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Social Cards as a Service

I love the idea of programmatically generated images. That power is close at hand these days for us front-end developers, thanks to the concept of headless browsers. Take Puppeteer, the library for controlling headless Chrome. Generating images from URLs is their default use case: const puppeteer = require('puppeteer'); (async () => { const browser = await puppeteer.launch(); const page = await browser.newPage(); await page.goto('https://example.com'); await page.screenshot({path: 'example.png'}); await browser.close(); })(); That ought to get the ol’ mind grape going. What if we had URLs on our site that — with the power of our HTML and CSS skills —...

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How @supports Works

CSS has a neat feature that allows us to test if the browser supports a particular property or property:value combination before applying a block of styles — like how a @media query matches when, say, the width of the browser window is narrower than some specified size and then the CSS within it takes effect. In the same spirit, the CSS inside this feature will take effect when the property:value pair being tested is supported in the current browser. That feature is called @supports and it looks like this: @supports (display: grid) { .main { display: grid; } } Why? Well, that’s a bit tricky. Personally, I find don’t need it all that regularly. CSS has natural fallback mechanisms such that if the browser doesn’t understand a property:value combination, then it will ignore it and use something declared before it if there is anything, thanks to the cascade. Sometimes that can be used to deal with fallbacks and the end result is a bit less verbose. I’m certainly not a it’s-gotta-be-the-same-in-every-browser kinda guy, but I’m also not a write-elaborate-fallbacks-to-get-close kinda guy either. I generally prefer a situation where a natural failure of a property:value doesn’t do anything drastic to destroy functionality. That said, @supports certainly has use cases! And as I found out while putting this post together, plenty of people use it for plenty of interesting situations. A...

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The Magic of React-Based Multi-Step Forms

One way to deal with long, complex forms is to break them up into multiple steps. You know, answer one set of questions, move on to another, then maybe another, and so on and so forth. We often refer to these as multi-step forms (for obvious reasons), but others also take to calling it a “wizard” form. Multi-step forms can be a great idea! By only showing a few inputs on a screen at a time, the form may feel more digestible and prevent users from feeling overwhelmed by a sea of form fields. Although I haven’t looked it...

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Getting to Grips with the Airtable API

The Airtable web app is pretty neat. You can use it like a spreadsheet but it’s useful for all sorts of other things too. The neatest thing about it for me is that it has an API so that you can treat it like a database. I’ve been thinking about making weekly notes for the different teams I work with at Gusto to read about what the design systems team is working on, things we’ve fixed, and any bugs we’ve encountered during that might impact other designers and engineers across our organization. I’ve spent a couple of hours thinking...

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​​Avoiding those dang cannot read property of undefined errors

​​​​Uncaught TypeError: Cannot read property 'foo' of undefined.​ The dreaded error we all hit at some point in JavaScript development. Could be an empty state from an API that returns differently than you expected. Could be something else. We don’t know because the error itself is so general and broad. ​​I recently had an issue where certain environment variables weren’t being pulled in for one reason or another, causing all sorts of funkiness with that error staring me in the face. Whatever the cause, it can be a disastrous error if it’s left unaccounted for, so how can we prevent it in the first place? ​​Let’s figure it out. ​​Utility library ​​If you are already using a utility library in your project, there is a good chance that it includes a function for preventing this error. _.get​ in lodash​ (docs) or R.path in Ramda​ (docs) allow accessing the object safely. ​​ ​​If you are already using a utility library, this is likely the simplest solution. If you are not using a utility library, read on! ​​ Short-circuiting with && ​​​​One interesting fact about logical operators in JavaScript is that they don’t always return a boolean. According to the spec, “the value produced by a &&​ or ||​ operator is not necessarily of type Boolean. The value produced will always be the value of one of the two operand expressions.”...

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