTML can be a clearer guide to what things really are: a closer document.

See the Pen
lock down semantic accessible structures
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

There’s a lot to manage between the heading and the action, and it’s my challenge to keep track of all these fields in all those components and make it traversable, scannable, linearizable, and easily read in some kind of logical, understandable manner, while making sure I’m faithfully executing the design spec.

Let’s bring in my first, surprisingly useful, grid mixin.

@mixin template($ elements...) {   @each $ element in $ elements {     &__#{$ element} {       grid-area: $ element;     }   } }

Using this mixin everywhere means:

  1. Each component partial now starts out with a list of all its possible elements, which is a very handy piece of documentation, especially when Twigging the actual front-end component.
  2. The mixin takes care of assigning the grid areas.
  3. Element and component names stay consistent across Sketch, CSS, and HTML and any inconsistencies will be very obvious, as the layout will fail. I’m firm, but fair.
  4. BEM naming is enforced automatically but isn’t muddling things up in the partial.

Now, in the partial, we will just declare grid-template-areas, using normal English words, giving us a series of maps of the layouts that also match the database fields. Super readable!

Here’s an example of this mixin working:

See the Pen
BEM ELEMENT AUTO ASSIGN
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

We decided to stick to named areas for internal grids because I read a great article on this very site explaining how Autoprefixer can handle grid for IE 11 if you stick to the listed supported properties — and it does for the most part. If you view this test case with Autoprefixer applied in the super useful Debug Mode in a browser test, you’ll see it working.

So far, so good.

But there are pitfalls! You must set inline elements to block to make sure they always operate as grid cells in IE 11. Comment out the marked line in the example to see what happens otherwise:

Debug has caught an issue.

Ouch! Be careful with those blocks. You may find some versions of IE 11 don’t even pick up this fix, in which case you might try just using plain ol’ <p> tags… sigh.

I don’t include display: grid in this mixin because there are scenarios where the actual grid is set on an inner container, for example, but we’d still want the grid-areas to match on the correct BEM class.

So:

.c-header{    @include template(title, pretitle, posttitle, producer, venue, credit, quote, nav, infobar, search); }

Let’s lay these suckers out.

Layout

Let’s identify a few more rules of the road to ensure this component slides right into a page layout without hassle. At time of writing, there’s no subgrid) available (but there will be!), so this component knows nothing of the parent grid it’s living in. This happens to match the BEM component approach well — as each component is written flat, and orphaned, to limit inheritance. I’m not advocating for BEM (or BEM-ish as we obviously use) here — I’m just saying that if you’re already using it, this is a bonus.

In this example, the designer has set a page layout of 12 column grid with 20px (1.25rem) gutters, site-wide, with no offset pieces. Our component is a page region and will occupy all 12 grid columns. In this transitional period, we’re still using this kind of set grid as we have a ton of systems still based on this idea that we have to integrate with. So, here’s our convention for this condition: for a full width region drop the grip gap and write the grid template columns as fractional units (fr) of 12.

Doing things this way means:

  1. the sight lines of this internal grid broadly follow the grid it sits within;
  2. it’s easy to see the underlying design rules in the code; and
  3. it’s easy to line things up exactly, if required.

A quick note on “lining up”

Wait… what do I mean ‘to have things line up exactly‘? Doesn’t it already line up exactly?

Two equal columns split mid-gutter of the parent 12-column grid.

Well, no. The fractional units approach divides across the space perfectly, so you end up in the gutter. Two even columns lands you halfway across the gutter. Two columns where one is 2/3 and the other is 1/3 will split 1/3 of the way across that gutter, and so on.

Two unequal columns (set to 2fr and 1fr, respectively) split a third of the way into a gutter of the 12-column parent grid.

It’s not exactly hard to fix the alignment, as we know the width of our page grid gutter. For example, on an even split, we could include the grid gap.

However, we can’t do that with any other division. What we can do is add that gap as a margin — the margin is added inside no matter what box sizing you have set. In this example, we have three columns (two named areas and one empty space), splitting our gutter into thirds:

This is how to calculate those margins: Make sure the total fr units sum results in 12. Divide the grid gap by the number of columns in the parent grid, then multiply that like so:

The right margin multiplier of n is equal to the sum of the fr units to the right of n. The left margin of n is equal to the sum of the fr units to the left of n.

