Refactoring CSS: Optimizing Dimension And Efficiency (Half 3)

No Comments

In earlier articles from this sequence, we’ve coated auditing CSS codebase well being and the incremental CSS refactoring technique, testing, and upkeep. No matter how a lot the CSS codebase has been improved throughout the refactoring course of and the way way more maintainable and extendable it’s, the closing stylesheet must be optimized for the very best efficiency and least potential file dimension.

Deploying the refactored codebase shouldn’t lead to worse web site efficiency and worse person expertise. In any case, customers received’t wait round eternally for the web site to load. Additionally, the administration will probably be dissatisfied with the decreased site visitors and income attributable to the unoptimized codebase, regardless of the code high quality enhancements.

On this article, we’re going to cowl CSS optimization methods that may optimize CSS file dimension, loading occasions, and render efficiency. That manner, the refactored CSS codebase shouldn’t be solely extra maintainable and extensible but in addition performant and checks all bins which can be vital each to the end-user and administration.

Half Of: CSS Refactoring

Half 1: CSS Refactoring: Introduction
Half 2: CSS Technique, Regression Testing And Upkeep
Half 3: Optimizing Dimension And Efficiency
Subscribe to our e-mail publication to not miss the following ones.

Optimizing Stylesheet File Dimension

Optimizing file dimension boils right down to eradicating pointless characters and formatting and optimizing the CSS code to make use of completely different syntax or shorthand properties to cut back the general variety of characters in a file.

Optimization And Minification

CSS optimization and minification have been round for years and have become a staple in frontend optimization. Instruments like cssnano and clean-css are amongst my favourite instruments in relation to CSS optimization and minification. They provide all kinds of customization choices to additional management how code is being optimized and which browsers are supported.

These instruments work in an identical manner. First, the unoptimized code is parsed and transpiled following the foundations set within the config. The result’s the code that makes use of fewer characters however nonetheless retains the formatting (line breaks and whitespaces).

/* Earlier than – unique and unoptimized code */
.container {
padding: 24px 16px 24px 16px;
background: #222222;

/* After – optimized code with formatting */
.container {
padding: 24px 16px;
background: #222;

And eventually, the transpiled optimized code is minified by eradicating all pointless textual content formatting. Relying on the codebase and supported browsers set within the config, code with deprecated vendor prefixes also can get eliminated.

/* Earlier than – optimized code with formatting */
.container {
padding: 24px 16px;
background: #222;

/* After – optimized and minified code */
.container{padding:24px 16px;background:#222}

Even on this primary instance, we’ve managed to cut back the general file dimension from 76 bytes to 55 bytes, leading to a 23% discount. Relying on the codebase and the optimization instruments and config, CSS optimization and minification may be much more efficient.

CSS optimization and minification may be thought-about as a straightforward win as a result of important payoff with only a few tweaks to the CSS workflow. That’s the reason minification needs to be handled because the naked minimal efficiency optimization and a requirement for all stylesheets on the venture.

Optimizing Media Queries

After we write media queries in CSS, particularly when utilizing a number of information (PostCSS or Sass), we normally don’t nest the code below a single media question for a complete venture. For improved maintainability, modularity, and code construction, we normally write the identical media question expressions for a number of CSS parts.

Let’s take into account the next instance of an unoptimized CSS codebase.

.web page {
show: grid;
grid-gap: 16px;

@media (min-width: 768px) {
.web page {
grid-template-columns: 268px auto;
grid-gap: 24px;

/* … */

.products-grid {
show: grid;
grid-template-columns: repeat(2, 1fr);
grid-gap: 16px;

@media (min-width: 768px) {
.products-grid {
grid-template-columns: repeat(3, 1fr);
grid-gap: 20px;

As you may see, we now have a repeated @media (min-width: 768px) per part for higher readability and upkeep. Let’s run the optimization and minification on this code instance and see what we get.

.web page{show:grid;grid-gap:16px}@media (min-width: 768px){.web page{grid-template-columns:268px auto;grid-gap:24px}}.products-grid{show:grid;grid-template-columns:repeat(2,1fr);grid-gap:16px}@media (min-width: 768px){.products-grid{grid-template-columns:repeat(3,1fr);grid-gap:20px}}

This could be a bit tough to learn, however all we now have to note is the repeated @media (min-width: 768px) media question. We’ve already concluded that we wish to scale back the variety of characters in a stylesheet and we will nest a number of selectors below a single media question, so why didn’t the minifier eliminated the duplicated expression? There’s a easy motive for that.

Rule order issues in CSS, so to merge the duplicated media queries, code blocks have to be moved. This can lead to rule orders being modified which might trigger undesirable side-effects in types.

