Weekly Platform News: Reduced Motion, CORS, WhiteHouse.gov, popups, and 100vw

In this week’s roundup, we highlight a proposal for a new <popup> element, check the use of prefers-reduced-motion on award-winning sites, learn how to opt into cross-origin isolation, see how WhiteHouse.gov approaches accessibility, and warn the dangers of 100vh.

Let’s get into the news!

The new HTML <popup> element is in development

On January 21, Melanie Richards from the Microsoft Edge web platform team posted an explainer for a proposed HTML <popup> element (the name is not final). A few hours later, Mason Freed from Google announced an intent to prototype this element in the Blink browser engine. Work on the implementation is taking place in Chromium issue #1168738.

A popup is a temporary (transient) and “light-dismissable” UI element that is displayed on the the “top layer” of all other elements. The goal for the <popup> element is to be fully stylable and accessible by default. A <popup> can be anchored to an activating element, such as a button, but it can also be a standalone element that is displayed on page load (e.g., a teaching UI).

Two use cases showing a white action menu with four gray menu links below a blue menu button, and another example of a blog button with a large dark blue tooltip beneath it with two paragraphs of text in white.

A <popup> is automatically hidden when the user presses the Esc key or moves focus to a different element (this is called a light dismissal). Unlike the <dialog> element, only one <popup> can be shown at a time, and unlike the deprecated <menu> element, a <popup> can contain arbitrary content, including interactive elements:

We imagine <popup> as being useful for various different types of popover UI. We’ve chosen to use an action menu as a primary example, but folks use popup-esque patterns for many different types of content.

Award-winning websites should honor the “reduce motion” preference

Earlier this week, AWWWARDS announced the winners of their annual awards for the best websites of 2020. The following websites were awarded:

All these websites are highly dynamic and show …

The Things I Add to Tailwind CSS Right Out of the Box

In every project where I use Tailwind CSS, I end up adding something to it. Some of these things I add in every single project. I’ll share these with you, but I’m also curious what y’all are adding to your tailwind.css files.

I’ll start with myself. In each project:

  • I define -webkit-tap-highlight-color.
  • I add a bottom padding set to env(safe-area-inset-bottom).
  • I dress up unordered lists with interpuncts.

Allow me to elaborate on all three.

-webkit-tap-highlight-color

Android highlights taps on links. I’m not a fan because it obscures the element, so I turn it off for a nicer experience.

@layer base {
  html {
    -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent;
  }
}

@layer is a Tailwind directive. It helps avoid specificity issues by telling Tailwind which “bucket” contains a set of custom styles. It’s like pretending the cascade doesn’t exist, so there’s less to worry about when it comes to ordering CSS.

Simply removing the tap highlight color might trigger an accessibility issue since that hides an interactive cue. So, if you go this route, it’s probably a good idea (and I’m still looking for research on this if you have it) to enable :active to define provide some response to those actions. Chris has a snippet for that.

env(safe-area-inset-bottom)

This utility class handles the bottom bar on newer iPhones without the “Home” button. Without it, some elements can fall under the bar, making them unreadable and tough to tap.

@layer utilities {
  .pb-safe {
    padding-bottom: env(safe-area-inset-bottom);
  }
}

Interpuncts

I love using interpuncts with unordered lists. I won’t penalize you for looking that up. We’re basically talking about the bullet points in unordered lists. Tailwind removes them by default via Normalize. I smuggle interpuncts into each and every one of my projects.

Here’s how I go about it:

@layer utilities {
  .list-interpunct li::before {
    content: '・';
    display: inline-block;
    float: left;
    margin: 0 0 0 -0.9em;
    width: 0.9em;
  }

  @media (min-width: 992px) {
   .list-interpunct li::before {
      margin: 0 0 0 -1.5em;
      width: 1.5em;
    }
  }
}

We also now have ::marker

The Things I Add to Tailwind CSS Right Out of the Box

In every project where I use Tailwind CSS, I end up adding something to it. Some of these things I add in every single project. I’ll share these with you, but I’m also curious what y’all are adding to your tailwind.css files.

I’ll start with myself. In each project:

  • I define -webkit-tap-highlight-color.
  • I add a bottom padding set to env(safe-area-inset-bottom).
  • I dress up unordered lists with interpuncts.

Allow me to elaborate on all three.

-webkit-tap-highlight-color

Android highlights taps on links. I’m not a fan because it obscures the element, so I turn it off for a nicer experience.

@layer base {
  html {
    -webkit-tap-highlight-color: transparent;
  }
}

@layer is a Tailwind directive. It helps avoid specificity issues by telling Tailwind which “bucket” contains a set of custom styles. It’s like pretending the cascade doesn’t exist, so there’s less to worry about when it comes to ordering CSS.

