A Trip to Amsterdam for CSS Day 2017!

July 6, 2017

July 6, 2017


Estimated Reading Time 7 Minutes

Steven Roberts

Working within an ever changing industry such as the web can be both exciting and daunting at the same time! While it often provides a challenge, it’s vital that we stay up to date with the latest technologies and tools in order to adopt such methods into our everyday projects. We can then advise and make recommendations to our clients, ensuring their site stays ahead of the game and at the forefront of their industry. That’s why we place an emphasis on investing in staff training, events and conferences, keeping our skills sharp and knowledge up to date. Our lead front end developer Steven recently returned from Amsterdam where he attended CSS Day, mixing with some of the founders, influencers and thought leaders of the front end web development community. Over to Steven for more. 

CSS Day 2017 was held over June 16th and 17th at the beautiful Compagnie Theater in Amsterdam. This year was the first time CSS Day was held over two days. The first day being dedicated to all of the upcoming browser APIs and the second to all things CSS.

Day One

The first day’s talks started as they meant to go on, with Rachel Nabors (Edge, Microsoft) showing us all of the new possibilities when animating on the web in her talk about the Web Animations API. This was one of my favourite talks as I have previously played around with and wrote an article (Web Designer Mag 262) about the new Web Animations API. Her talk covered what’s involved when writing these new animations as well as some really impressive demos!

See the Pen Growing/Shrinking Alice Game : Alice in Web Animations API Land by Rachel Nabors (@rachelnabors) on CodePen.

The other talks went on to talk about many other APIs available now or to be soon available to developers, from Houdini (more about that later) to VR and Audio, from an array of amazing speakers from all over the world! The web is about to change in a big bad way.

A lot of the elements on the web which were previously created in Flash and other software will soon be let loose on the web via native browser APIs! (hopefully developers will be somewhat more responsible with them than they were with Flash back in the day, but I won’t hold my breath).

Day Two

The second day of talks kicked off with a talk from the inventors of CSS, Bert Bos & Håkon Wium Lie discussing what they would have done differently, what they felt worked and what didn’t and touching on some elements which should have been present from the start. They reflected heavily on the amount of detail the original specification was lacking which lead to poor implementations to begin with. The cascade in CSS was something they thought long and hard on to keep writing CSS as simple as possible, allowing for inheritance to stop authors constantly repeating themselves.

CSS Grid and grid based design were topics covered by Rachel Andrew and Mark Boulton, having wrote about and experimented with CSS Grid and used Rachel’s Grid By Example to learn the new syntax and tools, I found these talks to be particularly interesting.

Mark was talking about designing grid systems and how we need to get away from this 12 column ‘bootstrap’ approach and consider working with the new tools available to us to create better layouts!

Jen Simmons was next, she talked about writing modes and using CSS for any and every language available on the planet and the tools we can use to better format foreign text. She was followed by Gregor Adam after lunch who talked about using CSS Custom Properties (Variables) – another topic which interested me having played around with them for a couple of tutorials in the last few months.

Gregor talked about how to implement Custom Properties into a framework and covered implementing the Gold Ratio using these methods (something I have experimented with using SASS – take a look at my Modular Scale demo).

The last two talks of the conference brought a bit of humour to the show with Chris Coyier and “A Tale of Four Properties”, a talk based on the shape-outside, offset-path, clip-path and d properties. The talk was centred around creating a fan site for the band They Might Be Giants, demonstrating how each of these properties can be used and their constraints.

The final talk of the conference was from Stephen Hay who gave his talk “CSS for Evil, not Good” covering how CSS can and has been used for less than legitimate purposes, touching on MySpace and the “Samy is my hero” worm and other abuses of CSS over the last two decades.


Houdini was spoken about by two different speakers (Philip Walton and Tab Atkins) on different days. Houdini – for those who don’t know (I didn’t) is a new API which will offer ways to natively extend CSS and plug directly into every aspect of the rendering process. Both of the talks were somewhat abstract in nature due to the early development stage of Houdini however creating completely custom functionality for CSS such as; Conic Gradients and completely custom layout modules will eventually be unleashed on the web! Houdini is an exciting development in CSS and the web, in the future we won’t need to wait for specification writers to all agree upon a specification to then be implemented by browsers, Houdini will allow developers to write whatever they need and implement it themselves!

Reflection and CSS Day 2018

CSS Day 2017 was an amazing two day conference covering the latest and greatest in CSS and Frontend, I came away inspired and equipped with new knowledge and tools to spend the next couple of months playing with and learning. The entire conference was videoed and will eventually be put online on the CSS Day Vimeo Channel but for now slides from the talks can be found on their site.

CSS Day 2018 will be held in the same location and venue and around the same time however this time the first day will be a UX Special! I can’t wait already!!


Since the conference was held in Amsterdam and I’d flown to another country already, I decided to stay for a few days to explore the city. Amsterdam is an absolutely amazing place, it is beautiful, busy but calm and steeped in history! It was an amazing week (not sure my feet agree having walked over 40 miles over 6 days) where I got to not only listen to 12 amazing talks about the things I’m most passionate about, but also explore this awesome city.

Keep up to date with all the latest from the world of Better, including our attendance at future industry events, via Twitter and Instagram.