How to identify poorly written CSS code?

How often do you ponder upon the quality of your CSS code? How can you objectively figure out if your CSS code is well-done or poorly done? How can we sanitize poorly written CSS code and replace it with ideal coding practice?

Undeniably, poorly written CSS code in frontend web development can disrupt the overall functionality and the appearance of your website. A well-known thought-leader in web development community, Chris Coyier, has elucidated that “a single line of bad CSS can break an entire website”(Coyier, CSS-Tricks). Moreover, Google’s John Mueller in an interview stressed that unoptimized CSS can impact site performance and may affect SEO rankings (Mueller, Google SEO). The repercussion of poorly written CSS code is indeed alarming and necessitates the formulation of an efficient strategy to tackle the prevailing issue.

In this article, you will learn valuable insights and methodologies that will guide you in recognizing and rectifying poorly constructed CSS code. We will deconstruct complex topics and present you with an easy-to-understand and comprehensive guide. The focus will be on helping you understand and apply the best practices while writing CSS, identifying poorly written CSS code, and the necessary steps to optimize it.

We will touch upon common pitfalls and demonstrate, through real-life examples, the impact of poorly written CSS. This piece is aimed at empowering you to not only produce better coded sites but also ensure improved site performance and user experience.

How to identify poorly written CSS code?

Definitions and Understanding of Poorly Written CSS Code

Poorly written CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) code might not be easily identifiable for non-technical readers. Yet, recognising it is crucial to improve the appearance and responsiveness of a web page. A poorly written CSS code might involve unnecessary repetition, which can make the file larger and thus slow down the web page. Alternatively, it might be poorly organized with confusing or no comments – instructions within code that guide readers but don’t affect functionality. It could also lack specificity, making the code harder to read or modify. Clearly, identifying poor CSS code involves understanding these key aspects.

Unraveling the Rubik’s Cube: Spotting Poorly Written CSS Code

Understanding the Basics of CSS Code Quality

Poorly written CSS code can make a website sluggish, unresponsive, or visually unappealing, and difficult to maintain. One of the key indicators of a badly written CSS code is its complexity. Importance use (!important) can become a real issue when trying to keep track of styles or making updates. ‘!important’ declaration in CSS is intended to be the final say in a CSS property value. However, if it’s frequently found in your code, it can signal a problem. It can lead to messier, more convoluted stylesheets that are difficult to debug and maintain.

Redundancy is another sign of poor CSS structure. Redundant code mushrooming through a file leads to an inefficiency in the code structure. This can occur when multiple selectors are recreating the same style, or when a style is repeatedly overwritten with a different one.

Impact of Poor CSS on Performance and Maintainability

Inefficient CSS selectors can significantly slow down a web page, negatively impacting user experience. Deeply nested or overqualified selectors can also indicate poor CSS. This unnecessary depth can create performance issues and make the code harder to read and maintain.

Badly written CSS code can also include a copious use of inline styles or ‘hacks’ to make things work. Inline styles should be avoided because they increase the file size without leveraging the advantages of CSS like reusability and cacheability. Plus, hacks often entail a non-standard method of using CSS which can lead to similar maintainability and performance issues.

  • Overuse of ‘!important’ declaration
  • Redundant code
  • Inefficient, deeply nested or overqualified selectors
  • Frequent use of inline styles or hacks

Example of Poor CSS Code

Let’s look at an example where these bad practices materialize:

.container div div ul.nav li a.link {
color: blue !important;

#header .logo {
float: left !important;

In this small sample, you can see the overuse of ‘!important’, overly specific selectors, and redundancy. It is recommended to use class selectors in favor of type selectors and ID selectors, to prevent specificity issues.

Dissecting the Code: Key Indicators of Weak CSS Code Construction

The Complexities Behind the Surface

Is every line of your CSS code truly serving its purpose? The essence of writing good CSS code lies in its efficiency and simplicity. Alongside making our website visually appealing, it should also be optimal in nature. Understanding, maintaining, and optimizing CSS code can seem like a daunting task for beginners and even sometimes for experienced developers. But how can we differentiate between strong and weak CSS code constructions? The answer is by looking into its core components. Are they clear and comprehensive? Are they capable of handling any changes that might be required during the design process? If the response to these questions is doubtful, then it’s highly likely that the CSS code is poorly written.

Main Hurdles in Crafting Efficient CSS Code

Certain flaws and pitfalls often go unnoticed during the creation of CSS code. Specifically, redundancy and over-complication are two major hassles that plague the world of CSS code writing. Redundancy refers to the extra or duplicate CSS rules that are not adding any real value to the code or the website. It overcomplicates the code making it hard to read, debug, and maintain. Similarly, the overuse of !important rule, inline styles, excessive specificity, and a lack of a systematic approach are some of the common problems that render the code weak. A poorly constructed CSS code can lead to longer load times, unattractive visuals, and in the worst case, a broken layout.

