Snippets

These snippets are my attempt to save and organize various bits of code, best practices, and resources relating to web development and design. They also function as a to do list of sorts, for things I want to implement in my own code, but haven't yet. The concept is inspired by Jeremy Keith's links, among other things. Enjoy.

Vertical viewport units are unreliable on mobile

When I was first styling Resilient Web Design, I made heavy use of vh units. The vertical spacing between elements—headings, paragraphs, images—was all proportional to the overall viewport height. It looked great!

Then I tested it on real devices.

Here’s the problem: when a page loads up in a mobile browser—like, say, Chrome on an Android device—the URL bar is at the top of the screen. The height of that piece of the browser interface isn’t taken into account for the viewport height. That makes sense: the viewport height is the amount of screen real estate available for the content. The content doesn’t extend into the URL bar, therefore the height of the URL bar shouldn’t be part of the viewport height.

But then if you start scrolling down, the URL bar scrolls away off the top of the screen. So now it’s behaving as though it is part of the content rather than part of the browser interface. At this point, the value of the viewport height changes: now it’s the previous value plus the height of the URL bar that was previously there but which has now disappeared.

[...]

In my initial implementation of Resilient Web Design, the one where I was styling almost everything with vh, the site was unusable. Every time you started scrolling, things would jump around. I had to go back to the drawing board and remove almost all instances of vh from the styles.

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A Comprehensive Guide to Font Loading Strategies

This is an incredibly thorough guide to web font loading strategies, and their pros and cons.

If you’re looking for a specific approach, I’ve prepared some handy links that will take you to the section you need. Let’s say you want an approach that:

  • is the most well rounded approach that will be good enough for most use cases: FOUT with a Class.

  • is the easiest possible thing to implement: I’ve learned a lot about web fonts and at time of writing this article the current browser support is lacking for the easiest methods for effective/robust web font implementation. It is with that in mind that I will admit—if you’re looking for the easy way out already, you should consider not using web fonts. If you don’t know what web fonts are doing to improve your design, they may not be right for you. Don’t get me wrong, web fonts are great. But educate yourself on the benefit first. (In Defense of Web Fonts, The Value of a Web Font by Robin Rendle is a good start. If you have others, please leave a comment below!)

  • is the best performance-oriented approach: Use one of the Critical FOFT approaches. Personally, at time of writing my preference is Critical FOFT with Data URI but will shift toward Critical FOFT with preload as browser support for preload increases.

  • will work well with a large number of web fonts: If you’re web font obsessed (anything more than 4 or 5 web fonts or a total file size of more than 100KB) this one is kind of tricky. I’d first recommend trying to pare your web font usage down, but if that isn’t possible stick with a standard FOFT, or FOUT with Two Stage Render approach. Use separate FOFT approaches for each typeface (grouping of Roman, Bold, Italic, et cetera).

  • will work with my existing cloud/web font hosting solution: FOFT approaches generally require self hosting, so stick with the tried and true FOUT with a Class approach.

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Roving tabindex for keyboard navigation around JavaScript widgets

Setting the tabindex of the focused element to "0" ensures that if the user tabs away from the widget and then returns, the selected item within the group retains focus. Note that updating the tabindex to "0" requires also updating the previously selected item to tabindex="-1". This technique involves programmatically moving focus in response to key events and updating the tabindex to reflect the currently focused item. To do this:

Bind a key down handler to each element in the group, and when an arrow key is used to move to another element:

  1. programmatically apply focus to the new element,
  2. update the tabindex of the focused element to "0", and
  3. update the tabindex of the previously focused element to "-1".

Here's an example of a WAI-ARIA tree view using this technique.

For a more visual explanation, see the following video by Rob Dodson:

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Hiding DOM elements - ally.js

This document explains the various ways of hiding things and the implications that come with that.

When we say an element is hidden, we usually mean it is not visible. However, the screen is not the only output mechanism we may need to hide content from. Systems like screen readers and braille displays rely on a document's representation in the accessibility tree. For disambiguation we'll use the following terms:

Completely hidden
The element is not rendered on screen, not exposed in the accessibility tree, not accessible to keyboard navigation.
Semantically hidden
The element is rendered on screen, but not exposed in the accessibility tree, and still accessible to keyboard navigation.
Visually hidden
The element is not rendered on screen, but exposed in the accessibility tree, and still accessible to keyboard navigation.

[...]

Permalink to this heading.How to hide elements completely

Completely hiding elements can be done in 3 ways:

  • via the CSS property display, e.g. display: none;
  • via the CSS property visibility, e.g. visibility: hidden;
  • via the HTML5 attribute hidden, e.g. <span hidden>

While each of these techniques has the same end result, i.e. content is not rendered and not exposed in the accessibility tree, they have different behaviors.

[...]

Permalink to this heading.How to hide elements semantically

To hide content from the accessibility tree but retain the content on screen, we may use the attribute aria-hidden="true".

[...]

Permalink to this heading.2016 edition of .visuallyhidden

[...]

CSS

.visuallyhidden:not(:focus):not(:active) {
  position: absolute;
 
  width: 1px;
  height: 1px;
  margin: -1px;
  border: 0;
  padding: 0;
 
  clip-path: inset(100%);
  clip: rect(0 0 0 0);
  overflow: hidden;
}
  • It works in all modern browsers including Internet Explorer 9 - 11.
  • It side-steps the need to re-style everything for focusable elements such as skip-links.
  • It accounts for the deprecated clip property.

Permalink to this heading.Keyboard navigation

The techniques to hide elements only visually or semantically come with a caveat. Focusable elements like <a href="…"> remain keyboard navigatable, even though the element is not visible on screen or not exposed in the accessibility tree.

To make sure sighted keyboard users do not end up focusing elements they can't see, and screen reader users not focusing element's that don't exist for them, we need to make sure that partially hidden content is not accessible to keyboard navigation using the Tab and Shift Tab keys. To accomplish this, we can add tabindex="-1" to the elements we want to hide from the keyboard.

Permalink to this heading.Recap

  • Use the hidden attribute to completely hide an element.
  • Use the aria-hidden attribute to hide an element from the accessibility tree.
  • Use the .visuallyhidden class to hide an element from the screen.
  • Use visibility: inherit; instead of visibility: visible; to avoid accidentally showing content.
  • Do not attach any CSS styles to the aria-hidden attribute.
  • Take care of keyboard focusable content that is partially hidden by adding tabindex="-1".

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Alex Feyerke: Step Off This Hurtling Machine | JSConf.au 2014

I thought this was an excellent talk on the hard questions we should be asking ourselves as developers. Why do most people use closed, proprietary systems and devices, if the open web is so wonderful? Even as developers, we still use them ourselves, and depend on them. How can we be more empathetic to what the average user needs and wants? How can we lock open the web, so the future isn't entirely dependent on huge corporations and services, which is where we seem to be heading?

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