Tag: best

Our Best Posts on Web Components

A bit of backstory on why this page exists…

I made a fancy new Gutenberg block to insert posts into other posts, so this page is an example of using that (heavily) make a meta blog post about other blog posts. For the most part, topical pages like this are best served by tag pages. For example, our tag page for Web Components has more posts and is sortable in ways this is not. This is just a way to make a curated and hand-sorted grouping of posts, which is something we’ve done for a while with “Guide Collections”. But, we’re spinning down Guide Collections and redirecting them to tag pages and pages like this because they are easier to maintain.


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The Best Design System Tool is Slack

There’s a series questions I have struggled with for as long as I can remember. The questions have to do with how design systems work: Where should we document things? Do we make a separate app? Do we use a third-party tool to document our components? How should that tie into Figma or Sketch? What about written documentation? Should we invest a lot of time into making a giant Polaris-like wiki of how to build things?

The issue with all these tools and links and repositories is that it can become increasingly difficult to remember where to go for what kind of information. Designers should go here and engineers should go there — unless, of course, you’re an iOS engineer, then you need this special resource instead. It can be overwhelming and confusing for everyone that doesn’t live within the orbit of design systems drama and is just trying to ship a feature on time.

After years of struggling with these questions, I think my current advice to my past (and current) self is this: meet the people where they are. And where are most people asking questions about design systems, whether that’s a color variable or a component or a design pattern?

In Slack!

The other day I thought it would be neat to set up some Slackbot custom responses to do a rather simple thing. When someone types color me into a channel, I all the color variables and their hex values are pasted. That way, no one needs to learn a new tool or bookmark yet another link.

Here’s how it works.

We first have to open up the settings of the organization you’re in and click the “Customize” item in this dropdown:

That pops open a new tab with the “Customize your Workspace” settings. If you select “Slackbot” from the options, then you can then see all of the custom responses that have been set up already. From there, we can create a new response like this:

That n is what breaks things onto a new line so that I can now test it out in a chat with myself once I’ve saved this:

Because this takes up so much darn space, I also made separate answers for each color, like blue and purple. But all of this has me wondering: how else can we use Slack — or whatever chat app or communication tool — to extend the cause of good design systems work?

I bet there’s a ton of other things we can do to improve our lives within tools like this and make design systems work even easier.

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Bundling JavaScript for Performance: Best Practices

Performance advice from David Calhoun on how many scripts to load on a page for best performance:

[…] some of your vendor dependencies probably change slower than others. react and react-dom probably change the slowest, and their versions are always paired together, so they both form a logical chunk that can be kept separate from other faster-changing vendor code:

<!-- index.html --> <script src="vendor.react.[hash].min.js"></script> <script src="vendor.others.[hash].min.js"></script> <script src="index.[hash].min.js"></script>

Funny how times haven’t changed that much! Me, in 2012, talking about how many CSS files need to be loaded on any given page: One, Two, or Three. I split it into global, section-specific, and-page-specific so it was less about third-party code, although that could certainly apply, too.

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The Best Color Functions in CSS?

I’ve said before that HSL is the best color format we have. Most of us aren’t like David DeSandro, who can read hex codes. HSL(a) is Hue, Saturation, Lightness, and alpha, if we need it.

hsl(120, 100%, 40%)

Hue isn’t intuitive, but it’s not that weird. You take a trip around the color wheel from 0 to 360. Saturation is more obvious where 0% has all the color sucked out, like grayscale, and 100% is fully rich color at that hue. Lightness is “normal” at 50% and adds white or black as you go toward 100% and 0%, respectively. I’m sure that’s not the correct scientific or technical way of explaining it, but that’s the brain logic.

There are still issues with using HSL, which Brian Kardell explains in depth. I’m far from a color expert, but I think I see what Brian (and Adam) are saying in that article. Say you have three different colors and they all have the exact same lightness in HSL. That doesn’t mean they are all actually the same lightness. That’s kinda weird, particularly when you’re using this color format as part of a system of colors.

