Mobile

What Web Can Do Today

A screenshot of the linked site.

Ever get annoyed by people who tell you the web will never compare to native apps and wish you could send them a comprehensive slap in website form? If so, this is pretty awesome. Not only does it list a lot of things there are modern web APIs for, it also displays whether your current browser supports each one.

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A Love Letter to CSS

When I tell coworkers of my unabated love for CSS they look at me like I’ve made an unfortunate life decision.

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Sometimes I feel that developers, some of the most opinionated human beings on the planet, can only agree on one thing: that CSS is totally the worst.

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But today I’m going to blow your mind. Today I’m going to try to convince you that not only is CSS one of the best technologies you use on a day-to-day basis, not only is CSS incredibly well designed, but that you should be thankful—thankful!—each and every time you open a .css file.

My argument is relatively simple: creating a comprehensive styling mechanism for building complex user interfaces is startlingly hard, and every alternative to CSS is much worse. Like, it’s not even close.

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Why we do what we do

I think this sums up why I’m so impassioned about web development:

I don’t get excited about frameworks or languages—I get excited about potential; about playing my part in building a more inclusive web.

I care about making something that works well for someone that has only ever known the web by way of a five-year-old Android device, because that’s what they have—someone who might feel like they’re being left behind by the web a little more every day. I want to build something better for them.

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Making input type=date complicated

Screenshots of the date picker interface in different mobile browsers: Samsung Internet, Firefox, Edge, Chrome, Opera, and Safari.

Everyone who’s ever messed around with dates knows that they are terribly user-hostile — not only for software developers, but also for users. True, users will be able to tell you their date of birth or today’s date without trouble, but ask them to fill them out in a web form and they will encounter problems.

Month first, day first, or year first? And what about slashes, dashes, and other separators? Usually the website engineer has a strong personal preference and enforces it religiously upon unsuspecting users with stern and incomprehensible error messages in a lurid shade of red that are too tiny for anyone over 25 to read.

input type=”date”

In theory, there’s a solution to this problem: <input type=”date”>. It offers a special interface for picking dates, and it enforces a standard format for the value that’s sent to the server. Better still, the mobile browsers support it.

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Here’s a test page for <input type=”date”> and a few related types. Remember that some don’t work in some browsers.

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I think it’s time that we trust browser vendors a bit more. The days of useless features for the sake of having a longer feature list are long gone. Nowadays, browser vendors try to add features that are actually useful for users, and are actually implemented by web developers. If a browser says it supports <input type=”date”>, you should trust it to deliver a decent experience to its users. If it says it does not, and only in that case, you should use a custom widget instead.

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A Priority+ Navigation With Scrolling and Dropdowns

Exposing long navigation menus on small screens is tricky. Hamburger menus are everywhere, although often discouraged. Displaying “just enough” navigation at every breakpoint can feel like an impossible task. This is especially true for template developers needing to accommodate an arbitrary number of menu items.

The Priority+ design pattern seeks to display as many items as possible given an arbitrary screen width, while making the rest accessible via a single click. I’ll go over the implementation I worked on at Goshen College that includes both dropdown menus and horizontal scrolling, which I’ve yet to find in the wild:

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