Nonetheless, combining media queries may probably make the file dimension even smaller, relying on the codebase and construction. Instruments and packages like postcss-sort-media-queries enable us to take away duplicated media queries and additional scale back the file dimension.

In fact, there’s the vital caveat of getting a well-structured CSS codebase construction that doesn’t rely upon the rule order. This optimization needs to be taken under consideration when planning the CSS refactor and establishing floor guidelines.

I’d advocate first checking if the optimization profit outweighs the potential dangers. This may be simply completed by working a CSS audit and checking media question stats. If it does, I’d advocate including it in a while and working automated regression testing to catch any surprising side-effects and bugs that may occur consequently.

Eradicating Unused CSS

In the course of the refactoring course of, there’s all the time a chance that you just’ll find yourself with some unused legacy types that haven’t been fully eliminated otherwise you’ll have some newly added types that aren’t getting used. These types additionally add to the general character rely and the file dimension. Eliminating these unused types utilizing automated instruments, nevertheless, may be considerably dangerous as a result of the instruments can’t precisely predict which types are literally used.

Instruments like purgecss undergo all of the information within the venture and use all of the courses talked about in information as selectors, simply to err on the aspect of warning and never unintentionally delete selectors for dynamic, JavaScript-injected components, amongst different potential instances. Nonetheless, purgecss presents versatile config choices as workarounds for these potential points and dangers.

Nonetheless, this enchancment needs to be completed solely when the potential advantages outweigh the dangers. Moreover, this optimization approach would require appreciable time to arrange, configure and check, and may trigger unintended points down the road, so proceed with warning and ensure that the setup is bulletproof.

Eliminating Render-Blocking CSS

By default, CSS is a render-blocking useful resource, which means that the web site received’t be displayed to the person till all linked stylesheets and their dependencies (fonts, for instance) have been downloaded and parsed by the browser.

If the stylesheet file has a big file dimension or a number of dependencies that are situated on third-party servers or CDNs, web site rendering may be delayed considerably relying on the community pace and reliability.

Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) has develop into an vital metric in the previous couple of months. LCP shouldn’t be solely vital for efficiency but in addition search engine marketing — web sites with higher LCP scores may have higher search outcomes rating. Eradicating render-blocking assets like CSS is a method of enhancing the LCP rating.

Nonetheless, if we’d defer the stylesheet loading and processing, this may lead to Flash Of Unstyled Content material (FOUC) — content material could be exhibited to the person immediately and types could be loaded and utilized a number of moments later. This change may look jarring and it could even confuse some customers.

Important CSS

With Important CSS, we will make sure that the web site hundreds with the minimal quantity of types that are assured for use on the web page when it’s initially rendered. This fashion, we will make the FOUC a lot much less noticeable and even get rid of it for many instances. For instance, if the homepage contains a header part with navigation and a hero part situated above-the-fold, because of this the important CSS will include all the required international and part types for these parts, whereas types for different parts on the web page will probably be deferred.

This CSS is inlined in HTML below a method tag, so the types are loaded and parsed alongside the HTML file. Though this can lead to a barely bigger HTML file dimension (which must also be minified), all different non-critical CSS will probably be deferred and received’t be loaded immediately and the web site will render sooner. All in all, the advantages outweigh the rise within the HTML file dimension.

<type sort=”textual content/css”><!– Minified Important CSS markup –></type>

There are numerous automated instruments and NPM packages on the market, relying in your setup, that may extract important CSS and generate deferred stylesheets.

Deferring Stylesheets

How precisely can we make the CSS to be non-blocking? We all know that it shouldn’t be referenced within the HTML head ingredient when the web page HTML is first downloaded. Demian Renzulli has outlined this methodology in his article.

There may be no native HTML method (as of but) to optimize or defer the loading of render-blocking assets, so we have to use JavaScript to insert the non-critical stylesheet into the HTML markup after the preliminary render. We additionally must ensure that these types get loaded within the non-optimal (render-blocking) manner if a person is visiting the web page with JavaScript not enabled within the browser.

<!– Deferred stylesheet –>
<hyperlink rel=”preload” as=”type” href=”path/to/stylesheet.css” onload=”this.onload=null;this.rel=’stylesheet'”>

<!– Fallback –>
<hyperlink rel=”stylesheet” href=”path/to/stylesheet.css”>

With hyperlink rel=”preload” as=”type” makes certain that the stylesheet file is requested asynchronously, whereas onload JavaScript handler makes certain that the file is loaded and processed by the browser after the HTML doc has completed loading. Some cleanup is required, so we have to set the onload to null to keep away from this perform working a number of occasions and inflicting pointless re-renders.