The good news is that there are color features already specced as a CSS Level 4 module that help with this: Lab and LCH. Check out the example from Adam where the colors in Lab have values that reflect their actual lightness much more accurately to how we perceive it.

Brian:

There are color spaces like Lab and LCH which deal with the full spectrum and have qualities like perceptual uniformness. Thus, if we want great color functions for use in real design systems everyone seems to agree that having support to do said math in the Lab/LCH color spaces is the ideal enabling feature.

In the bug ticket for Chrome, Tab thinks these would be almost trivial to implement.

Note that lab()/lch()/gray() can all be eagerly converted into our existing color infrastructure; they don’t introduce any fundamentally new concepts, they’re just a better way to specify colors, more closely associated with how our eyes actually function rather than being closely tied to how rgb pixels function.

The conversion functions to turn it into rgb are a little bit of code, but it’s just some exponentials and a bit of matrix multiplication, and it’s well-documented in the spec.

This should be a GoodFirstBug sort of thing, I think.

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Third-Party Components at Their Best

I’m a fan of the componentization of the web. I think it’s a very nice way to build a website at just about any scale (except, perhaps, the absolute most basic). There are no shortage of opinions about what makes a good component, but say we scope that to third-party for a moment. That is, components that you just use, rather than components that you build yourself as part of your site’s unique setup.

What makes a third-party component good? My favorite attribute of a third-party component is when it takes something hard and makes it easy. Particularly things that recognize and properly handle nuances, or things that you might not even know enough about to get right.

Perhaps you use some component that does pop-up contextual menus for you. It might perform browser edge detection, such as ensuring the menu never appears cut off or off-screen. That’s a tricky little bit of programming that you might not get right if you did it yourself — or even forget to do.

I think of the <Link /> component that React Router has or what’s used on Gatsby sites. It automatically injects aria-current="page" for you on the links when you’re on that page. You can and probably should use that for a styling hook! And you probably would have forgotten to program that if you were handling your own links.

In that same vein, Reach UI Tabs have rigorous accessibility baked into them that you probably wouldn’t get right if you hand-rolled them. This React image component does all sorts of stuff that is relatively difficult to pull off with images, like the complex responsive images syntax, lazy loading, placeholders, etc. This is, in a sense, handing you best practices for “free.”

Here’s a table library that doesn’t even touch UI for you, and instead focuses on other needs you’re likely to have with tables, which is another fascinating approach.

Anyway! Here’s what y’all said when I was asking about this. What makes a third-party component awesome? What do the best of them do? (besides the obvious, like good docs and good accessibility)? Some of these might be at-odds. I’m just listing what people said they like.

  • Plug-and-play. It should “just work” with minimal config.
  • Lots of editable demos
  • Highly configurable
  • “White label” styling. Don’t bring too strong of design choices.
  • Styled via regular CSS so you can BYO own styling tools
  • Fast
  • Small
  • Is installable via a package manager
  • Can be manually instantiated
  • Can be given a DOM node where it can go
  • Follows a useful versioning scheme
  • Is manintained, particularly for security
  • Has a public roadmap
  • Is framework-agnostic
  • Doesn’t have other dependencies
  • Uses intuitive naming conventions
  • Supports internationalization
  • Has lots of tests

Anything you’d add to that list?

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The Best Cocktail in Town

I admit I’ve held in a lot of pent-up frustration about the direction web development has taken the past few years. There is the complexity. It requires a steep learning curve. It focuses more on more configuration than it does development.

That’s not exactly great news for folks like me who consider themselves to be more on the design side of the front-end spectrum. I remember grimacing the first time I found myself using a Grunt workflow on a project. Now, how I long for the “simplicity” of those days.

