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CSS Best Practices, Guidelines, and Resources for Your Web Development Career

Mercy Ugonna Njoku - October 01, 2022

CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, dictates how a website looks. This front end programming language is used to create interactive web designs that improve the user experience. Well-written CSS code enables you to optimize the look and speed of your web pages.

Knowing how to apply CSS best practices and guidelines is fundamental to becoming a successful web developer or designer. Due to constant innovation in the industry, regularly updating your CSS skillset and technical knowledge is critical to stay relevant as a web developer.

What Is CSS?

CSS is one of the basic programming languages used in front end development. It determines the look of a web page written in a markup language like HTML. Using CSS, you can alter critical elements of your website, including the layout, colors, fonts, and display patterns, thus changing how it looks.

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CSS was invented to supplement HTML, another basic programming language in web development. Whereas HTML is used to structure websites, CSS allows you to style the content in those websites. Mastering HTML is important to apply some of the best CSS practices we will discuss in this article.

10 Concepts You Need to Understand for CSS Best Practices

To properly implement CSS best practices, there are certain concepts and terms you need to understand. To get you up to speed, you’ll find a list of key CSS concepts and their definitions below.

  1. CSS files . A CSS file is a document added to a web development project that contains the CSS rules that specify the look of a site.
  2. CSS selectors . A CSS selector is usually the first element in a line of CSS code. It is used to tell the browser which HTML element the code is referring to. There are five types of CSS selectors: simple selectors, attribute selectors, combinator selectors, pseudo-class selectors, and pseudo-elements selectors.
  3. CSS classes . You use a CSS class to group together several HTML elements and apply the same styling and formatting.
  4. Declaration blocks . Declaration blocks comprise lines of CSS code enclosed by curly brackets. Inside each block, the properties and values are separated by colons, with each declaration separated from the next by a semicolon.
  5. Inline styles . In CSS programming, inline styles are used to apply style and formatting rules to a single HTML element. The inline style code goes inside the HTML tag.
  6. External stylesheets . Using external stylesheets, as opposed to inline styles, is considered best practice in web development. Stylesheets are documents that contain all the CSS code used to format and style a web page. The link to an external stylesheet is inserted in the head section of an HTML document. Using an external stylesheet allows you to enact changes that affect the entire website, not just a specific page.
  7. Embedded styles . Embedded styles go inside the head section of the HTML document. However, unlike external stylesheets, they affect only the page that contains them.
  8. CSS frameworks . A CSS framework is a library that contains pre-written and standard-compliant code that helps users streamline the process of creating interactive and responsive websites and web applications.
  9. CSS compressors . CSS compressors are external tools used to reduce the size of CSS code files. The purpose of using compressors is to boost the scalability of a website or application. It takes out the non-functional elements of your CSS code such as spaces, comments, and indentations to reduce loading time and improve performance.
  10. Inheritance . Inheritance in CSS programming refers to a rule for deciding what value is given to a property when none is specified. Inherited properties take on the value of the parent element, while non-inherited properties adopt the initial value of the property.

5 Common Challenges That CSS Guidelines Can Address

Many of the common issues and challenges web developers face can be easily resolved by implementing CSS guidelines and best practices. Below is a list of challenges you’re likely to encounter as a web developer or designer.

Issues validating your code

Validating your HTML and CSS code is a way to determine the quality of your code. Low-quality code can reduce the functionality of your website and hurt the user experience. Using a validation service can expose common errors such as not closing your HTML tags or failing to name your document properly.

Issues with CSS prefixes

CSS prefixing, or vendor prefixing, is a way to add browser support for new CSS features before those features are fully supported in all browsers. However, this system has become a problem as it leads to errors and bugs. Prefixing errors are easy to make and most CSS code contains some. To solve them, you can use prefixing automation tools.

Issues with browser layouts

Web developers have to ensure that the default style of the browser they choose is compatible with the layout of the website they created. To resolve browser layout issues, they rely on layout compatibility tools like CSS Grid and Flexbox.

Issues with styles

Sometimes the browser you’re using may not be compatible with the styles on your website. This usually happens when the browser you’re using is outdated or not compatible with modern styles, which can affect the resolution of your website. To resolve issues with website styles, use external stylesheets to quickly implement changes across the entire site.

Issues with responsive designs

An ideal strategy to attract visitors to your website is to adopt a responsive website design approach. It ensures the scalability of your website on all devices. However, there are still issues that could arise when viewing your website on different devices. To avoid them, ensure you conduct device testing to find any potential problems.

Top 10 CSS Best Practices and Guidelines

A woman working on her laptop
To create responsive web designs, you need knowledge of CSS best practices.

To create websites and web applications with a high level of functional and visual appeal, you need to implement CSS best practices. Below is a list of top CSS best practices and guidelines that all web developers must follow.

Finish your HTML files first

You should always begin the web development process by creating the structure of your site using HTML. For each page on your site, you need to have the different HTML elements in the right place before you start styling them using CSS. Once you have finalized the structure, you can start using CSS selectors to style your website.

Use a CSS framework

A CSS framework speeds up the web development process as you no longer have to code from scratch. A framework also gives you access to useful tools and features. On the negative side, a framework can hinder the development of your coding skills and make the web development process less inventive. Despite these drawbacks, we still recommend using frameworks because they reduce design errors and speed up the design process.