So, for grid-template-columns with a value of 2fr 3fr 2fr 4fr 1fr:

 2      3      2     4    1  0/10   2/7    5/5   7/1  11/0

See the Pen
name spec inside and number spec outside — page region, desktop
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

You could even write that as a mixin if you find yourself writing calc() a lot. Something like this for aligning an inner grid to the parent grid:

See the Pen
auto align inner grid to parent grid
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

…and something like this to auto-calculate margins when the name is specified inside but the number is specified outside the grid:

See the Pen
name spec inside and number spec outside — auto calc margins
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

I’m sure you can think of other solutions, like switching to named lines, or adding in extra fixed-width columns or even writing all maps with 12 named areas per row. There are so many ways you can deal with this, but I think a lot of them remove the advantage of named areas. Areas give us a readable layout map that contains what our future selves need to know. It is code as documentation.

To be clear, the design problem I’m walking us through is not one of alignment. Alignment is easy with grid. The question is not of solving the immediate, trivial, layout problem, but of solving it in a way that supports our goal of being able to come back in six months and grasp:

  1. What elements are in the component.
  2. How they are laid out.
  3. Why the code is written in this way.

The grid specification is huge and it’s easy to get lost in the options. Perhaps it’s a better plan to reset to a 12-column grid and use the number spec (i.e. explicitly link to our page grid, which uses the number spec) when absolute alignment is required — but I do feel there’s a smarter, simpler solution waiting to be found. For this site, we ended up writing a page grid object and added nested internal grid cells to it with classes: .o-page-grid__sidebar.

What do you all think? I definitely foresee differing perspectives on this. 🤦‍♀️

A real, live grid!

We can use this to create a generic page header:

See the Pen
01 – Generic Page header
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

Or, we can create a variation of the homepage:

See the Pen
02 – Home page
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

What about a hero header that breaks out of our container? Sure! Or we can deliver it outside the container as well:

See the Pen
03 – Hero
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

What next? A themed event header with a full width info bar that sticks and an internal button that lines up with the sidebar on the parent grid? You bet. I’ll include a parent grid so it’s easier to see:

See the Pen
04 – Event header
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

What about a search with a central alignment? Let’s use a collapsing columns technique:

See the Pen
06 – Search with central alignment
by limograf (@Sally_McGrath)
on CodePen.

Here’s a demo of that one as a partial. Yes, it’s a map! And it’s a wrap!

Conventions

Phew, we covered a lot! But you can see how flexible and self-documenting a system like this can be, right?

  1. Type is handled with a separate type system.
  2. Colors are handled by a theme partial that describes the underlying color rules of the design, rather than simply coloring elements ad hoc.
  3. Elements are called what they are, in English, and included as a list at the top of the partial with the template mixin. This list can be taken into Twig or a template as a reference.
  4. Correct HTML is always used and nesting doesn’t break grid. That means you can apply any number of nested grids to the same layout space by setting a convention.
  5. Precise alignment is done in a number spec, and not a name spec (but note that alignment is possible with name spec).
  6. IE 11 is supported.
  7. I do have one more quick note and example of another component built with named areas. In this example, cards are not regions, but components placed in a grid, so there’s no reason to use the fr of 12 convention. You can expect a media object partial to look like this:

    .c-card {   &--news {     align-content: start;     grid-template-areas:        "image"       "datetime"       "title";   }    &--search {     justify-content: start;     grid-template-columns: 1fr 3fr;     grid-template-areas:       "image page"       "image title"       "image summary";   }    &--merchandise {     grid-gap: 0;     grid-template-columns: $ b 1fr 1fr $ b;     grid-template-areas:       "image image   image   image"       ".     title   title   ."       ".     summary summary ."       ".     price   action  .";   }    &--donations {     // donations thanks button is too long and must take up more space than input     grid-gap: 0;     grid-template-columns: $ b 1fr 2fr $ b;     grid-template-areas:       "image image   image   image"       ".     title   title   ."       ".     summary summary ."       ".     input   action  .";   } }  // ...