Simply removing the tap highlight color might trigger an accessibility issue since that hides an interactive cue. So, if you go this route, it’s probably a good idea (and I’m still looking for research on this if you have it) to enable :active to define provide some response to those actions. Chris has a snippet for that.

env(safe-area-inset-bottom)

This utility class handles the bottom bar on newer iPhones without the “Home” button. Without it, some elements can fall under the bar, making them unreadable and tough to tap.

@layer utilities {
  .pb-safe {
    padding-bottom: env(safe-area-inset-bottom);
  }
}

Interpuncts

I love using interpuncts with unordered lists. I won’t penalize you for looking that up. We’re basically talking about the bullet points in unordered lists. Tailwind removes them by default via Normalize. I smuggle interpuncts into each and every one of my projects.

Here’s how I go about it:

@layer utilities {
  .list-interpunct li::before {
    content: '・';
    display: inline-block;
    float: left;
    margin: 0 0 0 -0.9em;
    width: 0.9em;
  }

  @media (min-width: 992px) {
   .list-interpunct li::before {
      margin: 0 0 0 -1.5em;
      width: 1.5em;
    }
  }
}

We also now have ::marker

An Interactive Guide to CSS Transitions

A wonderful post by Josh that both introduces CSS transitions and covers the nuances for using them effectively. I like the advice about transitioning the position of an element, leaving the original space it occupied alone so it doesn’t result in what he calls “doom flicker.” Six hundred and fifty years ago I created CSS Jitter Man to attempt to explain that idea.

The interactive stuff is really neat and helps explain the concepts. I’m a little jealous that Josh writes in MDX — meaning he’s got Markdown and JSX at his disposal. That means these demos can be little one-off React components. Here’s a thread that Josh did showing off how valuable that can be.

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from CSS-Tricks https://www.joshwcomeau.com/animation/css-transitions/…

Ensuring the correct vertical position of large text

Tobi Reif notes how the position of custom fonts set at very large font sizes can be super different, even in the same browser across operating systems. The solution? Well, you know how there are certain CSS properties that only work within @font-face blocks? They are called “descriptors” and font-display is a popular example. There are more that are less-supported, like ascent-override, descent-override, and line-gap-override. Chrome supports them, and lo-and-behold, they can be used to fix this issue.

I really like the idea that these can be used to override the “metrics” of local (fallback) fonts to match a custom font you will load, so that, when it does, there’s little-to-no-movement. I detest FOUT (I know it’s theoretically good for performance), but I can swallow it if the text swap doesn’t move crap around so much.

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from CSS-Tricks https://tobireif.com/posts/ensuring_the_correct_vertical_position_of_large_text/…

How We Improved the Accessibility of Our Single Page App Menu

I recently started working on a Progressive Web App (PWA) for a client with my team. We’re using React with client-side routing via React Router, and one of the first elements that we made was the main menu. Menus are a key component of any site or app. That’s really how folks get around, so making it accessible was a super high priority for the team.

But in the process, we learned that making an accessible main menu in a PWA isn’t as obvious as it might sound. I thought I’d share some of those lessons with you and how we overcame them.

As far as requirements go, we wanted a menu that users could not only navigate using a mouse, but using a keyboard as well, the acceptance criteria being that a user should be able to tab through the top-level menu items, and the sub-menu items that would otherwise only be visible if a user with a mouse hovered over a top-level menu item. And, of course, we wanted a focus ring to follow the elements that have focus.

The first thing we had to do was update the existing CSS that was set up to reveal a sub-menu when a top-level menu item is hovered. We were previously using the visibility property, changing between visible and hidden on the parent container’s hovered state. This works fine for mouse users, but for keyboard users, focus doesn’t automatically move to an element that is set to visibility: hidden (the same applies for elements that are given display: none). So we removed the visibility property, and instead used a very large negative position value:

.menu-item {
  position: relative;
}

.sub-menu {
  position: absolute
  left: -100000px; /* Kicking off  the page instead of hiding visiblity */
}

.menu-item:hover .sub-menu {
  left: 0;
}

This works perfectly fine for mouse users. But for keyboard users, the sub menu still wasn’t visible even though focus was within that sub menu! In order to make the sub-menu visible when an element within …

Boost app engagement with chat, voice, and video APIs

Sendbird is a service for helping you add social features to your app. Wanna add in-app chat? Sendbird does that. Wanna add in-app voice or video calls? Sendbird does that.

Here’s how I always think about stuff like this. Whatever the thing you are building is, you should specialize in the core of it, and not get bogged down in building essentially another product as you’re doing it. Say you want to build an app for dentists to do bookings and customer management. Please do, by the way, my dentist could really use it. You’ve got a lot of work ahead of you, the core of which is building a thing that is perfect for actual dentists and getting the UX right. In-app chat might be an important part of that, but you aren’t specifically building chat software, you’re building dentist software. Lean on Sendbird for the chat (and everything else).

To elaborate on the dentist software example for a bit, I can tell you more about my dentist. They are so eager to text me, email me, call me, even use social media, to remind me about everything constantly. But for me to communicate with them, I have to call. It’s the only way to talk to them about anything—and it’s obnoxious. If there was a dentist in town where I knew I could fire up a quick digital chat with them to book things, I’d literally switch dentists. Even better if I could click a button in a browser to call them or do a video consult. That’s just good business.

