Tag: Links

Offering Options for mailto: and tel: Links

I generally like mailto: links. But I feel like I can smell a mailto: link without even inspecting or clicking it, like some kind of incredibly useless superpower. I know that if I’ve got my default mail client set, clicking that link will do what I want it to do, and if I want, I can right-click and the browser will give me a “Copy email address” option to grab it cleanly.

That’s cool and all, but Adam Silver and Amy Hupe recently enumerated the problems with how these links behave:

Firstly, mailto links make it hard to copy the address, for example if you want to share the email address with someone else.

Secondly, some users use more than one mail app, and the link just uses whichever has been setup as the default, without giving them the option to use the other.

And finally, many users don’t have an email application set up, which means the link can take them to a dead end or down a rabbit hole.

Their UI experimentation ended up using a mailto: link, but putting the entire email address as the link which makes it especially obvious what the link does, while also offering a Copy button for a little UX bonus.

tel: links are weirder in the sense that a good many devices looking at them don’t have any phone-calling functionality. If they do, it’s a lot like email links in that multiple apps could do that work (e.g. WhatsApp, FaceTime, or the default phone app).

The hard part of the UX of all this is offering users choice on what they want these special link types to do. That’s what mailgo is attempting to solve. It’s a little JavaScript library that offers UI when you click them.

Live demo:

I kinda like it. I wouldn’t mind at all if that popped up when I clicked a link like this, especially since it has that “open default” option if I want that anyway. Seems to check all the boxes for the problems these types of special links can have.


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Irregular-shaped Links with Subgrid

Michelle Barker covers a situation where you need offset rectangles part of a clickable area. The tricky part is having just the rectangles be clickable. That rules out using some parent element and making the whole larger encompassing rectangle clickable, which is a common (but equally tricky) pattern.

Kicking one rectangle outside the bounds of the linked one with absolute positioning could work, but Michelle takes a path here that lays everything out on a grid, then uses pointer-events to get the click areas just right. Feels more robust to me.

Yet another good example of why we need subgrid everywhere, stat.

Direct Link to ArticlePermalink


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Some Performance Links

Just had a couple of good performance links burning a hole in my pocket, so blogging them like a good little blogger.

Web Performance Recipes With Puppeteer

Puppeteer is an Node library for spinning up a copy of Chrome “headlessly” (i.e. no UI) and controlling it. People use it for stuff like taking a screenshot of a website or running integration tests. You can even run it in a Lambda.

Another use case is running synthetic (i.e. not based on real-users) performance tests, like some of these new Web Core Vitals

Addy Osmani lists out a bunch of these “recipes” for measuring certain performance things in Puppeteer. These would be super useful as part of a build process alongside other tests. Did the unit tests pass? Did the integration tests pass? Did the accessibility tests pass? Did the performance metrics tests pass?


BrowserStack SpeedLab

BrowserStack released a thing to measure your site and give you a performance score.

You get the tests back super quick which is cool. I can see how tools like this are good for starting conversations with teams about improving performance.

But… that number seems a little weird. They don’t exactly document how it’s calculated, but it seems to be based on stuff like Time to First Byte (TTFB) and the page load event, which aren’t particularly useful performance metrics.

It’s not bad that this tool exists or anything, but I don’t think it’s for practitioners doing performance work.


5 Common Mistakes Teams Make When Tracking Performance

Karolina Szczur from Calibre documents some common team struggles like, for example, having a team be able to identify real issues from variability noise.

Many people from different backgrounds can view performance dashboards. Not knowing what constitutes a meaningful change that needs investigation can result in false positives, lack of trust in monitoring and cycles spent looking for reasons for performance regressions or upgrades that aren’t there.


Are your JavaScript long tasks frustrating users?

50ms. That’s how long until any particular JavaScript task starts affecting user experience. Might as well track and (ideally) fix them.