    The post Code as Documentation: New Strategies with CSS Grid appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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The Spectacular Music Scores of George Crumb

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The Power of Serverless v2.0! (Now an Open-Source Gatsby Site Hosted on Netlify)

I created a website called The Power of Serverless for Front-End Developers over at thepowerofserverless.info a little while back while I was learning about that whole idea. I know a little more now but still have an endless amount to learn. Still, I felt like it was time to revamp that site a bit.

For one thing, just like our little conferences website, the new site is a subdomain of this very site:

https://serverless.css-tricks.com/

Why? What’s this site all about?

The whole idea behind the serverless buzzword is a pretty big deal. Rather than maintaining your own servers, which you already buy from some other company, you architect your app such that everything is run on commoditized servers you access on-demand instead.

Hosting becomes static, which is rife with advantages. Just look at Netlify who offer blazing-fast static hosting and innovate around the developer experience. The bits you still need back-end services for run in cloud functions that are cheap and efficient.

This is a big deal for front-end developers. We’ve already seen a massive growth in what we are capable of doing on the front end, thanks to the expanding power of JavaScript. Now a JavaScript developer can be building entire websites from end-to-end with the JAMstack concept.

But you still need to know how to string it all together. Who do you use to process forms? Where do you store the data? What can I use for user authentication? What content management systems are available in this world? That’s what this site is all about! I’d like the site to be able to explain the concept and offer resources, but more importantly, be a directory to the slew of services out there that make up this new serverless world.

The site also features a section containing ideas that might help you figure out how you might use serverless technology. Perhaps you’ll even take a spin making a serverless site.

Design by Kylie Timpani and illustration by Geri Coady

Kylie Timpani (yes, the same Kylie who worked on the v17 design of this site!) did all the visual design for this project.

Geri Coady did all the illustration work.

If anything looks off or weird, blame my poor implementation of their work. I’m still making my way through checklists of improvements as we speak. Sometimes you just gotta launch things and improve as you go.

Everything is on GitHub and contributions are welcome

It’s all right here.

I’d appreciate any help cleaning up copy, adding services, making it more accessible… really anything you think would improve the site. Feel free to link up your own work, although I tend to find that contributions are stronger when you are propping up someone else rather than yourself. It’s ultimately my call whether your pull request is accepted. That might be subjective sometimes.

Before doing anything dramatic, probably best to talk it out by emailing me or opening an issue. There’s already a handful of issues in there.

I suspect companies that exist in this space will be interested in being represented in here somewhere, and I’m cool with that. Go for it. Perhaps we can open up some kind of sponsorship opportunities as well.

Creating with components: A good idea

I went with Gatsby for this project. A little site like this (a couple of pages of static content) deserves to be rendered entirely server-side. Gatsby does that, even though you work entirely in React, which is generally thought of as a client-side technology. Next.js and react-static are similar in spirit.

I purposely wanted to work in JavaScript because I feel like JavaScript has been doing the best job around the idea of architecting sites in components. Sure, you could sling some partials and pass local variables in Rails partials or Nunjucks includes, but it’s a far cry from the versatility you get in a framework like React, Vue or Angular that are designing entirely to help build components for the front end.

The fact that these JavaScript frameworks are getting first-class server-side rendering stories is big. Plus, after the site’s initial render, the site “hydrates” and you end up getting that SPA feel anyway… fantastic. Yet another thing that shows how a JavaScript-focused front-end developer is getting more and more powerful.

As an aside: I don’t have much experience with more complicated content data structures and JAMstack sites. I suspect once you’ve gone past this “little simple cards of data” structure, you might be beyond what front-matter Markdown files are best suited toward and need to get into a more full-fledged CMS situation, hopefully with a GraphQL endpoint to get whatever you need. Ripe space, for sure.

The post The Power of Serverless v2.0! (Now an Open-Source Gatsby Site Hosted on Netlify) appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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Front-End Documentation, Style Guides and the Rise of MDX

You can have the best open source project in the world but, if it doesn’t have good documentation, chances are it’ll never take off. In the office, good documentation could save you having to repeatedly answer the same questions. Documentation ensures that people can figure out how things work if key employees decide to leave the company or change roles. Well documented coding guidelines help bring consistency to a codebase.

