Totally different Levels of Customized Property Utilization

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One strategy to work with Customized Properties is to consider them as design tokens. Colours, spacings, fonts, and whatnot. You set them on the root of the web page and use them all through your CSS. Very helpful, and the basic use case for not solely Customized Properties however for preprocessor variables for the final a million years.

One other strategy to work with Customized Properties, which will be achieved along with the design tokens strategy, is to go loads more durable and use them for each main distinctive styling selection on any given aspect.

Think about you could have a Card like this (simplified for demonstration sake, after all):

.card {
background: hsl(200deg 15% 73%);
border: 4px stable rgb(255 255 255 / 0.5);
padding: 2rem;
border-radius: 8px;
.card > h2 {
margin: 0 0 1rem 0;
border-bottom: 3px stable rgba(0 0 0 / 0.2);


However then if you inevitably make variations of the cardboard, you’re by yourself to override these rulesets. A CSS Customized Property strategy will be like:

.card {
–card-background: hsl(200deg 15% 73%);
–card-border: 4px stable rgb(255 255 255 / 0.5);
–card-padding: 2rem;
–card-border-radius: 8px;
–card-title-margin: 0 0 1rem 0;
–card-title-border: 3px stable rgba(0 0 0 / 0.2);

background: var(–card-background);
border: var(–card-border);
padding: var(–card-padding);
border-radius: var(–card-border-radius);
.card > h2 {
margin: var(–card-title-margin);
border-bottom: var(–card-title-border);

Just a little extra verbose, for now, however look what occurs after we wish to do a variation:

.card-variation {
–card-background: purple;
–card-padding-block: 2.5rem;
–card-title-margin: 0 0 2rem 0;

Listed below are three clear benefits proper off the bat:

I’m solely altering values that I’ve clearly set as much as be modified. My predominant Card prototype maintains the integrity I need it to maintain.I can type youngsters of the variation with out having to re-write these selectors appropriately.I can now go in styling overrides from the type attribute within the HTML for fast, one-off variations.

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Much less verbose with fallbacks

Somewhat than declaring the Customized Properties on the high after which utilizing them proper under, I can do each on the similar time like this:

.card {
background: var(–card-background, hsl(200deg 15% 73%));
border: var(–card-border, 4px stable rgb(255 255 255 / 0.5));
padding: var(–card-padding, 2rem);
border-radius: var(–card-border-radius, 8px);
.card > h2 {
margin: var(–card-title-margin, 0 0 1rem 0);
border-bottom: var(–card-title-border, 3px stable rgba(0 0 0 / 0.2));

Now if one thing like –card-background does occur to get set, it’s going to override the fallback worth right here. I don’t utterly love this, as a result of it means components above .card can override it. That may be what you need, nevertheless it’s not precisely the identical as declaring the values on the .card stage to start with. No sturdy opinions right here.

Breaking it up much more

An instance right here is that you simply may wish to individually management padding.

.card {
–card-padding-block: 2rem;
–card-padding-inline: 2rem;
–card-padding: var(–card-padding-block) var(–card-padding-inline);

padding: var(–card-padding);

Now a variation can management simply part of the padding if I need:

.card-variation {
–card-padding-inline: 3rem;

You gotta watch out of the massive gotcha although. Which means in case you declare all these on the root, this isn’t going to work, as a result of these nested properties have already been resolved. However as long as it’s first declared on .card, you’ll be fantastic right here.

Too far?

Say you needed tremendous final management over each a part of a worth. For instance:

html {
–color-1-h: 200deg;
–color-1-s: 15%;
–color-1-l: 73%;
–color-1-hsl: var(–color-1-h) var(–color-1-s) var(–color-1-l);
–color-1: hsl(var(–color-1-hsl));

That’s kinda neat, nevertheless it’s seemingly too far. Colours are virtually definitely going to be declared on the root and left alone, so the good gotcha goes to make overriding the low-level baby properties unimaginable. Moreover, when you’ve got a –color-1, you in all probability have a 2-9 (or extra) as properly, which is all properly and good as a result of there’s way more delicate design magic to a coloration system than easy mathematical manipulations of coloration components.

Deliverable design programs?

There isn’t any doubt that Tailwind has loved lots of reputation. It makes use of an atomic strategy the place a slew of HTML lessons management one property every. I’d argue a few of that reputation is pushed by the truth that in case you select from these pre-configured lessons, that the design finally ends up pretty good. You possibly can’t go off the rails. You’re selecting from a restricted choice of values which were designed to look good.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say {that a} Customized Properties heavy-based strategy to styling is strictly the identical. For instance, you’ll nonetheless want to consider a category identify abstraction moderately than apply styling on to the HTML aspect. However, it’d take pleasure in a few of the similar constraints/limitations that make Tailwind and different atomic class approaches fascinating. When you can solely choose from a pre-defined set of –spacing-x values, –color-x values, and –font-x values, you may obtain a extra cohesive design than you’ll have in any other case.

Personally, I’ve discovered inching towards a design system that’s extra closely based mostly on Customized Properties feels good — if nothing else to make variations and overrides extra wise to handle.

What about third-party design programs delivering what they ship as… nothing however an enormous ol’ set of Customized Properties to make use of at your leisure?


Third-party deliverables don’t even need to be your entire kitchen sink like this. For instance, Adam Argyle’s transition.type offers a “Hackpack” that’s nothing however Customized Properties of transition animation helpers.

Understandabilty value

One pushback I’ve heard in opposition to this extra all-in strategy on Customized Properties is newcomer understandability. If you wrote the system, it in all probability makes excellent sense to you. But it surely’s an extra abstraction on high of CSS. CSS data is shared by all, bespoke programs data is just shared by the individuals actively engaged on it.

MY code that makes use of CSS customized properties to summary issues: excellent, good, readable

YOUR code that makes use of CSS customized properties to summary issues: messy, unimaginable to grasp, i die

— Chris Coyier (@chriscoyier) February 16, 2021

Rolling in recent to a system closely utilizing Customized Properties goes to have a heck of a studying curve.


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