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The Many Ways to Include CSS in JavaScript Applications

Last updated 1 year ago by Dominic Magnifico


Welcome to an incredibly controversial topic in the land of front-end development! I’m sure that a majority of you reading this have encountered your fair share of #hotdrama surrounding how CSS should be handled within a JavaScript application.

I want to preface this post with a disclaimer: There is no hard and fast rule that establishes one method of handling CSS in a React, or Vue, or Angular application as superior. Every project is different, and every method has its merits! That may seem ambiguous, but what I do know is that the development community we exist in is full of people who are continuously seeking new information, and looking to push the web forward in meaningful ways.

Preconceived notions about this topic aside, let’s take a look at the fascinating world of CSS architecture!

Let us count the ways

Simply Googling "How to add CSS to [insert framework here]" yields a flurry of strongly held beliefs and opinions about how styles should be applied to a project. To try to help cut through some of the noise, let’s examine a few of the more commonly utilized methods at a high level, along with their purpose.

#Option 1: A dang ol’ stylesheet

We’ll start off with what is a familiar approach: a dang ol’ stylesheet. We absolutely are able to <link> to an external stylesheet within our application and call it a day.

<link rel="stylesheet" href="styles.css">

We can write normal CSS that we’re used to and move on with our lives. Nothing wrong with that at all, but as an application gets larger, and more complex, it becomes harder and harder to maintain a single stylesheet. Parsing thousands of lines of CSS that are responsible for styling your entire application becomes a pain for any developer working on the project. The cascade is also a beautiful thing, but it also becomes tough to manage in the sense that some styles you — or other devs on the project — write will introduce regressions into other parts of the application. We’ve experienced these issues before, and things like Sass (and PostCSS more recently) have been introduced to help us handle these issues

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