Beyond the Norm: Exemplary CSS Code Practices

Overcoming the mentioned hurdles requires a potent combination of best practices and innovative solutions. CSS developers must first and foremost adhere to the DRY (Don’t Repeat Yourself) principle to avoid redundancy. They must make use of shorthand properties and grouping selectors wherever necessary to enhance readability and maintenance. Additionally, adopting a modular approach by utilizing CSS methodologies like BEM (Block, Element, Modifier) can greatly increase the scalability of the code. The use of preprocessors like Sass or Less can be an added advantage as they provide functionalities such as variables, mixins, and nested syntax, which can drastically reduce the size of the CSS file and improve performance. Understanding and implementing these practices can be transformative. It not only strengthens the quality of the CSS code but also primes it for any future changes and upgrades. The creation of an efficient, maintainable, and scalable CSS code might be a little demanding, but is surely a skill worth mastering.

Beyond Just Looks: The Impact of Ill-Constructed CSS Code on Your Website

Does Your CSS Code Stand Up to The Test?

Here’s a thought-provoking question to grapple with: is the style and appearance of your website entirely dependent on its CSS specification? The answer is turning out to be far from straightforward. Robust CSS code is the bread and butter of an optimally functional, user-friendly website. However, poor CSS construction can spell disaster for your website’s usability, accessibility, and overall performance. In addition to creating awkward-looking layouts, bad CSS can lead to difficulty in maintainability, while slowing down a website. More crucial than that, ill-structured CSS can produce serious barriers for users with disabilities, undermining the inclusivity of your website. Despite CSS’s seemingly secondary role to HTML, its impact on your website is far from secondary.

The Pitfalls of Poorly-Constructed CSS

The main problem with poorly constructed CSS is that it can have far-reaching, unintended consequences. Poor usage of selectors, for example, could affect undesignated parts of the website, leading to inconsistencies and visual bugs. Over-reliance on ‘!important’ is a common issue: it overrides natural cascading and makes it challenging to debug and manage the code later on. Another problem can be excessive nesting, which not only makes code difficult to read but can lead to performance issues. Similarly, overusing or incorrectly using shorthand properties can lead to unwanted side effects or overrides. Ill-structured CSS can also impact your site’s loading speed negatively: unnecessary lines of code, excessive divs and complicated selectors can significantly slow down your website.

Nailing The Perfect CSS Construction

Best practices for good CSS construction are usually straightforward, once known and implemented regularly. Firstly, adopting a CSS methodology (like BEM or SMACSS) is valuable for maintainability and predictability of your CSS code. Secondly, instead of overusing the ‘!important’ declaration, use specificity and the natural cascading nature of CSS to your advantage. Remote CSS, base CSS and module CSS can help you control specificity better. Thirdly, avoid excessive nesting unless absolutely necessary: instead, use clearly specified class or ID selectors. Fourthly, preference shorthand properties should be used correctly, and only when all its values need defining. Implement comments liberally to demarcate sections and explain any complicated code for future reference. Lastly, use compression tools to minify your CSS, reducing file size and thereby increasing the loading speed of your website. These practices can improve the accessibility, usability, and aesthetic appeal, while also ensuring the maintainability of your CSS code.


Is your website running smoothly? This is the key question to ask yourself if you are using CSS code. The smoothness of your website is the first indication of the quality of your CSS code. Identifying poorly written CSS code is vital for the overall functionality of your site. Sub-optimal CSS can slow your site down, affect its visual appeal and navigation, and ultimately cause your users to have a less than optimal experience. But remember, identifying poor CSS code is just the first step. The subsequent steps such as refactoring the code and creating a CSS guideline for your team to follow are equally important in improving the overall quality of your site.

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In conclusion, we reiterate the necessity of properly written CSS to yield the best results for your website. As we prepare new material for our readers, we hope to shed more light on the intricacies of CSS. Our forthcoming posts will explore strategies to spot bad CSS code and strategies to improve it. Critical to maintaining the health and sustainability of your website is understanding how CSS works and how it can be leveraged effectively. Stay tuned for our future posts – we look forward to helping make your coding journey a little bit easier.


1. What are the signs of poorly written CSS code?
Poorly written CSS code can often be identified by excessive use of ‘!important’ tags and redundant selectors. Also, if the style sheet is extremely lengthy and difficult to navigate, it’s likely not well structured or efficient.

2. What does excessive use of ‘!important’ in CSS mean?
Excessive use of the ‘!important’ tag in CSS generally indicates a lack of understanding of specificity and cascading principles. This could cause fundamental difficulties in maintaining and scaling the stylesheet in future.

3. How can redundant selectors contribute to inefficient CSS?
Redundant selectors can lead to an unnecessarily bloated CSS file. Not only do these selectors make the files bigger and slower to load, but they also make them more complicated and challenging to maintain.

4. Why does lengthy and difficult to navigate CSS code indicate poor writing?
A well-written CSS code should be concise, logically organized and easy to navigate. Lengthy and haphazardly organized code can indicate a lack of planning, structure and efficiency in the code, making it poor in quality.

5. What steps can be taken to improve poorly written CSS code?
Improving poorly written CSS code could start with reducing the use of ‘!important’ tags, removing redundant selectors and ensuring that the code is tidy and well-structured. Regularly reviewing and refactoring the CSS code can also help improve its quality and maintainability.