The official book of California Stylesheets


(and that's okay)

It's a book about writing CSS.
And not writing CSS.

You suck at tech debt

This whole book is sort of about tech debt.

Tech debt is when tasks take longer in the future because of stupid tech decisions you made in the past.

There’s a lot of CSS tech debt going around.

What’s worse is that this particular form of tech debt is taken on early, so teams take a very long time to pay it off.

Any development team should take regular time to fight tech debt. It needs to be either time set aside, or part of your normal working process.

Blazing fast teams have no patience for it. They endlessly double down, just trying to get tasks done faster to make up for tasks now naturally taking longer.

But it’s not just time. Attention and focus are at stake too. So everyone on the team (again, because everyone on the team is writing CSS) gets worn down by it. It’s a distributed burden, yes, but that just means everyone cracks at the same time.

When you specialize, and one person on the team writes CSS, that person will be a single point of responsibility. That person will be able to raise the red flag when CSS tech debt is getting bad. Teams that don’t do this might seem like they’d have a whole lot more responsibility overall, but they don’t. When responsibility is divided like this, it more often means that nobody will take up that responsibility even if there are more candidates. This is a real social phenomenon called diffusion of responsibility.

So the project just gets worse and worse. At the height of the bloat, vague concepts like file size get blamed, as if starting with a smaller base would have somehow solved the bloat problem instead of just making it hit slightly later.

Instead of getting to the root of the problem, the team almost always catalogs what’s there and then treats that as sacred, using external workflows (another drain on time, attention and focus) to solve the problems in superficial ways. This usually looks like butchering an otherwise perfectly fine CSS file.

Fix it with CASS

CASS helps you not build CSS tech debt by, well, already being pretty huge.

A whole lot of libraries use small file size as a selling point. CASS isn’t one of them. It weighs in at around 20kb.

CSS file size is perhaps the most overrated technical goal of all time. There are so many other things to worry about first. The biggest one is markup bloat. Markup bloat is a matter of acceleration. Starting with a tiny base just invites a higher rate of markup bloat. So you might even hit the CSS tipping point sooner.

Bring everything you need with you at the beginning, in a California Stylesheet, and try to add as little to it as possible while you prove out the product.

Next Chapter: Ugly »

Like the book? Buy it over on Gumroad.

Pay what you want!

The Gumroad version contains a secret chapter that spills the dirt on CSS preprocessors, a tech CASS no longer uses.

California Stylesheets is the awesome CSS file/framework referenced in the book. Get your own California Stylesheet here.

Go to CASS