New CSS Features Are Enhancing Everything You Know About Web Design

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Geoff Graham on (Updated on )

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We just hit you with a slab of observations about CSS Grid in a new post by Manuel Matuzović. Grid has been blowing our minds since it was formally introduced and Jen Simmons is connecting it (among other new features) to what she sees as a larger phenomenon in the evolution of layouts in web design.

From Jeremy Keith’s notes on Jen’s talk, “Everything You Know About Web Design Just Changed ” at An Event Apart Seattle 2018:

This may be the sixth such point in the history of the web. One of those points where everything changes and we swap out our techniques … let’s talk about layout. What’s next? Intrinsic Web Design.

Why a new name? Why bother? Well, it was helpful to debate fluid vs. fixed, or table-based layouts: having words really helps. Over the past few years, Jen has needed a term for “responsive web design +”.

That “+” is the intrinsic nature of the web. Should you use flexible image sizes or fixed images sizes? Why not both and let the context decide? CSS Grid plays a role in this because it introduced new methods for layouts to respond to the intrinsic context of the element, such as the fr unit and the minmax() function. We don’t necessarily need media queries to make a layout responsive. And, similarly, we can choose to use a fixed layout that goes into a fluid one.

Unlike me, Peter Anglea was there at the presentation and posted a video that wonderfully articulates the concept even further. Also, Jen’s slides!

While applying a name may help conceptualize a change, I’m not so sure that “Intrinsic Web Design” is changing everything we know about web design. I like to think of it more as enhancing what we understand about it. Whatever the semantics, what these new CSS features are undoubtedly doing is making CSS less complex, even if the pace of these changes can be dizzying at times and appear that what we know has been turned upside-down.