What Makes CSS Hard To Master

Tim Severien:

I feel we, the community, have to acknowledge that CSS is easy to get started with and hard to master. Let’s reflect on the language and find out what makes it hard.

Tim’s reasons CSS is hard (in my own words):

  • You can look at a matching Ruleset, and still not have the whole styling story. There might be multiple matching rulesets in disparate places, including in places that only apply conditionally, like within @media queries.
  • Even if you think you’ve got a complete handle on the styling information in the CSS, you still may not, because styling is DOM-dependent. You need information from both places to know how something will be styled.
  • You have no control over the device, browser, version, resolution, input mode, etc., all of which can be CSS concerns.
  • Making changes to CSS can be scary because it’s hard to understand everywhere it applies.

I’m not sure people making sweeping generalizations about CSS either being too hard or too easy is helpful for anyone. It’s much more interesting to look at what can be straightforward about CSS and what can be tricky, like Tim has done here.

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