Tag: Always

No Motion Isn’t Always prefers-reduced-motion

There is a code snippet that I see all the time when the media query prefers-reduced-motion is talked about. Here it is:

@media (prefers-reduced-motion: reduce) {   * {     animation-duration: 0.01ms !important;     animation-iteration-count: 1 !important;     transition-duration: 0.01ms !important;     scroll-behavior: auto !important;   } }

This is CSS that attempts to obliterate any motion on a website under the condition that the user has specified a preference for reduced motion in the accessibility preferences of their operating system.

prefers-reduced-motion settings in MacOS.

Why prefers-reduced-motion matters

The reason this setting exists is that on-screen movement is an accessibility concern. Here’s Eric Bailey:

Vestibular disorders can cause your vestibular system to struggle to make sense of what is happening, resulting in loss of balance and vertigo, migraines, nausea, and hearing loss. Anyone who has spun around too quickly is familiar with a confused vestibular system.

Vestibular disorders can be caused by both genetic and environmental factors. It’s part of the larger spectrum of conditions that make up accessibility concerns and it affects more than 70 million people.

Here he is again in a follow-up article:

If you have a vestibular disorder or have certain kinds of migraine or seizure triggers, navigating the web can be a lot like walking through a minefield — you’re perpetually one click away from activating an unannounced animation. And that’s just for casual browsing.

Reduced motion vs. nuked motion

Knowing this, the temptation might be high to go nuclear on the motion and wipe it out entirely when a user has specified a reduced motion preference. The trouble with that is — to quote Eric again — “animation isn’t unnecessary.” Some of it might be, but animation can also help accessibility. For example, a “transitional interface” (e.g. a list that animates an opening for a new item to slide into it) can be very helpful:

Animation can be a great tool to help combat some forms of cognitive disability by using it to break down complicated concepts, or communicate the relationship between seemingly disparate objects. Val Head’s article on A List Apart highlights some other very well-researched benefits, including helping to increase problem-solving ability, recall, and skill acquisition, as well as reducing cognitive load and your susceptibility to change blindness.

In this case, you would lose the helpful contextual movement if you just nuked it all. You just might want to take a different approach when in a prefers-reduced-motion scenario. Perhaps less, slower, or removed motion while leaning harder on color and fading transitions.

Ban Nadel recently wrote “Applying Multiple Animation @keyframes To Support Prefers-Reduced-Motion In CSS” and covered a similar example. A modal entrance animation uses both a fade-in and scale-in effect by default. Then, in a prefers-reduced-motion scenario, it uses the fade-in but not the scaling. The scaling causes movement in a way the fading doesn’t.

/*    By default, we'll use the REDUCED MOTION version of the animation. */ @keyframes modal-enter {   from {     opacity: 0 ;   }   to {     opacity: 1 ;   } }  /*   Then, if the user has NO PREFERENCE for motion, we can OVERRIDE the   animation definition to include both the motion and non-motion properties. */ @media ( prefers-reduced-motion: no-preference ) {   @keyframes modal-enter {     from {       opacity: 0 ;       transform: scale(0.7) ;     }     to {       opacity: 1 ;       transform: scale(1.0) ;     }   } }

See the GIF demo on Ben’s site if you’d like to see a quick comparison.

I like how this style of approach is think about the problem and come up with a reduced motion solution, rather than screw it all, no movement period!!

But not all motion is driven by CSS

While we’re on the topic of that screw-all-motion CSS snippet, note that it’s only effective at doing what it sets out to do on sites where all the movement is entirely CSS-driven. If you’re using JavaScript-powered animations beware that this nuclear snippet might… well here’s Josh Comeau:

If your animations are entirely driven by CSS, this works great… But I’ve had weird issues when running animations in JS. Specifically, I’ve seen this reset have the opposite effect, and make animations super fast and dizzying.

That’s right: It might do quite literally the opposite of what you are trying to do.

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Local: Always Getting Better

I’ve been using Local for ages. Four years ago, I wrote about how I got all my WordPress sites running locally on it. I just wanted to give it another high five because it’s still here and still great. In fact, much great than it was back then.

Disclosure, Flywheel, the makers of Local, sponsor this site, but this post isn’t sponsored. I just wanted to talk about a tool I use. It’s not the only player in town. Even old school MAMP PRO is has gotten a lot better and many devs seem to like it. People that live on the command line tend to love Laravel Valet. There is another WordPress host getting in on the game here: DevKinsta.

The core of Local is still very much the same. It’s an app you run locally (Windows, Mac, or Linux) and it helps you spin up WordPress sites incredibly easily. Just a few choices and clicks and it’s going. This is particularly useful because WordPress has dependencies that make it run (PHP, MySQL, a web server, etc) and while you can absolutely do that by hand or with other tools, Local does it in a containerized way that doesn’t mess with your machine and can help you run locally with settings that are close to or entirely match your production site.

That stuff has always been true. Here are things that are new, compared to my post from four years ago!

