I think of how easy it is to overlook all of the amazing things right in from of us.

Like music. I used to crave the latest releases that came out every Tuesday. Remember “New Music” Tuesday? I still enjoy the “Made for You” mixes that Apple Music curates for me each week, but it’s not the same as discovering new music back in The Day™.

I remember, as a young teen, how impossible it was to consume all of the new tunes before the next slate of releases shipped the following week. Back then, money was a constraining factor. It was all too easy to let perfectly good releases go overlooked simply because of not being able to afford a compact disc. I’m still catching up from those past decades of overlooked treasures.

(Speaking of musical treasures, Tom Petty used to host a program on his SiriusXM channel called Buried Treasures. He did something, like, 250 episodes of the dang thing, and it all adds up to a wonderfully curated collection of overlooked songs in rock, R&B, and soul. It’s so good that SiriusXM still has a station dedicated to playing nothing but those episodes. It’s Chanel 711 for all you subscribers. You’re welcome.)

Anyway, overlooking things is something of a human species past time. We’re so danged good at it! How many times have you looked for something you misplaced only to find it already in your hands? I did that just yesterday, thank you very much.

The thing is that the world is always changing. Our little Earth revolves around the sun, which changes the way the sun’s light hits everything in its path, as well as the temperature of the air against your skin. Each passing moment is an opportunity to see, witness, observe, experience, evaluate, and learn. It’s the ability to let the universe inspire you with an endless supply of mini and massive miracles alike that make up what we call “creativity” or the desire to create. The fodder is all there.

I’m currently reading Rick Rubin’s book, The Creative Act: A Way of Being, and I like how he describes the infinite supply of creativity and how it becomes art:

The universe is only as large as our perception of it. When we cultivate our awareness, we are expanding the universe.

This expands the scope, not just of the material at our disposal to create from, but of the life we get to live.

Lord, help me, but I can’t help but think of this through the filter of web design and front-end development. There is no shortage of creative sites out there. That’s not shocking. What’s shocking is the vast number of websites that look alike. Some trends are so pervasive that you almost expect them when a site renders. Yet another header, hero, and three cards layout, eh? Ship it!

It’s no one’s fault, really. I mean, I get how tempting it is to reach for your framework du jour, particularly when time and resources are limited. There’s a good reason Developer Experience (DX) is a thing and why it often leans toward reusable, maintainable, modular, and repeatable patterns. It saves time and money — and sanity, in some cases.

But maybe it’s worth refraining from time to time. Perhaps your next project — personal or professional — can go back to basics, dusting off your vanilla HTML, CSS, and JavaScript chops. Who knows? You might discover some long-forgotten or overlooked CSS property that’s perfect for the situation you’re in. I sometimes visit the CSS-Tricks Almanac and count the properties I’ve either missed or need to re-learn… even ones where I wrote the danged content! A few recents that have re-entered my consciousness:

  • :enabled: Many of us are already boss at styling :inactive buttons and form controls, but hey, we get a whole new perspective if we approach styling by what’s enabled first. I like the example in the CSS-Tricks article because it’s a great illustration of how the pseudo-class can be chained with another element (a label in this case) to control how that other element is styled based on the state of the enabled element.
  • isolation: Good gosh, I wrote about this property in 2015 and still can’t tell you much about it off the top of my head. But I can tell you that Chris recently showed off a demo that uses isolation to prevent an element’s z-index from going “too low” and becoming obscured by other elements. Old dog of a property with a new trick, tell you what!
  • image-rendering: You need some extra control over how scaled-up images render? If you’re working with pixelated art and it’s scaled up to a point where it starts blurring, reach for this to preserve the pixilated style or crisp edges.
  • pointer-events: Oh, how handy this is! Say you style one element so that it overlays another element with transparency so you see the other element through it. Cool cool. But let’s also say that the bottom element contains a button the user ought to tap-click — no bueno! The top element will prevent that. I know this property well but always seem to overlook it when I need it.

Maybe I need to do a post entirely on CSS properties that are easy to overlook — lord knows there’s an entire buried treasure of them to write about!

Handwritten by Geoff Graham on April 7, 2023

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