If you’re writing long-form text, Markdown is clearly a great alternative to authoring HTML. Sometimes though, Markdown syntax isn’t enough. It’s always been possible to write straight HTML inside of Markdown documents. This includes custom elements so, if you’re building a design system with native web components, it’s easy to incorporate them inside your text-based documentation. If you’re working with React (or any other framework that speaks JSX, like Preact or Vue), you can do the same thing by using MDX.

This article is a broad overview of the tools available for writing documentation and for building style guides. Not all the tools listed here make use of MDX but it’s increasingly being incorporated into documentation tooling.

What is MDX?

A .mdx file has exactly the same syntax as a regular Markdown file, but lets you import interactive JSX components and embed them within your content. Support for Vue components is in alpha. It’s easy to get MDX set up with Create React App. There are MDX plugins for Next.js and Gatsby. The forthcoming version two release of Docusaurus will also come with built-in support.

Writing documentation with Docusaurus

Docusaurus is made by Facebook and used by every Facebook open source project, apart from React. It’s also used by many major open source projects outside of Facebook, including Redux, Prettier, Gulp and Babel.

A screenshot of logos of all the various frameworks that support Docusaurus, including React, Gulp, Jest, Babel, Redux and Prettier.
Projects making use of Docusaurus.

You can use Docusaurus to document anything — it isn’t front-end specific. Docusaurus uses React under the hood, but you don’t have to know that framework to make use of it. It’ll take your Markdown files and turn them into a nicely-structured, well-formatted and readable documentation site, with a nice design right out of the box.

A screenshot of the Redux documentation homepage with the headline Getting Started with Redux.
The Redux site shows the typical Docusaurus layout

Sites created with Docusaurus can also include a Markdown-based blog. Prism.js is included by default for zero-setup syntax highlighting. While relatively new, Docusaurus has proven popular, being voted the number one new tool of 2018 on StackShare.

Other options for written content

Docusaurus specifically caters to building documentation. Of course, there are a million and one ways to make a website — so you could roll your own solution with any back-end language, CMS, or static site generator.

The documentation sites for React, IBM’s design system, Apollo and Ghost CMS use Gatsby, for example — a generic static site generator often used for blogs. If you work with the Vue framework, VuePress is becoming a popular option. MkDocs is an open source static site generator for creating documentation, written in Python and configured with a single YAML file. GitBook is a popular paid product that’s free for open-source and non-profit teams. If you’re building internal documentation and want something easy, the reading experience on GitHub itself isn’t half bad, so you could just commit some Markdown files and leave it at that.

Documenting components: Docz, Storybook and Styleguidist

Style guides, design systems, pattern libraries — whatever you want to call them — have become a hugely popular area of concern in the last decade. What’s really made the difference in turning them from vanity projects into useful tools isn’t the pontificating of thought leaders but the emergence of component-driven frameworks, like React, and the tools mentioned here.

Storybook, Docz and Styleguidist all do much the same thing: display interactive UI components and document their API. A project may have dozens or even hundreds of components to keep track of — all with a variety to states and styles. If you want components to be reused, people have to know that they exist. We aid discoverability when we catalog components. A style guide gives an easily searchable and scannable overview of all your UI components. This helps to maintain visual consistency and avoid duplicating work.

These tools provide a convenient way to review different states. It can be difficult to reproduce every state of a component in the context of a real application. Rather than needing to click through an actual app, developing a component in isolation can be helpful. Hard-to-reach states (like a loading state, for example) can be mocked.

Dan Green wrote a nice synopsis of the benefits of using Storybook, but it applies equally to Docz and Styleguidist:

“Storybook has made it really easy for designers who code to collaborate with engineers. By working in storybook they don’t need to get a whole environment running (docker container, etc). For Wave, we have many important components that are only visible in the middle of a process that is short lived and time consuming to reproduce (i.e. a loading screen that only shows while a user is having their payment account set up). Before Storybook, we didn’t have a good way to work on these components and were forced to temporary hacks in order to make them visible. Now, with Storybook we have an isolated place to easily work on them, which has the bonus feature of being easily accessible for designers and PMs. It also makes it really easy for us to show off these states in sprint demos.”