That’s not to say I haven’t enjoyed experimenting with new development workflows and frameworks. I actually find Vue to be pretty pleasant. But I think that might have to do with the fact that it’s organized in a HTML-CSS-JS structure that feels familiar and that it works with straight-up HTML.

I’m finding myself rekindling my love for a development workflow that’s as close to a vanilla combination of HTML, CSS, and JavaScript as I can get. Everything generally compiles back to these languages anyway. CSS has gotten more complex, yes, but it has also gotten more powerful and empowering (hello, CSS grid, custom properties, and calc!) to the point that using a preprocessor requires an intentional choice for me. And JavaScript? Yeah, it done got big, but it’s getting nicer to write all the time.

HTML, CSS, and JavaScript: it’s still the best cocktail in town.

If there’s one new thing in the dev landscape that’s caught my attention more than anything in the past year, it’s the evolution of JAMstack. Hot dang if it isn’t easier to deploy sites and changes to them while getting continuous delivery and a whole lot of performance value to boot. Plus, it abstracts server work to the extent that I no longer feel beholden to help from a back-end developer to set me up with different server environments, fancy testing tools, and deployment integrations. It’s all baked into an online dashboard that I can configure in a matter of minutes. All hail the powerful front-end developer!

I’ve been building websites for nearly 20 years and I feel like the last five have seen the most changes in the way we develop for the web. Progressive web apps? Bundlers and tree-shaking? Thinking in components? Serverless? Yes, it’s a crazy time for an old dog like me to learn new tricks, but it brings a level of excitement I haven’t experienced since learning code the View Source way.

That’s why I still find myself loving and using a classic workflow as much as I can in 2019, but can still appreciate the new treats we’ve gotten in recent years and how they open my mind up to new possibilities that challenge the status quo.

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Get the Best Domain Name for your New Website

(This is a sponsored post.)

If you’re on CSS-Tricks, we can probably bet that you’re in the process of building a really cool website. You’ve spent your time creating content, applying appropriate UX design techniques, coding it to perfection, and now you’re about ready to launch it to the world.

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Deliver your best work with the help of monday.com

(This is a sponsored post.)

Here’s the situation: You’ve bashed out a complicated design over two weeks of near full-time effort, gotten everything down to the exact spec of the design file, turn it in for stakeholder review and… you’re way off scope. Turns out a few folks on the team put their heads together, made some changes, and never sent you an updated comp.

Boo!

The unfortunate truth is that this happens all too often in front-end development, but it’s really no one person’s fault because it boils down to simple collective miscommunication and a lack of transparency on the team.

Well, that’s where a project management platform like monday.com comes into play. Even if you’re on a remote team or sitting in an office with cubicle walls up to the ceiling, monday.com bridges gaps and tears down walls that could throw a project off-track. With powerful and intuitive tools, like instant messaging for those ad hoc meetings, file storage for a centralized repository of assets, and an activity dashboard for catching up on the status of a project at a glance, monday.com brings project out into the light so everyone is in the loop and on the same page.

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[Top]

Deliver your best work with the help of monday.com

(This is a sponsored post.)

Here’s the situation: You’ve bashed out a complicated design over two weeks of near full-time effort, gotten everything down to the exact spec of the design file, turn it in for stakeholder review and… you’re way off scope. Turns out a few folks on the team put their heads together, made some changes, and never sent you an updated comp.

Boo!

The unfortunate truth is that this happens all too often in front-end development, but it’s really no one person’s fault because it boils down to simple collective miscommunication and a lack of transparency on the team.

Well, that’s where a project management platform like monday.com comes into play. Even if you’re on a remote team or sitting in an office with cubicle walls up to the ceiling, monday.com bridges gaps and tears down walls that could throw a project off-track. With powerful and intuitive tools, like instant messaging for those ad hoc meetings, file storage for a centralized repository of assets, and an activity dashboard for catching up on the status of a project at a glance, monday.com brings project out into the light so everyone is in the loop and on the same page.

(more…)

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