I Changed My Mind After 2nd Try Tailwind CSS

Minh-Phuc Tran on Dec 28, 2020

css

react

javascript

webdev

TL;DR: Tailwind won't help you write CSS faster or easier, it helps you think less.

Because I wanted to give my plain HTML website a little style, I gave Tailwind CSS a shot yesterday. I spent about an hour to read through its documentation and try it on its playground. The first impression was "meh". Tailwind is essentially a set of CSS classes mapping to a few CSS properties, so, in order to use Tailwind, you basically have to kinda learn CSS again, which I believe very few developers enjoy. Tailwind's creators actually knew that and put a very interesting note:

Now I know what you're thinking, "this is an atrocity, what a horrible mess!" and you're right, it's kind of ugly. In fact it's just about impossible to think this is a good idea the first time you see it — you have to actually try it.

I gave it a try, but less than an hour was probably not enough for me to shift my mind from typical CSS properties to Tailwind classes. So, I didn't like it.

Use typcial CSS

Because I didn't like Tailwind, today I decided to style my website using Sass while keeping an eye on what better and worse compared to yesterday experience. And, it took me almost 3 hours to finish simple styles and the experience wasn't fun either.

So, what's wrong? 😠

I spent more than half of the time to think of which CSS properties should be grouped, which selectors I should do, what the class names should be. Although I consciously tried to avoid that, it still consumed a lot of my energy. I couldn't really explain why, the biggest reason is probably because we always have so many options with CSS and they keep growing over time.

Switch back to Tailwind again

So, I switched back to Tailwind again, not that I was convinced that Tailwind will work better, but to see again if Tailwind could solve the problems I mentioned above.

And... yeah... it actually solved the problems:

  • Tailwind comes with a very complete set of utilities, I've never had to think of grouping styles together. Almost every element can be styled with just Tailwind classes.

  • I styled directly at element-level, in HTML, so I've rarely had to think of CSS selectors.

  • Because I've never had to write CSS utilities myself, there wasn't any CSS "codebase" growing. Most importantly, I had nothing about CSS to keep in my mind. Now I knew it! When you write CSS, I believe "remembering its existence" consumes a lot of energy!

Conclusion

I had to say it was oddly interesting. Tailwind appears to be a "CSS framework", so my expectation was "I'll be able to write CSS faster and easier", but when looking at its documentation, it doesn't look faster and easier at all. It turned out, the problem Tailwind solved is somewhat a physiological problem when working with CSS.

So, give it try if you've ever skeptical!

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