That is precisely how Smashing Journal handles its stylesheets. Every template (homepage, article classes, article pages, and so forth.) has a template-specific important CSS inlined inside HTML type tag within the head ingredient, and a deferred important.css stylesheet which incorporates all non-critical types.

Nonetheless, as a substitute of toggling the rel parameter, right here we will see the media question being switched from the robotically deferred low-priority print media to the high-priority all attribute when the web page has completed loading. That is another, equally viable method to defer loading of non-critical stylesheets.

<hyperlink href=”/css/important.css” media=”print” onload=”’all'” rel=”stylesheet”>

Splitting And Conditionally Loading Stylesheets With Media Queries

For the instances when the ultimate stylesheet file has a big file dimension even after the aforementioned optimizations have been utilized, you may cut up the stylesheets into a number of information primarily based on media queries and use media property on stylesheets referenced within the hyperlink HTML ingredient to load them conditionally.

<hyperlink href=”print.css” rel=”stylesheet” media=”print”>
<hyperlink href=”cell.css” rel=”stylesheet” media=”all”>
<hyperlink href=”pill.css” rel=”stylesheet” media=”display screen and (min-width: 768px)”>
<hyperlink href=”desktop.css” rel=”stylesheet” media=”display screen and (min-width: 1366px)”>

That manner, if a mobile-first method is used, types for bigger display screen sizes received’t be downloaded or parsed on cell gadgets that may very well be working on slower or unreliable networks.

Simply to reiterate, this methodology needs to be used if the results of the beforehand talked about optimization strategies ends in a stylesheet with suboptimal file dimension. For normal instances, this optimization methodology received’t be as efficient or impactful, relying on the person stylesheet dimension.

Deferring Font Information And Stylesheets

Deferring font stylesheets (Google Font information, for instance) is also helpful for preliminary render efficiency. We’ve concluded that stylesheets are render-blocking, however so are the font information which can be referenced within the stylesheet. Font information additionally add fairly a little bit of overhead to the preliminary render efficiency.

Loading font stylesheets and font information is a posh subject and diving into it could take a complete new article simply to clarify all viable approaches. Fortunately, Zach Leatherman has outlined many viable methods on this superior complete information and summarized the professionals and cons of every method. When you use Google Fonts, Harry Roberts has outlined a technique for the quickest loading of Google Fonts.

When you determine on deferring font stylesheets, you’ll find yourself with Flash of Unstyled Textual content (FOUT). The web page will initially be rendered with the fallback font till the deferred font information and stylesheets have been downloaded and parsed, at which level the brand new types will probably be utilized. This variation may be very noticeable and may trigger format shifts and confuse customers, relying on the person case.

Barry Pollard has outlined some methods that may assist us take care of FOUT and talked in regards to the upcoming size-adjust CSS function which is able to present a better, extra native manner of coping with FOUT.

Server-Aspect Optimizations

HTTP Compression

Along with minification and file-size optimization, static property like HTML, CSS information, JavaScript information, and so forth. HTTP compression algorithms like Gzip and Brotli can be utilized to moreover scale back the downloaded file dimension.

HTTP compression must be configured on the server which will depend on the tech stack and config. Nonetheless, efficiency advantages might range and will not have as a lot influence as normal stylesheet minification and optimization, because the browsers will nonetheless decompress the compressed information and should parse them.

Caching Stylesheets

Caching static information is a helpful optimization technique. Browsers will nonetheless should obtain the static information from the server on the primary load, however as soon as they get cached they’ll be loaded from it straight on subsequent requests, rushing up the loading course of.

Caching may be managed by way of Cache-Management HTTP header on the server degree (for instance, utilizing the .htaccess file on an Apache server).

With max-age we will point out how lengthy the file ought to keep cached (in seconds) within the browser and with public, we’re indicating that the file may be cached by the browser and some other caches.

Cache-Management: public, max-age=604800

A extra aggressive and efficient cache technique for static property may be achieved with immutable config. This tells the browser that this specific file won’t ever change and that any new updates will consequence on this file getting deleted and a brand new file with a distinct file title will take its place. This is named cache-busting.

Cache-Management: public, max-age=604800, immutable

And not using a correct cache-busting technique, there’s a threat of shedding management over information that get cached on the person’s browser. That means that if the file had been to alter, the browser received’t have the ability to know that it ought to obtain the up to date file and never use the outdated cached file. And from that time on, there’s just about nothing we will do to repair that and the person will probably be caught with the outdated file till it expires.