When the browser’s main thread hits max CPU for more than 50ms, a user starts to notice that their clicks are delayed and that scrolling the page has become janky and unresponsive. Batteries drain faster. People rage click or go elsewhere.

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Some Typography Links

I just can’t stop opening excellent typography-related articles, which means I need to subject you to blog posts that round them up so I can clean up my open tabs.

Vistaserve is “a grass-roots web hosting initiative hailing from Thornbury, Australia. Inspired by the quirky web of the 90s, we allow users to create home pages, your own little sandbox on the World Wide Web, as it were.” Caitlin & Paul (I think the no-last-name thing is part of the aesthetic) wanted to get the fonts right, which meant removing anti-aliasing (the thing that makes fonts look good on screens!). CSS was no help. Turned out to be quite a journey involving literally rebuilding the fonts.


Thomas Bohm makes the point that the kerning around punctation may require special attention. For example, a question mark needing a little extra space or moving a superscript number away from butting against a letter.

You could do it manually with stuff like   or &hairsp in between characters. But I’m far too lazy for that unless I’m working on a very special piece. Personally, I just cross my fingers that the font I’m using is high quality enough to have thought of and implemented this sort of attention to detail.


I’m sure we’ve all seen, “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” as a tester string for type, because it uses all the characters in the alphabet. Jonathan Hoefler created some new proofing text that is much more helpful for typographers like him.

That’s deep in the type nerd weeds there. More useful perhaps is another recent post from Jonathan on pairings. I’ve probably read dozens of posts on font pairings in my life, but this one resonates the most.

Some of the most dazzling typographic pairings — and certainly my favorites — are those that use unexpected fonts together. At left, the grey flannel suit that is Tungsten Compressed is paired with crimson silk doublet of the St. Augustin Civilité, a fiery sixteenth century typeface that demands a good foil.


If you’ve got macOS Catalina, you’ve got access to some really nice fonts you might not know about that need to be manually downloaded. Ralf Herrmann has the story on what you get:

You can download the fonts right from Font Book

I get Erik Kennedy’s Learn UI Design newsletter, and he mentions using Calena in it…

Overall, Canela walks this balance between the warmth of human handwriting and stately details. It makes me think of something literary, which is why I used it for project in one of the new video lessons in Learn UI Design.


Mark Boulton has a cool new site: TypeSpecimens.

Type specimens are curious objects. They aim to inspire designers. They are tools with which to make design decisions. They are also marketing material for foundries. This project will dig into specimens from these three perspectives: as artefacts made by and for font designers to evolve type culture; as tools for font users to make decisions about choosing and using type; and as effective marketing tools.

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Block Links: The Search for a Perfect Solution

I was reading this article by Chris where he talks about block links — you know, like wrapping an entire card element inside an anchor — being a bad idea. It’s bad accessibility because of how it affects screen readers. And it’s bad UX because it prevents simple user tasks, like selecting text.

But maybe there’s something else at play. Maybe it’s less an issue with the pattern than the implementation of it. That led me to believe that this is the time to write follow-up article to see if we can address some of the problems Chris pointed out.

Throughout this post, I’ll use the term “card” to describe a component using the block link pattern. Here’s what we mean by that.

Let’s see how we want our Card Components to work:

  1. The whole thing should be linked and clickable.
  2. It should be able to contain more than one link.
  3. Content should be semantic so assistive tech can understand it.
  4. The text should be selectable, like regular links.
  5. Things like right-click and keyboard shortcuts should work with it
  6. Its elements should be focusable when tabbing.

That’s a long list! And since we don’t have any standard card widget provided by the browser, we don’t have any standard guidelines to build it. 

Like most things on the web, there’s more than one way to make a card component. However, I haven’t found something that checks all the requirements we just covered. In this article, we will try to hit all of them. That’s what we’re going to do now!

Method 1: Wrap everything an <a>

This is the most common and the easiest way to make a linked card. Take the HTML for the card and wrap the entire thing in an anchor tag.

