😅 Um... Box?
CSS

Naming CSS Class Names

January 14, 2019

You’re working on some UI. It’s a series of CSS problems. You figured out the styles required to solve it. All you gotta do is create a couple of new CSS class names.

You pause for a bit… and ask to yourself…

“What the heck do I call this stupid thing!”

As designers and developers, we’ve all been there. I’ve seen this happen so many times. When coaching or pairing with others, I’ll ask:

“Ok! What should we name this?”

I’ve heard responses like:

“Box?” “Main?” “Element?” “Box… Element?”

These, although technically not wrong, are unfortunately vague and unhelpful.

Naming things is hard.

I know the feels. I too experienced this from time to time. Thankfully, I’ve spent enough time naming things to know what works - especially for complex or larger code bases.

The next time you find yourself in a “WTF do I name this thing!” type situation, try the following.

Take a deep breath. Clear your mind. Think of keywords describing what the thing is, where it’s located, and how it’s being used.

Give yourself 15-30 seconds to scribble down those keywords. It’s fine if the words don’t make sense. Just write something down. Anything!

Times up! Pick the best words and mash them together.

Call it .AppSecondaryPricingPageCallToActionFooterNewsletterBox if you have to.

Is it verbose? Yes.
Is it ugly? Most definitely.
Is it clear? Absolutely.

Remember, you can always refactor it later! Maybe when the name annoys you enough or when you randomly come up with something better. When that time comes, maybe 2 or 6 months later, you’ll be glad that .AppSecondaryPricingPageCallToActionFooterNewsletterBox was quick to find and easy to understand.

When in doubt, favour clarity over cleverness.


Note: If your team/company has guidelines on how you should name your CSS class names, please follow them. These tips are for folks who have the flexibility to define/challenge existing conventions.


P.S. You may have noticed I use PascalCase for my class name examples. I have thoughts on this. Will write about this in a future blog post. Stay tuned!