📝 CSS-Tricks 215: The Gaps in the Web Platform

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[Robin]: In a post the other day about text stroke and CSS, Chris wrote:

Whenever I think of stroked text on the web I think: nope.

This is interesting to me because whenever someone asks me about a new design that they want to implement that’s the first thing that goes through my head: is this possible to make on the web? And by possible I mean a lot of different things I guess. Have I built something like this before? Is it technically possible? Will I need to learn something new in order to build it? Will it require a ton of hacks? Is it worth doing all that work and is the effort worthy of the payoff?

I feel like at this point I have a fairly decent grasp of the limits of my knowledge when it comes to web design and development and a good understanding of what’s technically possible, too.

But most of those things have changed over time! There used to be a ton of things I’d say “nope” to today. There are so many gaps in the web platform that have been filled in with things like CSS Grid and Flexbox—I remember my first web design gig more than a decade ago and needing something like subgrid desperately.

In the end, I told the designer “nope.” This design is too much of a pain in the ass, the web cannot do this, please go back and make it less stressful. Sorry, thank you, you’re welcome.

The same can be said for images, there are plenty of times where I would simply avoid adding images to a website because of the performance concerns but now with response images that gap has been filled in, too.

So, my question: what gaps are there left to be filled in? Where on the web is that work left to do? I reckon that by looking at different design systems we can see what’s lacking in CSS and HTML, where most of the gaps can be found. I have opinions!

This reminds me: the other day I read this great post by Dave Rupert all about his concerns with browser diversity:

I think the Web platform’s most frustrating aspect is also it’s greatest asset: it’s slow. It’s not just slow, it’s “it took 10 years to ship the <main> element which is just a spicy div” kind of slow. It’s glacial.

This can be agonizing while you wait for a much needed feature to roll out in all browsers, only to find out five years in the process one browser refuses the entire premise of the feature (RIP HTML Imports). The big tradeoff is that web platform features have to run the gauntlet and more thinking is applied over time: robustness, naming, internationalization, accessibility, security, etc. all have proper time for consideration and aren’t rushed through like it’s a product sprint.

Dave hits the nail on the head here: the most frustrating thing about the web as a developer is its slowness. But, strangely enough, I think that as a user it is a feature and not a bug. The fact that all browsers have to communicate and garner consensus from the whole web platform before just doing a kickflip and introducing is vital for the health of the web.

So, let me re-frame my question then: where are the gaps in the web platform? And then, most importantly, how do we gather the consensus required to build them?

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