<a href="/">   <!-- Card markup --> </a>

Here’s what that gives us:

  1. It’s clickable.
  2. It works with right-click and keyboard shortcuts.

Well, not great. We still can’t:

  1. Put another link inside the card because the entire thing is a single link
  2. Use it with a screen reader — the content is not semantic, so assistive technology will announce everything inside the card, starting from the time stamp
  3. Select text

That’s enough 👎 that we probably shouldn’t use it. Let’s move onto the next technique.

Method 2: Just link what needs linking

This is a nice compromise that sacrifices a little UX for improved accessibility.

With this pattern we achieve most of our goals:

  1. We can put as many links as we want. 
  2. Content is semantic.
  3. We can select the text from Card.
  4. Right Click and keyboard shortcuts work.
  5. The focus is in proper order when tabbing.

But it is missing the main feature we want in a card: the whole thing should be clickable! Looks like we need to try some other way.

Method 3: The good ol’  ::before pseudo element

In this one, we add a ::before or ::after element, place it above the card with absolute positioning and stretch it over the entire width and height of the card so it’s clickable.

But now:

  1. We still can’t add more than one link because anything else that’s linked is under the pseudo element layer. We can try to put all the text above the pseudo element, but card link itself won’t work when clicking on top of the text.
  2. We still can’t select the text. Again, we could swap layers, but then we’re back to the clickable link issue all over again.

Let’s try to actually check all the boxes here in our final technique.

Method 4: Sprinkle JavaScript on the second method

Let’s build off the second method. Recall that’s what where we link up everything we want to be a link:

<article class="card">   <time datetime="2020-03-20">Mar 20, 2020</time>   <h2><a href="https://css-tricks.com/a-complete-guide-to-calc-in-css/" class="main-link">A Complete Guide to calc() in CSS</a></h2>   <p>     In this guide, let’s cover just about everything there is to know about this very useful function.   </p>   <a class="author-name" href="https://css-tricks.com/author/chriscoyier/" target="_blank">Chris Coyier</a>     <div class="tags">       <a class="tag" href="https://css-tricks.com/tag/calc/" >calc</a>     </div> </article>

So how do we make the whole card clickable? We could use JavaScript as a progressive enhancement to do that. We’ll start by adding a click event listener to the card and trigger the click on the main link when it is triggered.

const card = document.querySelector(".card") const mainLink = document.querySelector('.main-link') 
 card.addEventListener("click", handleClick) 
 function handleClick(event){   mainLink.click(); }

Temporarily, this introduces the problem that we can’t select the text, which we’ve been trying to fix this whole time. Here’s the trick: we’ll use the relatively less-known web API window.getSelection. From MDN:

The Window.getSelection() method returns a Selection object representing the range of text selected by the user or the current position of the caret.

Although, this method returns an Object, we can convert it to a string with toString().

const isTextSelected = window.getSelection().toString()

With one line and no complicated kung-fu tricks with event listeners, we know if the user has selected text. Let’s use that in our handleClick function.

const card = document.querySelector(".card") const mainLink = document.querySelector('.main-link') 
 card.addEventListener("click", handleClick) 
 function handleClick(event){   const isTextSelected = window.getSelection().toString();   if (!isTextSelected) {     mainLink.click();   } }

This way, the main link can be clicked when no text selected, and all it took was a few lines of JavaScript. This satisfies our requirements:

  1. The whole thing is linked and clickable.
  2. It is able to contain more than one link.
  3. This content is semantic so assistive tech can understand it.
  4. The text should be selectable, like regular links.
  5. Things like right-click and keyboard shortcuts should work with it
  6. Its elements should be focusable when tabbing.

Here’s the final demo with all the JavaScript code we have added:

I think we’ve done it! Now you know how to make a perfect clickable card component.

What about other patterns? For example, what if the card contains the excerpt of a blog post followed by a “Read More’ link? Where should that go? Does that become the “main” link? What about image?

