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Handling Long and Unexpected Content in CSS

When we write CSS, sometimes we forget about some edge cases in the designs. For example, when the content is longer than we expected and we didn’t account for that possibility, our design could break. We can’t guarantee that our CSS will always work as expected, but at least we can reduce that by testing different types of content.

When you code CSS, you’re writing abstract rules to take unknown content and organize it in an unknown medium. – Keith J. Grant

In this article, we will go through different UI bugs from real-world websites so we can account for them from the beginning. Ready? Let’s go!

A button with an icon placed on the right/left side

This is a toggle button for an accordion. There is an icon on the right side to emphasize that it is clickable. However, when the area is not big enough, the text will overlap the icon. This might happen when we don’t account for long content.

A solution would be to add an enough padding to the right side to accommodate for the size of the icon:

.button {
  padding-right: 50px;
}

Notice how increasing the padding creates a safe area for the icon. Now we can be sure that it won’t break if the text gets longer.

See the Pen A button with an icon by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Input Placeholder

When applying the float label pattern for our forms, especially with a button on the right side. We should test this thoroughly to avoid any issues when the label is too long.

A solution would be to add position: relative for the button. This will move it above the label.

See the Pen Long placeholder by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Long Names

In this design, the image is floated to the left and we have an author name on the right. What happens when the name is longer than expected? The UI will break.

The issue there is that we only floated the image to the left side. This might cause the author name to move beside it. However, this will only work if the name is not long.

To make it more robust, we should add width to both of the elements. Or, even better, use flexbox since it’s suitable for that small component.

See the Pen Long person name by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Long links/words inside an article body

Sometimes there are long links or words in an article. This might not cause an issue with a very wide viewport. But for smaller sizes like mobile or tablet, this will cause a horizontal scrolling and it will be annoying.

We have two solutions for such an issue:

1) Add overflow to the wrapper element and text-overflow to the links

.article-body p {
  word-break: break-all;
}

Please test well when using word-break since it has some differences between browsers. We recommend you to read this article on the topic.

2) Use CSS word-break

.article-body p {
  overflow: hidden;
  text-overflow: ellipsis;
}

This solution is safer and better for links. But for words, I would use word-break.

See the Pen Long links / words by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Long article tags

When we place an article tag over a card, we should only add padding for the spacing. Determining width and height might make the UI break when the tag content is too long.

If you want to have a minimum width for the tag, that’s fine. We can use min-width with padding around the tag content. That way, the width will be dynamic and the issue will be solved.

See the Pen Long article tags by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Section header with a link

In this example, we have a section title along with a “view more” link on the right. There are different ways to code this in CSS, one of them is using absolute positioning for the link.

This will cause issues in case the title was too long. A better solution could be to use flexbox. That way, it will automatically push the link to a new line when there is no enough space.

.header-2 {
  display: flex;
  flex-wrap: wrap;
  justify-content: space-between;
  align-items: center;
}

The above technique is called “Alignment Shifting Wrapping”. I learned about it two years ago from this article.

See the Pen Section header with a link by Ahmad Shadeed (@shadeed) on CodePen.

Conclusion

I learned the hard way that using dummy content or simply adding things randomly is not enough. We should add all types of content to our layouts until something breaks. I like to use Heydon Pickering’s forceFeed.js for adding content randomly to a specific component.


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