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Styling buttons


I was working on a side project where I have a series of buttons but when I tried to style them the CSS did nothing.

In doing research, I discovered several things you can do and that I wasn't doing and things that I was doing wrong.

I'm working with SCSS/SASS because it's easier for me to nest rules and figure out associations between elements. It will be converted to CSS at build time.

Quick Reset #

The example I'll use in the rest of the post uses a reset. This could be used in addition to normalize.css or Eric Meyer's CSS Reset or as a standalone quick reset for all button elements.

button {
  background-color: transparent;
  border: none;
  cursor: pointer;
  color: inherit;
  font: inherit;
  padding: 0;

Styling buttons #

I start with setting the buttons to be inline-block rather than inline or block to keep being able to style and align them together if I so choose. (1)

display: inline-block brought a new way to create side by side boxes that collapse and wrap properly depending on the available space in the containing element. From: Inline vs Inline-Block Display in CSS

We align the text and remove any existing underline.

In the next block, we define margins, border-radius. It appears that this is the only way to size buttons. (2)

Next, we define the color for the text and background. In this case, we use a linear-gradient as an experiment. (3)

.btn {
  display: inline-block; /* 1 */
  text-align: center; /* 1 */
  text-decoration: none; /* 1 */

  margin: 2px 0; /* 2 */
  border-radius: 4px; /* 2 */
  padding: 1em 3em; /* 2 */

  color: #ffffff; /* 3 */
    linear-gradient(#9198e5, #e66465);/* 3 */

The two pseudo-classes, :active and :hover define two possible states for the button.

:active indicates the styles active when the user clicks the button. For this state, we move the element to the right and saturate the color (make it darker) and add an outline. (4)

  &:active { /* 4 */
    transform: translateX(10px);
    filter: saturate(300%);
    outline: 3px solid blue;

:hover provides the styles for when the user hovers over the button. In this state, we reverse the colors for the background and text.

  &:hover { /* 5 */
    color: white;
    border-color: currentColor;
    background: transparent;
    background-color: lightblue;
    outline: 3px solid blue;

Accessibility #

One additional thing to consider is accessibility.

Wes Bos asked on Twitter this question about button accessibility.

In particular pay attention to Andy Bell's answer in the Gist he provided

Conclusion #

This button is a test. All colors and actions are done as a test and will most likely change for production. You can see a working example in this codepen

Edit on Github