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Keeping up with CSS

Max Böck on all the new things in CSS:

While learning the syntax for any given CSS feature is usually not that hard, re-wiring our brains to think in new ways is significantly harder. We’ll not only have to learn the new way, we’ll also have to unlearn the old way, even though it has become muscle memory at this point.

Yes! This is the hardest part of web development for me, as there’s a lot of work that has to go into tearing down the years of experience I’ve had with, say, how CSS used to limit us in terms of layout. CSS Grid isn’t rocket science but unlearning the old and familiar ways sure is complicated. That takes time and serious amounts of effort.

And yet even though we’re living through the golden age of UI on the web, it doesn’t mean we have to use every new CSS thing in every single project. Sure, if something helps save you time then that’s great. Or if it unlocks some new super power then that’s fantastic. But you don’t have to use @layers and logical properties and :is or :has if you don’t need them.

It’s more than ok if you don’t know how the fanciest features work today and I don’t think you should force yourself to put them into a project if you don’t really need to. Yes, many of these new tricks expand what’s possible on the web today and make things easier but it’s perfectly fine to not be at the absolute bleeding edge of this stuff. And keeping up with CSS shouldn’t feel like a full time job, and it definitely shouldn’t stress you out.

This is the real magic of CSS though! All the old techniques from a decade ago work just fine. Are there better ways to do X, Y, or Z? Sure. But it’s also okay to not always be optimizing, to not always be grinding away at the infinite factory line of new CSS features in this mad-dash panic to feel like you’re a real front-end developer.

The thing is that a webpage from 1995 or a webpage from 2035 can—and often should!— work just the same. That’s ok!