– Dan Green, Wave Financial

As well as visualizing different states side-by-side and listing props, its often helpful to have written content about a component — whether its explaining the design rationale, use-cases, or describing the results of user-testing. Markdown is easy enough for *anybody* to learn — ideally a style guide should be a joint resource for designers and developers that both disciplines contribute to. Docz, Styleguidist and Storybook all offer a way to seamlessly intermingle Markdown with the components themselves.

Docz

Currently, Docz is a React-only project, but is working on support for Preact, Vue and web components. Docz is the newest of the three tools, but has already amounted over 14,000+ stars on GitHub. It is, to my mind, the easiest solution to work with. Docz provides two components — <Playground> and <Props>. These are imported and used directly in .mdx files.

import { Playground, Props } from "docz"; import Button from "../src/Button";  ## You can _write_ **markdown** ### You can import and use components  <Button>click</Button>

You can wrap your own React components with <Playground> to create the equivalent of an embedded CodePen or CodeSandbox — a view of your component alongside editable code.

<Playground>   <Button>click</Button> </Playground>

<Props> will show all the available props for a given React component, default values, and whether the prop is required.

<Props of={Button} />

I personally find this MDX-based approach the simplest to understand and the easiest to work with.

A screenshot of a Code Sandbox project making use of the tool to document the code for a Button component.

If you’re a fan of the React-based static-site generator Gatsby, Docz offers great integration.