For those questions and more, here’s some further reading on the topic:

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Some Typography Links

I just can’t stop bookmarking great links related to typography. I’m afraid I’m going to have to subject you, yet again, to a bunch of them all grouped up. So those of you that care about web type stuff, enjoy.


I know there are lots of good reasons to be excited about variable fonts. The design possibilities of endless variations in one file is chief among them. But I remain the most excited about the performance benefits. Having a single file that elegantly handles the thicker weights (for bolding) and italics is so cool. I can’t wait to wave my fist saying back in my day we had to load multiple files for our font variations!

Mandy Michael digs into the performance implications in a deeper way than just reducing the number of requests.

Even if you consider the slightly larger file sizes, when combined with improved font compression formats like WOFF2, font subsetting and font loading techniques like font-display: swap; we end up in a situation where we can still get smaller overall font file sizes as well as a significant increase in stylistic opportunity.


Anna Monus did some variable font performance testing as well, evaluating the extreme case of loading 12 variations of a font against a variable font. Even though the copy of the variable font she had for Roboto was massive (over 1MB), there was a perf gain compared against loading 12 variations.


Roboto is on Google Fonts, of course, and it’s got the #1 position by far. But Google Fonts has Inter now, and I’d expect that leap up in the charts as it’s got a style that everyone seems to like and can work with just about anything.


Seeing a variable font control a smiley face is never not gonna make me happy. Don’t miss that first face-ness slider, lollllz.


Klint Finley on the proliferation of high-quality open-source fonts for WIRED. Sometimes they are backed by companies with thick wallets, which makes sense. But the motivation for doing it varies. Sometimes quality is the goal. Like open-source anything, lots of contributions, can, if handled well, lead to a better product. But open-source doesn’t always mean there isn’t a business possibility, and if not, not everyone cares about turning a profit on everything.


Speaking of open-source fonts, Collletttivo is an open-source font foundry with a good dozen typefaces, including a variable font one. It’s a super fun site to explore with the little fake windows you open up and move around.


There’s a new mac app called FontGoggles for poking into a font file and taking a look at what it offers. Seems like that would be easy but it really isn’t. I like that it supports WOFF/2 as that’s pretty much all we deal with on the web.

Also, remember there is a website that looks around in font files with the best name ever.


Font Match allows you to put fonts on top of each other for comparisons. Seems like it’s more for large type and comparing their features, while Font style matcher is more about comparing paragraph text.

In fact, using Font style matcher to make a perfect font fallback is one of my all-time favorite CSS-Tricks. Sssshh… don’t tell anybody but I’m compiling those all-time favorites into a book, like this chapter. You’d have to subscribe to read it, because that’s kind of the point: I’d like to sell the book. So if you happen to subscribe now, there is stuff to read there, but you’d be a very early supporter for the rest of it.

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Accessibility Links

Austin Gil has kicked off the first in a five-part series about “HTML Forms Right” and to starts with semantics. It’s talking to the “we build our front-ends with JavaScript” crowd. The first block of code is an example of an Ajax form submission where the data submitted is gathered through the JavaScript API FormData.

Why is that so vital? Well, no <form> tag, no FormData. Why else use a form (aside from the Enter-key submission):

“But Austin, I’m building an SPA. Therefore if the user even sees the form, it means JavaScript MUST be enabled.” And you’d be right. Although, if it is an important form, you may want to consider supporting a no-JS world. The day may come that you want to implement SSR.

Server-Side Rendering (SSR) is going to get easier and easier to do as the benefits of it become more and more obvious. Google tells us a page that is client-side rendered has week-long-ish queue to get indexed and re-indexed on changes. Not to mention SSR is almost definitely going to be far faster to load.