For stylesheets, that would imply that if we had been to replace HTML information with new content material and parts that require new styling, these types received’t show as a result of the outdated stylesheet is cached and not using a cache-busting technique and the browser received’t know that it has to obtain the brand new file.

Earlier than utilizing a caching technique for stylesheets or some other static information, efficient cache-busting mechanisms needs to be applied to forestall outdated static information from getting caught within the person’s cache. You should utilize one of many following versioning mechanisms for cache-busting:

Appending a question string to the file title.
For instance types.css?v=1.0.1. Nonetheless, some CDNs can fully ignore or strip the question string from the file title and ensuing within the file getting caught within the person’s cache and by no means updating.
Altering the file title or appending a hash.
For instance types.a1bc2.css or types.v1.0.1.css. That is extra dependable and efficient than appending a question string to the file title.

CDN Or Self-hosting?

Content material Supply Community (CDN) is a gaggle of geographically distributed servers which can be generally used for the dependable and quick supply of static property like photos, movies, HTML information, CSS information, JavaScript information, and so forth.

Though CDNs may appear to be an important different to self-hosting static property, Harry Roberts has completed in-depth analysis on the subject and concluded that self-hosting property are extra helpful for efficiency.

“There actually may be very little motive to depart your static property on anybody else’s infrastructure. The perceived advantages are sometimes a fantasy, and even when they weren’t, the trade-offs merely aren’t value it. Loading property from a number of origins is demonstrably slower.”

That being mentioned, I’d advocate self-hosting the stylesheets (font stylesheets included, if potential) by default and transferring to CDN provided that there are viable causes or different advantages to doing so.

Auditing CSS File Dimension and Efficiency

WebPageTest and different comparable efficiency auditing instruments can be utilized to get an in depth overview of the web site loading course of, file sizes, render-blocking assets, and so forth. These instruments may give you an perception into how your web site hundreds on a wide selection of gadgets — from a desktop PC working on a high-speed community to low-end smartphones working on gradual and unreliable networks.

Let’s do a efficiency audit on a web site talked about within the first article from this sequence — the one with the 2MB of minified CSS.

First, we’ll check out the content material breakdown to find out which assets take up probably the most bandwidth. From the next charts, we will see that the photographs take up most requests, which means that they have to be lazy-loaded. From the second chart, we will see that stylesheets and JavaScript information are the most important by way of file dimension. It is a good indication that these information must both be minified and optimized, refactored, or cut up into a number of information and loaded asynchronously.

We will draw much more conclusions from the Net Vitals charts. By looking a the Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) chart, we will get an in depth overview of render-blocking assets and the way a lot they have an effect on the preliminary render.

We may already conclude that the web site stylesheet may have probably the most influence on the LCP and loading stats. Nonetheless, we will see font stylesheets, JavaScript information, and pictures referenced contained in the stylesheets which can be additionally render-blocking. Realizing that we will apply the aforementioned optimization strategies to cut back the LCP time by eliminating render-blocking assets.


The refactoring course of isn’t full when the code well being and high quality have been improved and when codebase weaknesses and points have been mounted. Refactored codebase ought to consequence within the similar or improved efficiency in comparison with the legacy codebase.

Finish customers shouldn’t expertise efficiency points or lengthy loading occasions from the refactored codebase. Fortunately, there are a lot of strategies on the market to ensure that the codebases are each strong and performant — from the straightforward minification and optimization strategies to the extra advanced strategies like eliminating render-blocking assets and code-splitting.

We will use varied efficiency auditing instruments like WebPageTest to get an in depth overview of loading occasions, efficiency, render-blocking assets, and different components so we will tackle these points early and successfully.

Half Of: CSS Refactoring

Half 1: CSS Refactoring: Introduction
Half 2: CSS Refactoring: Technique, Regression Testing And Upkeep
Half 3: CSS Refactoring: Optimizing Dimension And Efficiency
Subscribe to our e-mail publication to not miss the following ones.


Render Blocking CSS,” Ilya Grigorik
Defer Non-Important CSS,” Demian Renzulli
A Complete Information To Font Loading Methods,” Zach Leatherman
A New Means To Cut back Font Loading Affect: CSS Font Descriptors,” Barry Pollard
Self-Host Your Static Belongings,” Harry Roberts
Optimize WebFont Loading And Rendering,” Ilya Grigorik

    About Marketing Solution Australia

    We are a digital marketing company with a focus on helping our customers achieve great results across several key areas.

    Request a free quote

    We offer professional SEO services that help websites increase their organic search score drastically in order to compete for the highest rankings even when it comes to highly competitive keywords.

    Subscribe to our newsletter!

    More from our blog

    See all posts

    Leave a Comment