art with code

2017-11-27

On CSS Modules

In our most recent project, we used React with CSS Modules. Each component had its own SASS stylesheet module in addition to the global stylesheet. This was pretty great in that I could work on one component without having to worry about my code or stylesheet changes impacting other components.

CSS Modules also cut down on merge conflicts, as we could keep the changes localised. If we had a single massive stylesheet, every time two people are styling components, there'd be a pretty big chance of a merge conflict and repo messiness. Moving to a pull request -driven workflow might work there, but it seems overkill for two-person projects.

One thing we didn't figure out was how to customize the look of a sub-component. E.g. we had a bunch of share buttons that had the same functionality but different parameters and looks. We could've made a separate component for each, but then we'd have to maintain multiple components.

In the end we went with ".shareButtons > div > a"-type CSS selectors for the share buttons. Which sucks.

I don't know if there's exists a better way. For self-written components, can always pass in props to change the styles, but for third-party components that'd be a mess. Maybe CSS Modules could adopt some Shadow DOM -style things to point inside included modules. Shadow DOM's CSS Custom Properties and inheritance -driven styling ("share-button { share-image: url(foo.jpg); color: white; }") is a bit too "here's an invisible API, have fun" to my tastes. It does get you looser coupling, but that's better done with props. For nitty-gritty styling you want to tighly couple your custom style to the component DOM because component authors can't be expected to add a custom var for every single possible style tweak. And when you do that kind of coupling, you're expected to fix it to a specific version of the component and you're visually testing it all the time anyway (I mean, that's the whole point of overriding parts of the component stylesheet).

Maybe if there was a nice way to explicitly override component stylesheets from the outside. Qualified imports? "@import('MyShareButton') as sb; sb::.container > sb::.button { letter-spacing: 0.1em; }". That ::. sure is hard to visually parse. Maybe it's a function "sb(.container) > sb(.button) {}" or "sb(.container > .button) {}" or "sb(.container { .button {} .batton {} })"?


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Built art installations, web sites, graphics libraries, web browsers, mobile apps, desktop apps, media player themes, many nutty prototypes