Oscar Braunert’s Inclusive Inputs is a nice follow-up read as it begins with form HTML that is so close to being right, but is painfully not right. (Hint: it’s missing the label/input connection). Then he gets into interesting patterns like how to accessibly mark up required fields and fields with errors. Like:

<div class="form-group">   <label for="password">     Password     <span class="required" aria-hidden="true">*</span>     <span class="sr-only">required</span>   </label>   <input      type="password"     id="password"     name="password"     aria-describedby="desc_pw"   >   <p class="aside" id="desc_pw">Your password needs to have at least eight characters.</p> </div>

Amber Wilson gets into Accessible HTML elements with the twist of avoiding any ARIA usage at all:

You may be aware that ARIA roles are often used with HTML elements. I haven’t written about them here, as it’s good to see how HTML written without ARIA can still be accessible.

Shout out to <dl>.


Sarah Higley does get into ARIA in Roles and relationships, but she warns us to be very careful upfront:

[…] a budding accessibility practitioner might find themselves experimenting with more serious roles like menulistbox, or even treegrid. These are tantalizing, powerful patterns that allow you to create experiences that are not supported by only vanilla HTML. Unfortunately, they are also brittle; even small mistakes in using these roles can take a user on a very bad trip.

Talk to your kids about ARIA before it’s too late.

Ideally, don’t use ARIA at all. But if the accessibility is screwed up to the point it can’t be fixed at the DOM level, Sarah gets into some tricks. For example, one uses role="presentation" to essentially remove an element’s default role (when it is in the way).


Speaking of ARIA and not using it unless you have to, one of the things you can do with ARIA is label controls. Adrian Roselli has thoughts on how best to do that:

Here is the priority I follow when assigning an accessible name to a control:

1. Native HTML techniques
2. aria-labelledby pointing at existing visible text
3. Visibly-hidden content that is still in the page
4. aria-label

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Performance Links

I’ve had a number of browser tabs open to articles all related to web performance and gosh darn it if blogging them is a way for me get some closure. They are all good!

Manuel Matuzovic, Why 543 KB keep me up at night:

Yes, I know, it depends. 543 KB aren’t always bad, but on that specific page there’s only a single image (the logo ~20 KB) and a single paragraph. So why then is the page still relatively large, where are the remaining 523 KB coming from?

Spoiler: it was the JavaScript. Also, I had no idea Google has a recommended ideal DOM that:

  • has less than 1500 nodes total.
  • has a maximum depth of 32 nodes.
  • has no parent node with more than 60 child nodes.

Next up, Performant front-end architecture (no byline):

Bundle splitting will result in more requests being made to load your app. But as long as the requests are made in parallel that’s not a big problem, especially if your site served over HTTP/2.

This is all about assuming the app is largely a client-side JavaScript site. I think there is a huge pile of low-hanging performance fruit, but it’s almost like a different list when talking about client-side JavaScript sites. It makes code-splitting one of the top priorities.


Jeremy Keith, Telling the story of performance:

Web Page Test is a terrific tool for measuring performance. It can also be used as a story-telling tool.

WPT ouputs video of the site loading. Put it side-by-side with a competitor and show it to the client.


CP Clermont, The Impact of Web Performance:

In this post, I’ll discuss what I did at ALDO to measure the revenue impact of web performance without having to spend time making performance improvements.

Not surprising that users with faster experiences generate more revenue. What is surprising is that it’s a lot more. Over 3x more on mobile and nearly 6x more on desktop.

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Block Links Are a Pain (and Maybe Just a Bad Idea)

As we noted in our complete guide, you can put an <a href=""> link around whatever chunks of HTML you like. Let’s call that a “block link.” Like you are wanting to link up an entire “Card” of content because it makes a big clickable target.

<a href="/article/"> <!-- display: block; -->   <div class="card">     <h2>Card</h2>     <img src="..." alt="...">     <p>Content</p>   </div> </a>

On that, Adrian Roselli:

Perhaps the worst thing you can do for a block link is to wrap everything in the <a href>.

