A (more) Modern CSS Reset

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I wrote “A Modern CSS Reset” almost 4 years ago and, yeh, it’s not aged overly well. I spotted it being linked up again a few days ago and thought it’s probably a good idea to publish an updated version.


I know I also have a terrible record with open source maintenance, so I thought I’d archive the original and just post this instead. Do with it what you want!

To be super clear, this is a reset that works for me, personally and us at Set Studio. Whenever I refer to “we”, that’s who I’m referring to.

The reset in whole permalink

Code language
CSS
/* Box sizing rules */
*,
*::before,
*::after {
  box-sizing: border-box;
}

/* Prevent font size inflation */
html {
  -moz-text-size-adjust: none;
  -webkit-text-size-adjust: none;
  text-size-adjust: none;
}

/* Remove default margin in favour of better control in authored CSS */
body, h1, h2, h3, h4, p,
figure, blockquote, dl, dd {
  margin-block-end: 0;
}

/* Remove list styles on ul, ol elements with a list role, which suggests default styling will be removed */
ul[role='list'],
ol[role='list'] {
  list-style: none;
}

/* Set core body defaults */
body {
  min-height: 100vh;
  line-height: 1.5;
}

/* Set shorter line heights on headings and interactive elements */
h1, h2, h3, h4,
button, input, label {
  line-height: 1.1;
}

/* Balance text wrapping on headings */
h1, h2,
h3, h4 {
  text-wrap: balance;
}

/* A elements that don't have a class get default styles */
a:not([class]) {
  text-decoration-skip-ink: auto;
  color: currentColor;
}

/* Make images easier to work with */
img,
picture {
  max-width: 100%;
  display: block;
}

/* Inherit fonts for inputs and buttons */
input, button,
textarea, select {
  font: inherit;
}

/* Make sure textareas without a rows attribute are not tiny */
textarea:not([rows]) {
  min-height: 10em;
}

/* Anything that has been anchored to should have extra scroll margin */
:target {
  scroll-margin-block: 5ex;
}

Breakdown permalink

As is tradition, let’s break it down:

Code language
CSS
/* Box sizing rules */
*,
*::before,
*::after {
  box-sizing: border-box;
}

This rule is pretty self explanatory, but in short, I’m setting all elements and pseudo-elements to use the border-boxrather than the default content-box for sizing. Now we’re focussing more on letting the browser do more work with flexible layouts with fluid type and space, this rule isn’t as useful as it once was. But, it’s rare that a project doesn’t have some explicit sizing somewhere, so it’s still got a place in the reset.

Code language
CSS
/* Prevent font size inflation */
html {
  -moz-text-size-adjust: none;
  -webkit-text-size-adjust: none;
  text-size-adjust: none;
}

The best explainer for this is by Kilian. He also explains why we still need those ugly prefixes too.

Code language
CSS
/* Remove default margin in favour of better control in authored CSS */
body, h1, h2, h3, h4, p,
figure, blockquote, dl, dd {
  margin-block-end: 0;
}

I’ll always favour stripping out user agent styles for margin in favour of defining flow and space at a more macro level. With logical properties, I’m removing the end margin now instead of all sides in the older reset. It seems to work well in production.

Code language
CSS
/* Remove list styles on ul, ol elements with a list role, which suggests default styling will be removed */
ul[role='list'],
ol[role='list'] {
  list-style: none;
}

Safari do some wild shit, which includes this one: if you remove list styling, they’ll remove the semantics for VoiceOver. Some will say it’s a feature and some will say it’s a bug. I say it’s daft, but to make sure that a role is added, I remove the list styling by default for it as a little reward.

Code language
CSS
/* Set core body defaults */
body {
  min-height: 100vh;
  line-height: 1.5;
}

I like a nice legible line height that gets inherited. Setting a min height as 100vh on the body is pretty handy too, especially if you’re gonna be setting decorative elements. It might be tempting to use a new unit like dvh, but if you delve deep like Ahmad has, you’ll see that can cause more problems than solutions, which is not what you want your reset to be doing!

The svh unit seems better than dvh, but I’m happy with vh. Always make sure you understand the newer units before diving head first into them, or recommending them as gospel is my advice. If something is already working for you, there’s no need to change it!

Code language
CSS
/* Set shorter line heights on headings and interactive elements */
h1, h2, h3, h4,
button, input, label {
  line-height: 1.1;
}

Just like it’s handy to have a generous line-height globally, it’s equally handy to have a shorter line-height for headings and buttons etc. It’s definitely worth removing or modifying this rule if your font has large ascenders and descenders though. The last thing you want is those clashing with each other and creating an accessibility issue.

Code language
CSS
/* Balance text wrapping on headings */
h1, h2,
h3, h4 {
  text-wrap: balance;
}

This rule is rather specific to our projects, but the newish text-wrap property makes headings look lovely. I imagine some people will find this not appropriate, so you might want to remove this one.

Code language
CSS
/* A elements that don't have a class get default styles */
a:not([class]) {
  text-decoration-skip-ink: auto;
  color: currentColor;
}

This rule is first making sure the text decoration doesn’t interfere with ascenders and descenders. I think this is mostly default in browsers now, but it’s a good insurance policy to set it too. We like to set links to inherit the currentColor of text too by default at the studio, but if you don’t, you probably want to remove it.

Code language
CSS
/* Inherit fonts for inputs and buttons */
input,
button,
textarea,
select {
  font: inherit;
}

The font: inherit shorthand is bloody useful and we certainly find that with inputs and form elements. It’s mostly going to affect <textarea> elements, but there’s no harm in applying it to other form elements too because it saves on some CSS later on in a project.

Code language
CSS
/* Make sure textareas without a rows attribute are not tiny */
textarea:not([rows]) {
  min-height: 10em
}

Speaking of <textarea> elements, this rule is handy. By default, if you don’t add a rows attribute, they can be super teeny. This isn’t ideal with coarse pointers such as fingers and by proxy, <textarea> elements tend to be used for multiple lines of text. It makes sense to make that easier.

Code language
CSS
/* Anything that has been anchored to should have extra scroll margin */
:target {
  scroll-margin-block: 5ex;
}

Finally, if an element is anchored, it makes sense to add a bit more space above it with scroll-margin, which is only accounted for if that element is targeted. A little tweak with lots of user experience power! You might want to adjust this if you have a fixed header though.

Wrapping up permalink

Will this reset last another 4 years? Maybe! The other one certainly hasn’t caused issues.

Regardless, it’s pretty useful as a base to start projects, here at the studio. We don’t go back and retroactively update the other reset on client projects either because that one works absolutely fine.

Resets are one of those things that people get worked up about, but really, with browsers being so bloody good now, you probably don’t even need one in the first place. My advice is take bits you like from ones you find on the web and create your own, that works for you and your team.


You can also read this post in Japanese.

This post and source code is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License.

Hello, I’m Andy and I’ll help you to level up your front-end development skills.

I’m a designer and front-end developer who has worked in the design and web industries for over 15 years, and in that time, I have worked with some of the largest organisations in the world, like Google, Harley-Davidson, BSkyB, Unilever, The Natural History Museum, Oracle, Capita, Vice Media and the NHS.

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