CSS Write for Us
We learned the fundamentals of CSS, what it is for, and how to write simple style sheets. This lesson will see how a browser processes CSS and HTML and turns them into a web page.
How does CSS work?
When a browser displays a document, it has to combine its content with its style information. Then, it processes the form in several stages that we list below. Note that this is a simplified version of what happens when a browser loads a web page and that different browsers handle it differently. But it is something like this.
- The browser loads the HTML code (receives it from the network, for example).
- Convert the HTML into a DOM (Document Object Model). The DOM represents the document in the computer’s memory. The DOM explain in more detail in the next section.
- The browser parses the requested CSS and sorts the different rules according to their selector types in other “cubes,” e.g., element, class, ID. So on. Then, based on the selectors found, it determines which rules will be applied to which nodes in the DOM and arranges them for layout if necessary (this intermediate step is called the render tree).
- The render tree is created in the structure where it should appear after applying it.
- The visual representation of the page is displayed on the screen (this step is called painting).
About the DOM
A DOM has a tree-like structure. Every element, attribute, and a chunk of text in the markup language becomes a DOM node in the tree structure. Their association defines nodes to other DOM nodes. Some basics are parents of child nodes, and child nodes have siblings.
Understanding the DOM will help you design, debug, and maintain your CSS as your CSS and document content area in the DOM. When working with the browser’s DevTools, navigate the DOM while selecting elements to see what rules apply.
What if a browser encounters CSS it doesn’t understand?
In a previous lesson, I mentioned that not all browsers implement new CSS at the same time. Also, many people do not use the latest version of a browser. Since CSS is constantly evolving and therefore ahead of what browsers can detect, you might be wondering what happens when a browser encounters a CSS selector or declaration that it doesn’t identify.
If a browser parses your rules and finds a property or value that it doesn’t understand, it ignores it and goes to the following statement. What happens when you mistake and misspell parcel or weight, or when the property or value is too new and not yet supported by the browser.
When a browser encounters a selector that it doesn’t understand, it simply ignores the fundamental rule and moves on to the next one. In the example below, I used the UK English spelling for the color, which overrides this property because it is not recognized. So my heel wasn’t blue. However, all other CSS apply; only the invalid line ignore.
This behavior is instrumental. That means you can use the new CSS to improve, knowing that the browser will get the new feature if it is not understood. So along with how the waterfall works and the fact that browsers use the latest CSS they find in a stylesheet when you have two rules with the same specificity, you can also offer browsers that don’t fund the new CSS.
That works especially fine when you want to use relatively new values and are not supported everywhere. For example, some major browsers do not support calc () as a value. You could specify a backing width for a box in pixels and then select a width with a calc () value of 100% – 50px. Older browsers use the pixel version and ignore the line for calc () because they don’t understand it. Newer browsers interpret the line with pixels but then overwrite it with calc (), as this line appears later in the cascade.
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