You know what else? Your new app for dentists (seriously, you should do this) is going to have to be compliant on a million standards for any dentist to buy it. This means any software you buy will need to be too. Good thing Sendbird is all set with HIPPA/HITECH, SOC 2, GDPR, and more, not to mention being hugely security-focused.

Sendbird aren’t spring chickens either, they are already trusted by Reddit, Virgin UAE, Yahoo, Meetup, …

Teaching Web Dev for Free is Good Business

It feels like a trend (and a smart one) for tech platforms to invest in really high-quality learning material for their platform. Let’s have a gander.

Webflow University

Surely Webflow is thinking: if people invest in learning Webflow, they’ll be able to build what they need for themselves and their clients in Weblow, and they’ll stick around and be a good customer.

Jamstack Explorers

Surely Netlify is thinking: if people really grok Jamstack, they’ll build their existing and future sites using it. They’ll get comfortable using Netlify’s features to solve their problems, and they’ll stick around and be a good customer.

Salesforce Trailhead

Surely Salesforce is thinking: if we train people to learn Salesforce and build Salesforce-specific software, not only will they be a good customer, but they’ll bring more customers to us and help big companies stay good customers.

Figma Crash Course

This is not created by Figma themselves, but by Pablo Stanley, who must be thinking: I can teach people to use Figma, and along the way show them how cool and powerful Blush is, which will gain Blush good customers.

Apollo Odyssey

Surely Apollo is thinking: if y’all know GraphQL, and learned it in the context of Apollo, you probably continue using Apollo and bring it to the teams you’re on, which might make for great customers.

WP Courses 

This one is an outlier because these are paid courses, but my guess is that Automattic is thinking: there is already a ton of WordPress learning material out there, why not leverage our brand and deep expertise to make content people are willing to pay for.

Git Tutorials & Training

Surely Atlassian is thinking: if we are the place where people literally learned Git, we can sprinkle in our tooling into those lessons, and you’ll use those tools for your Git workflow, which will follow you through your entire developer career. Not to mention this is good SEO juice.

GitHub does the same thing.


Helping your customers learn your platform is certainly not a new …

A DRY Approach to Color Themes in CSS

The other day, Florens Verschelde asked about defining dark mode styles for both a class and a media query, without repeat CSS custom properties declarations. I had run into this issue in the past but hadn’t come up with a proper solution.

What we want is to avoid redefining—and thus repeating—custom properties when switching between light and dark modes. That’s the goal of DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) programming, but the typical pattern for switching themes is usually something like this:

:root {
  --background: #fff;
  --text-color: #0f1031;
  /* etc. */
}

@media (prefers-color-scheme: dark) {
  :root {
    --background: #0f1031;
    --text-color: #fff;
    /* etc. */
  }
}

See what I mean? Sure, it might not seem like a big deal in an abbreviated example like this, but imagine juggling dozens of custom properties at a time—that’s a lot of duplication!

Then I remembered Lea Verou’s trick using --var: ;, and while it didn’t hit me at first, I found a way to make it work: not with var(--light-value, var(--dark-value)) or some nested combination like that, but by using both side by side!

Certainly, someone smarter must have discovered this before me, but I haven‘t heard of leveraging (or rather abusing) CSS custom properties to achieve this. Without further ado, here’s the idea:

--color: var(--light, orchid) var(--dark, rebeccapurple);

If the --light value is set to initial, the fallback will be used (orchid), which means --dark should be set to a whitespace character (which is a valid value), making the final computed value look like this:

--color: orchid  ; /* Note the additional whitespace */

Conversely, if --light is set to a whitespace and --dark to initial, we end up with a computed value of:

--color:   rebeccapurple; /* Again, note the whitespace */

Now, this is great but we do need to define the --light and --dark custom properties, based on the context. The user can have a system preference in place (either light or dark), or can have toggled the website‘s theme with some UI element. Just …

SmolCSS

A wonderful collection of little layout-related CSS snippets from Stephanie Eckles that serves both as a quick reference and a reminder of how straightforward and powerful CSS has become.

Random things to note!

  • The resizeable containers aren’t some JavaScript library. They are just <divs with resize: horizontal; and overflow: auto; (although there is a nice little lib for that that displays current width output).
  • Each demo can be opened on CodePen, which is the prefill API at work.
  • CSS custom properties are tastefully sprinkled throughout in a way that makes it more understandable instead of less understandable.
  • The dark mode doesn’t go super duper dark, but fairly dark blues and purples. That’s a good reminder that dark mode isn’t gray/black mode. It remembers your setting, but does have flash-of-light-mode, which is the boss-mode problem with color preferences. I think you need server-side tech to really get it perfect.
  • The whole site is open source. Go Eleventy!

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from CSS-Tricks https://smolcss.dev/…