Styleguidist

Just like with Docz, examples are written using Markdown syntax. Styleguidist uses Markdown code blocks (triple backticks) in regular .md files rather than MDX:

```js <Button onClick={() => console.log('clicked')>Push Me</Button> ```

Code blocks in Markdown usually just show the code. With Styleguidist, any code block with a language tag of js, jsx or javascript will be rendered as a React component along with the code. Just like with Docz, the code is editable — you can change props and instantly see the result.

A screenshot of the output of the documentation for a pink button made with Styleguidist.

Styleguidist will automatically create a table of props from either PropTypes, Flow or Typescript declarations.

A screenshot of a table of values that Styleguidiist generated for the pink button documentation, including values it accepts.

Styleguidist currently supports React and Vue.

Storybook

Storybook markets itself as “a development environment for UI components.” Rather than writing examples of components inside Markdown or MDX files, you write *stories* inside Javascript files. A *story* documents a particular state of a component. A component might have stories for a loading state and a disabled state, for example.

storiesOf('Button', module)   .add('disabled', () => (     <Button disabled>lorem ipsum</Button>   ))

Storybook is less straightforward to use than Styleguidist and Docz. At over 36,000 GitHub stars though, it’s the most popular option. It’s an open source project with 657 contributors and a full-time maintainer. It is used by, among others, Airbnb, Algolia, Atlassian, Lyft, and Salesforce. Storybook supports more frameworks than any other offering — React, React Native, Vue, Angular, Mithril, Ember, Riot, Svelte and plain HTML are all supported.

Writing documentation about components currently requires addons. In a future release, Storybook is taking inspiration from Docz and adopting MDX.

# Button  Some _notes_ about your button written with **markdown syntax**.  <Story name="disabled">   <Button disabled>lorem ipsum</Button> </Story>

Storybook’s new Docs feature is being rolled out incrementally over the next couple of months and looks set to be a big step forward.

Wrapping up

The benefits of pattern libraries have been extolled at nauseating length in a million Medium articles. When done well, they aid visual consistency and facilitate the creation of cohesive products. Of course, none of these tools can magic up a design system. That takes careful thought about both design and CSS. But when it comes time to communicate that system to the rest of an organization, Docz, Storybook and Styleguidist are all great options.

The post Front-End Documentation, Style Guides and the Rise of MDX appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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This Ladybird-Bike is a Moving Children Library

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Getting Started with React Testing Library

I can guess what you are thinking: another React testing library? So many have already been covered here on CSS-Tricks (heck, I’ve already posted one covering Jest and Enzyme) so aren’t there already enough options to go around?

But react-testing-library is not just another testing library. It’s a testing library, yes, but one that’s built with one fundamental principle that separates it from the rest.

The more your tests resemble the way your software is used, the more confidence they can give you.

It tries to address tests for how a user will use your application. In fact, it’s done in such a way that tests won’t break even when you refactor components. And I know that’s something we’ve all run into at some point in our React journey.

We’re going to spend some time writing tests together using react-testing-library for a light to-do application I built. You can clone the repo locally:

git clone https://github.com/kinsomicrote/todoapp-test.git

And, if you do that, install the required packages next:

## yarn yarn add --dev react-testing-library jest-dom  ## npm npm install --save-dev react-testing-library jest-dom

In case you’re wondering why Jest is in there, we’re using it for assertion. Create a folder called __test__ inside the src directory and create a new file called App.test.js.

Taking snapshots

Snapshot tests keep a record of tests that have been performed on a tested component as a way to visually see what’s changes between changes.

When we first run this test, we take the first snapshot of how the component looks. As such, the first test is bound to pass because, well, there’s no other snapshot to compare it to that would indicate something failed. It only fails when we make a new change to the component by adding a new element, class, component, or text. Adding something that was not there when the snapshot was either created or last updated.

The snapshot test will be the first test we will be writing here. Let’s open the App.test.js file and make it look like this:

import React from 'react'; import { render, cleanup } from "react-testing-library"; import "jest-dom/extend-expect"; import App from './App';  afterEach(cleanup);  it("matches snapshot", () => {   const { asFragment } = render(<App />);   expect(asFragment()).toMatchSnapshot(); });

This imports the necessary packages we are using to write and run the tests. render is used to display the component we want to test. We make use of cleanup to clear things out after each test runs — as you can see with the afterEach(cleanup) line.

Using asFragment, we get a DocumentFragment of the rendered component. Then we expect it to match the snapshot that had been created.

Let’s run the test to see what happens:

## yarn yarn test  ## npm npm test

As we now know, a snapshot of the component gets created in a new folder called __snapshots__ inside the __tests__ directory if this is our first test. We actually get a file called App.test.js.snap in there that will look like this:

// Jest Snapshot v1, https://goo.gl/fbAQLP  exports[`matches snapshot 1`] = ` <DocumentFragment>   <div     class="container"   >     <div       class="row"     >       <div         class="col-md-6"       >         <h2>           Add Todo         </h2>       </div>     </div>     <form>       <div         class="row"       >         <div           class="col-md-6"         >           <input             class="form-control"             data-testid="todo-input"             placeholder="Enter a task"             type="text"             value=""           />         </div>       </div>       <div         class="row"       >         <div           class="col-md-6"         >           <button             class="btn btn-primary"             data-testid="add-task"             type="submit"           >             Add Task           </button>         </div>       </div>     </form>     <div       class="row todo-list"     >       <div         class="col-md-6"       >         <h3>           Lists         </h3>         <ul           data-testid="todos-ul"         >           <li>             <div>               Buy Milk               <button                 class="btn btn-danger"               >                 X               </button>             </div>           </li>           <li>             <div>               Write tutorial               <button                 class="btn btn-danger"               >                 X               </button>             </div>           </li>         </ul>       </div>     </div>   </div> </DocumentFragment> `;

Now, let’s Test DOM elements and events

Our app includes two to-do items that display by default the first time the app runs. We want to make sure that they do, in fact, show up by default on the first app run so, to test this, we have to target the unordered list (<ul>) and check the length. We expect the length to be equal to two — the number of items.

it('it displays default todo items', () => {   const { getByTestId } = render(<App />);   const todoList = getByTestId('todos-ul');   expect(todoList.children.length).toBe(2);   });

We’re making use of getByTestId in that snippet to extract the test IDs from the App component. We then set todoList to target the todos-ul element. That’s what should return as two.

Using what we’ve learned so far, see if you can write a test to assert that a user can enter values in the input field. Here are the things you’ll want to do:

  • Get the input field
  • Set a value for the input field
  • Trigger a change event
  • Assert that the input field has its value as the one you set for it in Step 2

Don’t peek at my answer below! Take as much time as you need.

Still going? Great! I’ll go grab some coffee and be right back.

Mmm, coffee. ☕️

Oh, you’re done! You rock. Let’s compare answers. Mine looks like this:

it('allows input', () => {   const {getByTestId } = render(<App />)   let item = 'Learn React'   const todoInputElement = getByTestId('todo-input');   todoInputElement.value = item;   fireEvent.change(todoInputElement);   expect(todoInputElement.value).toBe('Learn React') });

Using getByTestId, I am able to extract the test IDs in the application. Then I create a variable which is set to the string Learn React, and make it the value of the input field. Next, I obtain the input field using its test ID and fire the change event after setting the value of the input field. With that done, I assert that the value of the input field is indeed Learn React.

Does that check out with your answer? Leave a comment if you have another way of going about it!

Next, let’s test that we can add a new to-do item. We’ll need to get the input field, the button for adding new items and the unordered list because those are all of the elements needed to create an new item.

We set a value for the input field and then trigger a button click to add the task. We’re able to do this by obtaining the button using getByText — by triggering a click event on the DOM element with the text Add Task, we should be able to add a new to-do item.

Let’s assert that the number of children (list items) in unordered list element is equal to three. This assumes that the default tasks are still in tact.

it('adds a new todo item', () => {   const { getByText, getByTestId } = render(<App />);   const todoInputElement = getByTestId('todo-input');   const todoList = getByTestId('todos-ul');   todoInputElement.value = 'Learn React';   fireEvent.change(todoInputElement);   fireEvent.click(getByText('Add Task'))   expect(todoList.children.length).toBe(3);  });

Pretty nice, right?

This is just one way to test in React

You can try react-testing-library in your next React application. The documentation in the repo is super thorough and — like most tools — the best place to start. Kent C. Dodds built it and has a full course on testing over at Frontend Masters (subscription required) that also covers the ins and outs of react-testing-library.

That said, this is just one testing resource for React. There are others, of course, but hopefully this is one you’re interested in trying out now that you’ve seen a bit of it but use what’s best for your project, of course.

The post Getting Started with React Testing Library appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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The Browser Can Remember Edited Content

You can make the text inside any HTML element editable by adding the contenteditable attribute.

<div contenteditable>   Hey, I'm like a textarea kinda now! </div>

I wouldn’t say there are wheelbarrows full of use-cases for that, but it’s neat. One possible use might be an in-progress design in which editing the content from the design itself is useful either for you, or for someone else (a client?) who needs to change the text.

So, great, contenteditable. Now someone can click into the text and edit it.

There is nothing permanent about those changes. Refresh the page, look in another browser or whatever. Those edits are gone.

Say you wanted to do a little better job and make the changes persistent. You aren’t trying to build a CMS here, or save the data through an authenticated connection to a database or anything. You just wanna make the edits to the text are maintained if the page refreshes.

One way is to chuck the data from the text changes you make into localStorage.

  1. When text is edited (on blur of the element), save the data to localStorage using a namespace and the
    ID of the element as the key.
  2. When the page loads, look through localStorage and see if there are any keys that match elements on the page and, if so, replace the content.