[…] for a screen reader user the entire string is read when tabbing through controls. In the following example, the first link contains the heading, image (without declaring it as an image), and block of text, taking about 25 seconds to read before announcing it as a link. When tabbing, you do not always know the control type until the accessible name is complete.

(The example is a pretty normal looking card with a header, image, and paragraph.)

So don’t do that.

The alternative is to let the link be “normal” like just the header.

<div class="card">   <h2><a href="/article/">Article</a></h2>   <img src="..." alt="...">   <p>Content</p> </div>

The extending the “clickable area” of the link to cover the entire area.

.card {   position: relative; } .card h2 a::after {   content: "";   position: absolute;   top: 0;   left: 0;   width: 100%;   height: 100%; }

That works for the clickable area and solves the penalty to screen reader users.

But there is another problem that hurts both of these solutions, and it’s text selection. You can’t just put your cursor somewhere in the card and select text normally. The click activates the link, waiting for you to mouseup while still on the link to trigger it. You don’t get the ability to select inner parts of the text as you would probably expect. It doesn’t prevent the ability to select the text at all, but it makes it awkward and annoying.

I’m not sure that is easily solveable. Perhaps there is some exotic JavaScript solution that can detect if you’ve started to select text and then not trigger a click, but if you click without dragging then it does go to the link. Something about that is a bit red-flaggy to me though.

All in all, I’d say block links are just a bad idea. But I’d love to be proven wrong and see a really good implementation that solves all these issues.

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Just Dropping Some Type Links

I’ve had a bunch of tabs open that just so happen to all be related to typography, so I figured I’d give myself the mental release of closing them by blogging them. How’s that for a blog post format for ya: whatever random tabs you’ve had open for far too long.

  • Times New Roman is popular on the web in the sense that it’s a default font installed on most computers and safe to use without having to load any web fonts. But it’s also the default font that (all?) web browsers use if you don’t declare a font-family at all so, in that sense, it sometimes feels like a site is broken on accident when Times is used. Typewolf has a nice list of alternatives if you like the vibe but need something different.
  • Speaking of Times, err, The New York Times profiles TypeThursday with a pretty funny correction where they got the typeface name wrong.
  • In the last month of 2019, Tyopgraphica published their favorite typefaces of 2018. Fern grabs me.
  • Una Kravets has a “designing in the browser” video about typography on the Chrome Developers channel on YouTube. About 11 minutes in, she gets into variable fonts which are just incredible. I know they are capable of all sorts of amazing things (even animation), but I remain the most excited about performance: loading one font and having tons of design control.
  • Florens Verschelde’s “A short history of body copy sizes on the Web” gets into how typical font size usage has crept up and up over the years.
  • Alina Sava makes the argument that font licensing is ill. Primarily: pricing web fonts based on page views. As someone who works on some high-traffic / fairly-low-profit websites, it’s hard to disagree.
  • Matej Latin covers five fonts designed for coding that have ligatures. Ya know, instead of != you get , but only visually rather than actually changing the characters that are used as I did there. Ligatures are a neat trick to use (another trick: ligatures as icons), but Matthew Butterick says “hell no”: The ligature introduces an ambiguity that wasn’t there before. I find it notable that Operator Mono chose not to go there. I feel like I overheard a discussion about it once but can’t dig it up now. I know there is a way to add them, and it’s a little surprising to me that’s legal.
  • Trent popped some new fonts on his blog and shared his font shopping list.
  • You might have noticed some new fonts around here on CSS-Tricks as well, as of a few weeks ago. I just wanted to freshen up the place as I was getting sick of looking at system fonts (they started looking bad to me on Catalina, which is something Andy Baio pointed out is a Chrome Bug, but still). The CSS-Tricks logo has long been Gotham Rounded, so I went back to Hoefler&Co. for the font choices here to kinda stay in the family. The headers use Ringside, monospace content uses Operator Mono, and the body uses Sentinel.

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