Why is CSS so Weird?
CSS is the design language of the web — one of three core web languages — but it also seems to be the most contentious and often perplexing. It’s too easy and too hard, too fragile and too resilient. Love it or hate it, CSS is weird: not quite markup, not quite programming in the common (imperative) sense, and nothing like the design programs we use for print. How did we get here?
But there is a real problem: the web is fundamentally device-agnostic, and therefor display-agnostic. The original website from CERN states the problem clearly:
This implies no device-specific markup, or anything which requires control over fonts or colors.
Here we are, putting fonts and colors on the web. But it’s worth taking a step back and asking: what does it even mean to design for an unknown and infinite canvas? This problem isn’t new, it’s not going away, and there are no simple answers – but if we’re going to talk about it, we have to understand the fundamental audacity of the task.
Design on the web will always be weird – but CSS is a living document, and we have the power to keep making it better.
Miriam is a co-founder at OddBird, with 15 years experience as a project manager, user-experience designer, and front-end developer. She’s a member of the Sass core team, staff writer for CSS Tricks, and creator of popular open-source tools like Susy, True, and Herman. Miriam is also a musician with Teacup Gorilla, a published novelist & playwright, and a featured speaker at conferences around the world.
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