  • Sites start up nearly instantaneously. Maybe around a year or a bit more ago Local had a beta build they dubbed Local “Lightning” because it was something of a re-write that made it way faster. Now it’s just how Local works, and it’s fast as heck.
  • You can easily pull and push sites to production (and/or staging) very easily. Back then, you could pull I think but not push. I still wire up my own deployment because I usually want it to be Git-based, but the pulling is awfully handy. Like, you sit down to work on a site, and first thing, you can just yank down a copy of production so you’re working with exactly what is live. That’s how I work anyway. I know that many people work other ways. You could have your local or staging environment be the source of truth and do a lot more pushing than pulling.
  • Instant reload. This is refreshing for my little WordPress sites where I didn’t even bother to spin up a build process or Sass or anything. Usually, those build processes also help with live reloading, so it’s tempting to reach for them just for that, but no longer needed here. When I do need a build process, I’ll often wire up Gulp, but also CodeKit still works great and its server can proxy Local’s server just fine.
  • One-click admin login. This is actually the feature that inspired me to write this post. Such a tiny quality of life thing. There is a button that says Admin. You can click that and, rather than just taking you to the login screen, it auto-logs you in as a particular admin user. SO NICE.
  • There is a plugin system. My back-end friends got me on TablePlus, so I love that there is an extension that allows me to one-click open my WordPress DBs in TablePlus. There is also an image optimizer plugin, which scans the whole site for images it can make smaller. I just used that the other day because might as well.

That’s not comprehensive of course, it’s just a smattering of features that demonstrate how this product started good and keeps getting better.

Bonus: I think it’s classy how they shout out to the open source shoulders they stand on:

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It’s always the stacking context.

In “What the heck, z-index??,” Josh Comeau makes the analogy of layer groups in design software like Photoshop or Figma to stacking contexts in CSS. If you’ve got an element in a layer group A in Photoshop that is below layer group B, there is nothing you can do to push a child of A on top of anything in B, aside from moving the whole layer group A above B, or getting rid of the groupings.

Nothing is going to put that moustache on top of the dog unless you get it out of that stacking context or move the whole stacking context.

Here’s a reduced case:

There is no z-index value that is going to get “Big Thing” on top of the tan <main> element there. But as Josh notes in the article, there are a variety of solutions, such as preventing a stacking context from triggering unnecessarily, or doing a little DOM shuffling to make things work. Like in the example above, “Big Thing” doesn’t need to be a child of the header — and if it wasn’t, the stacking context wouldn’t be as relevant.

If you’re a fan of your tools helping you diagnose this kind of thing, read to the bottom of Josh’s article for a few interesting ones.

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Web Frameworks: Why You Don’t Always Need Them

Richard MacManus explaining Daniel Kehoe’s approach to building websites:

There are three key web technologies underpinning Kehoe’s approach:

  • ES6 Modules: JavaScript ES6 can support import modules, which are also supported by browsers.
  • Module CDNs: JavaScript modules can now be downloaded from third-party content delivery networks (CDNs).
  • Custom HTML elements: Developers can now create custom HTML tags, via Web Components.

Using a no build process and only features that are built into browser, and yet that still buys you a pretty powerful setup. You can still use stuff off npm. You can still get templating. You can still build with components. You still get isolation where needed.

I’d say today you’re:

  • Giving up some DX (hot module reloading, JSX, framework doodads)
  • Gaining some DX (can jump into project and just start working)
  • Giving up some performance (no tree shaking, loads of network requests)
  • Widening your hiring pool (more people know core technologies than specific tools)

But it’s not hard to imagine a tomorrow where we give up less and gain more, making the tools we use today less necessary. I’m quite sure we’ll always still find a way to jam more tools into what we’re doing. Hammer something something nail.

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It’s Always Year Zero

In the short term, opinions about technology often follow a compressed form of Laver’s Law:

  • Everything just before me was completely broken.
  • Everything that comes after me is completely unnecessary.
  • Everything I use right now is perfectly fine; stop changing things.

We tend to judge things based on where we started, our personal “Year Zeros.” But what’s “Year Zero” for us isn’t “Year Zero” for others. And in the fullness of time, the good ideas win out and hindsight judges them retrospectively obvious.

In 2020, I learned that it’s always Year Zero when it comes to building websites.

In “The Third Age of JavaScript” I speculated about a new wave of web developer tools enabled by the confluence of multiple trends:

In this framing, 2020 was Year Zero of the Third Age. But what happens in 2021? 2022? What makes me so sure that 2020 was some clear dividing line?

Nothing. There’s always room for innovation. New libraries, new frameworks, new build tools, even new languages. Yes, most of these will go nowhere, and yes, we swing back and forth a lot. But it’s the people who believe that web development isn’t done yet that make the future happen. Not those who play armchair quarterback, nor those who see everything in an odious light. I’d rather side with the people who believe it can be Year Zero than the people who believe Year Zero has passed.

“Year Zero” to me also means keeping a beginner’s mindset and constantly re-examining what I think I know. When I first learned web development, I was told that React was the best framework to build sites, Presentational and Container Components was the right way to do React, and that BEM was the right way to structure CSS. As a newcomer at Year Zero, I assumed that any discomfort I felt with the orthodoxy was my fault. Flash forward to this year and and my most popular articles are about Svelte and Tailwind questioning that conventional wisdom. No one gave me permission to do that. It took years to learn that I could dare to disagree with my mentors and give that permission to myself.

I feel this most of all for the newcomers to our industry. Every year there are about ~350k freeCodeCamp, ~100k university and ~35k bootcamp grads. It’s Year Zero for them. Or how about our end users — the millions of non-developers who every year have more of their world consumed by the buggy, slow software we make? It’s Year Zero for them.

It’s also Year Zero for web development in the broader arc of human history. The web is only 30 years old. We’ve had over 300 years refining modern physics, and yet there are still things we know we don’t know. It is such early days for the web.

Let’s stop pretending what we know is absolute truth and that what we have is the end state of things. It’s Always Year Zero.

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