const editables = document.querySelectorAll("[contenteditable]");  // save edits editables.forEach(el => {   el.addEventListener("blur", () => {     localStorage.setItem("dataStorage-" + el.id, el.innerHTML);   }) });  // once on load for (var key in localStorage) {   if (key.includes("dataStorage-")) {     const id = key.replace("dataStorage-","");     document.querySelector("#" + id).innerHTML = localStorage.getItem(key);   } }

See the Pen
localStorage + contenteditable
by Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier)
on CodePen.


This reminds me of a few other things…

  • document.designMode = "on" is like a shortcut for making every element on the page behave like it has contenteditable.
  • Mavo is a little bit like this concept only with authentication, true data storage options, and editing UI.
  • If performance is a concern, KV storage is supposed to be a speeder async version of localStorage.

The post The Browser Can Remember Edited Content appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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Use Motion To Create A Better User Experience Without Distracting Users

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How I Use CleanMyMac X

[Chris]: I’m a lifelong Mac user. Ever since our family upgraded from a Commodore 128 to an Apple Macintosh Performa 636 (CD) when I was in middle school, I’ve never owned or worked on anything other than a Mac. I’m pretty dedicated to running a clean, fast, optimized, safe, and organized machine. If I was a woodworker, my truck would probably be a mess, but my shop would probably be in perfect shape. Organized pegboard of tools, swept floor, and sharp tools.

If it seems off to see a review of this Mac software seems here on a web development blog, it shouldn’t. Keeping a clean machine makes sure we can do out job without anything getting in the way. Just look up what Abraham Lincoln had to say about sharpening axes.

I really like CleanMyMac X. I’ve used it for years and years, and it is my primary tool for helping me keep a clean shop.

Home screen of CleanMyMac X
Nicely designed UI, wouldn’t you say?

The cornerstone of CleanMyMac X is to regularly run a scan of your whole system and follow its recommendations for what to clean up. The scan only takes a few minutes, even on my machine, which is pretty loaded with files including god-knows how many node_modules folders and such. Plus, it provides an alert once it finishes.

Then you get a bit of an overview of things CleanMyMac X can help you with, and away you go.

Give it another few minutes to do its thing, and a boatload of the heavy lifting will be done for you.

Clearing up hard drive space is one of CleanMyMac X’s superpowers

If you haven’t run it in a while (particularly on your first-ever run), you’re going to be clearing many, many gigabytes of unused junk off your system. That’s a lot of space, making this tool a godsend if you’re dealing with space issues on your hard drive, as I certainly have.

But what I’ve found is that tracking down big and old files is the best way to clear up space. They have a feature that literally does exactly that, which helps me track down giant files that I have zero use for anymore. I find stuff like enormous log files, old SQL dumps I don’t need any more, original media recordings that have already been backed up. That kind of thing.

The new Space Lens feature is great to helps you visualize the biggest hoarders on your system. It helped me discover that the largest offenders on my system were recordings for CodePen Radio, which could easily be removed from my system with no harm.

Dropbox has a “selective sync” feature that allows me to keep some files backed up, but not keep them locally on my Mac. CleanMyMac X gives me hints on the best directories to use for certain files.

Nuking applications correctly

I used to rely on a little tool called AppZapper to delete apps, because it had this neat feature where it would entirely clean up after the app. Not only would the app be gone, but any files strewn across the entire system that relate to that app as well, of which there might be a dozen… or more.

I don’t need that anymore because CleanMyMac X does this automatically! Say I’m cleaning out my Applications folder and find an app that I just don’t use whatsoever. I can simply drag that application to the trash. CleanMyMac X will notice that I did that and help me delete it correctly.

Popping over to the app, I can see exactly what it’s doing:

Saving myself from a restart

I can’t quite explain why, but sometimes my machine feels bogged down. It runs slowly and every task seems to take forever. The dreaded Mac beachball seems to happen for even the simplest of things. Maybe it’s because of how many different development environments I spin up and down, coupled with the fact that I only restart once a week… if that. Who knows.

Restarting usually does make for a snappier machine, but sometimes I really want to avoid it. Like, when I’m in the middle of some long-running task, or I’m trying to complete a thought, or I only have 30 minutes left in my work day and I want to use them to do work. I’ve found the reason for the slowness usually has to do with my RAM usage peaking out, and amazingly, CleanMyMac X has a one-click solution for that right in the handy-dandy menu bar app:

This machine that I’m writing on and that I just took that screenshot with is brand-spanking new. I went with 32 GB of RAM because my old machine came with 16 GB and had these RAM issues constantly. In that screenshot above, you can see I’m using 23 GB of RAM just sitting here hardly doing anything other than typing up this blog post. 🥺. But I can get a lot of that back after “freeing up” RAM.

CleanMyMac X will even remind me of low RAM, among other things, and help you prevent that from causing bigger issues.


I find CleanMyMax X pretty dang reliable and valuable. I’m grateful for that since trust is paramount with an application like this. I’m not just going to let any app scour my hard drive, delete files and have this general kind of access. I wouldn’t want to be in a position where I really needed an app like this right away and had to choose something without being able to lean on years of trust.

The post How I Use CleanMyMac X appeared first on CSS-Tricks.

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