Dry CSS: mixins or extends?

2016. July 26.

I have been doing some research on CSS optimization lately so I bumped into an apparently popular question about mixins and extends: which of these 2 seemingly powerful tools of Sass should we use and when?

DRY principle: do not repeat yourself

In short, mixins can be created to hold up a number of rules, so whenever we include one of these mixins, the preprocessor will include (=paste) those lines of code to that exact place, which leads to repetition.

Extends (or placeholders) work in a different way; whenever we use an extend rule, the given selector will be placed next to the extended selector, which may save up a lot of lines of code, but also leads to a very fragmented buildup (if you are not familiar with SASS, this is the place to go).

There are a number of articles out there (here and here) explaining why extends suck, but there is one I would like to highlight, and that is from Harry Roberts, who points out the real purpose of DRY:

“Repetition in a compiled system is not a bad thing: repetition in source is a bad thing.” — Harry Roberts

In that sense we can agree that using mixins (even without variables) will still be able to keep our code dry. The question is however: what performance issues may we face? To answer that, Shay Howe did a very interesting experiment: turned out thanks to Gzip, the more repetition we have in our file the better the compression will be. Very impressive.

Hi, I'm Gábor

I design and develop web applications using Angular, React, Node.js, Firebase and more. Wanna work together? Say hello: gaborpinter@proton.me