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Take advantage of a preprocessor

If you’re working on a large application design project, you should use a CSS preprocessor. A CSS preprocessor is a code file that contains functional stylesheets components. This code file boosts the flexibility and logic of your code. CSS preprocessors are ideal for large design projects as they improve the scalability and look of the website.

Preprocessors have features that help you improve the aesthetic design of your project. It reduces the time you spend coding as it has editing features. It helps you avoid repeating the same code lines with style rule nesting. It also allows you to integrate different code files into one main file so that your code looks organized and is easy to navigate.

Adopt a responsive design approach

Before launching your site, you should ensure it is scalable and flexible. Your CSS code should support multiple devices, especially mobile phones. The best way to do this is to conduct mobile device viewing tests on your website or application to see how your creation looks on a mobile device.

The best way to make your code mobile-friendly is to adopt a responsive design approach. This allows you to retain your HTML code while changing your CSS according to the size and type of the device. To achieve this, use media queries to specify the view conditions for the browser.

Avoid using too many ID selectors

ID selectors involve a higher level of specificity. You use IDs to determine the style of a single element but you can only assign one ID to an element. IDs help create strong reference points but their use is generally discouraged because they make it harder to add new rules. In addition, IDs can lead to repetitive code because if one element uses the same style you will have to write the same CSS again.

Use CSS comments

CSS comments are written explanations that a developer makes for themselves or for their colleagues. Making comments is a handy way of providing instructions to fellow developers or reminders for yourself. To make a comment in CSS, place your text inside /* */ marks. If you don’t format your comments correctly, you may get a validation error when you test your code.

Use shorthand

Shorthand in CSS refers to properties that group several properties together. Using shorthand, your stylesheets will be shorter and often more readable. Most importantly, it will save you time and energy. For instance, you can define the values of background color, background-image, background-repeat, and background-position by simply using the shorthand property background .

Avoid inline styles

Inline styles can be useful in certain situations but generally make the web development process more clunky and less efficient. After all, adding inline styles line by line is very time-consuming and can have a negative impact on the size of your site and its load time. Most professional developers rely instead on external stylesheets as they can be used to implement changes across the entire site.

Keep your code organized

As your web development project grows in size, it is essential to keep the code organized. A good way to do this is by dividing large stylesheets into smaller ones. In addition, you can create separate stylesheets based on function. Keeping code neatly organized into different files helps developers working on the same project know where a particular piece of code should go.

Compress your CSS files

Compressing the size of your CSS files reduces the length of your code by eliminating non-functional elements. This helps improve load times and enhances the general performance of your site. As a result, you’ll attract and retain more visitors. In addition, you’ll cut down on bandwidth costs and save money.

How to Learn CSS Best Practices

You can learn CSS best practices by consistently coding in this programming language. If you’re a beginner, you should study these practices to avoid picking up bad habits that could lower the quality of your work. Fortunately, there are plenty of tutorials, courses, and training programs that can bring you up to speed.

Can a Bootcamp Help You Learn CSS Best Practices?

A coding bootcamp is an excellent place to learn CSS best practices and guidelines. CSS bootcamps help students master all aspects of this popular programming language, including common coding practices and standards. These programs are also great to learn more about web development and design in general.

Coding bootcamps are immersive courses taught by industry experts. They often come in several formats to fit any schedule and boast flexible payment options so that financing is never an issue. The best CSS bootcamps also offer career and job placement services to help students secure well-paid jobs in the field.

Best Courses and Training Programs to Learn CSS Best Practices

Provider Course Price
Codecademy Learn CSS $19.99 per month
W3Schools Learn CSS $95
Udacity Responsive web design fundamentals Free
Udemy CSS: The Complete Guide 2022 $13.99
Udemy CSS Bootcamp: Master CSS $13.99

Should You Learn CSS Best Practices?

If you want to write more efficient code and be able to use innovative developer tools to create more responsive web pages and applications, learning CSS best practices is a must. Knowledge of these guidelines will boost your development skills, improve your work, and make you more desirable to employers.

CSS Best Practices and Guidelines FAQ

What is the better practice for including a CSS file?

The best way of including CSS in a project is using an external stylesheet. This makes it easy to make changes on multiple web pages simultaneously. External stylesheets allow you to modify the style of HTML elements using CSS selectors.

What are the three types of CSS styles?

The three types of CSS styles are inline styles, embedded styles, and external stylesheets. Inline styling isused to assign style rules to specific HTML elements inside an HTML document. Embedded styles are internal style tags and can only modify HTML elements inside the web page where they are located. Finally, an external stylesheet is a separate file that allows the developer to implement changes across the entire site.

How do you organize CSS files?

There are certain best practices you should observe to organize your CSS files. For example, it is advisable to divide large files into smaller ones. You can also separate your CSS code into several stylesheets according to its function.

What does a CSS preprocessor do?

A CSS preprocessor is used to boost the logic of your CSS code. Through features like nesting and inheritance, a preprocessor can help you optimize the quality of your code. The purpose of a CSS preprocessor is to ensure your code is organized and that there are no browser issues.

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Mercy Ugonna Njoku

About the author: Mercy, a certified Executive Coach by the International Association of Professions Career College, has a background in accounting and is a veteran content writer who holds a BSc in Business Management from Abia State University. In her writing, Mercy helps people navigate unfamiliar and complex situations in their professional lives so they can thrive. Her hobbies include drawing, working on startup projects, and engaging in discussions.

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