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A closeup of a computer containing CSS code, to enhance the idea of CSS technical documentation.

What Is CSS?

If you’re unfamiliar with CSS technical documentation, you may be unfamiliar with CSS itself. CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is the coding language developers use to design the look of any web content. In contrast, HTML, or HyperText Markup Language, is used to insert content into a webpage. CSS allows you to choose the text color, fonts, image and button styling, headers, footers, animation, etc. Without it, your website would just be plain text and unformatted graphics in a dull white space.

CSS also provides programmers with a centralized and streamlined place to bulk create and edit a website’s formatting. In other words, if you would like your “About Us” page, “Contact Us” page, and “Calendar” page to have identical formatting, a programmer can build one style sheet for all applicable web pages. Then, when the formatting needs to be tweaked or updated, the programmer can edit all three pages at the same time by making the appropriate changes in the CSS style sheet that controls them.

To maximize the benefits of CSS, someone has to have a map of how your company intends to use it. That’s where CSS technical documentation comes in.

What Is CSS Technical Documentation?

CSS technical documentation usually explains a company’s guidelines for coding specific web design elements. It can be thought of as a reference manual developers can use to write their CSS code according to company standards. However, a developer can also use it to acquire specific design elements for a web interface, to use CSS tools, or simply to learn how a code works. CSS documentation includes style guides, how-to guides, FAQs, indexes, and more.

Why Is CSS Technical Documentation Important?


A CSS user guide, or any code documentation for that matter, is to help developers understand and deliver their client’s desired product correctly, quickly, and efficiently. Say, for instance, a developer wants to display an animation feature on a home page but is unsure of what CSS code to use, or which among multiple possibilities the company prefers. A developer can consult the documentation that explains and exemplifies how to write the code for the animation feature.


CSS documentation spells out clearly what the company wants from any programmer who works with you. If you have delegated parts of a project to various programmers or simply have multiple projects going, you can rest assured that all of the work will adhere to the same conventions.

Knowledge Transfer

Good CSS technical documentation also makes it easier for employees to decipher or update older versions of your company’s code. The knowledge one developer has may be the solution another developer needs to solve a coding problem.

However, developers can only benefit from the documentation if someone knows what to document and how. Unfortunately, there are many cases of poorly written documentation that stop developers from documenting their coding or using any form of documentation at all. But as long as there are different style guides for CSS or different programming languages, documentation will need to address these differences. 

Who Creates CSS Technical Documentation?

Developers and technical writers normally create CSS technical documentation together. That is, a developer will write the code and communicate that information to a technical writer. The tech writer then organizes the information into a workable, readable document for other developers and users.

This model is standard across all industries and fields; a specialized technical writer will work with a specialized industry subject matter expert to develop user-friendly documentation. If you need a technical writer to assist in your CSS documentation process, Essential Data can connect you with the resources you need.

How to Create CSS Technical Documentation

Outline the Structure of Your Code

To make your code navigable and give programmers a bird’s eye view of the entire project, create an outline of your files. Define which webpage features are where in your code, and identify what parts need to be changed. You might also consider documenting past structures or alterations to know what worked and what didn’t.

Establish Style Guide Specifications

What to Put In a Style Guide

The style guide might include coding standards like organization and nesting rules, naming conventions, what selectors to use, etc. Additionally, perhaps in a separate document, it might include descriptions and examples of your desired website, like the positioning of a banner across all pages.

If you are unsure what to include in your style guide after laying out your basic rules, generate a list of CSS coding issues that you would like to avoid. You can brainstorm with your developing team or do some preemptive research. To start, here are some best practices resources:

  • DevriX
    • Points out common pitfalls to avoid, such as accidental margin collapse, animating the wrong properties, overwriting, and more.
  • SpeckyBoy
    • Provides general beginner tips that are useful when establishing companywide coding standards. For example, they recommend limiting repetition, restricting the use of the !important rule, avoiding inline styles, and committing to a one line form or standard form to keep code manageable.
  • MDN
    • Goes into detail about using style sheets.

How to Write a Style Guide

Once a developer understands the project on a macro scale, make sure they understand it on a micro scale. Your CSS style guide will likely include one or more style sheets — a list of CSS rules that determine the design of your page. Style sheets can be internal or external. Internal style sheets are written into the head of the web document CSS itself. Internal style sheets, as a result, aren’t very useful for writing style guides because they need to be repeated for every webpage.

The more workable, streamlined option is to build an external style sheet. External style sheets are separate CSS files that can be applied to any webpage document linked to it. An external style sheet provides programmers with a list of standards to reference and reuse in a single location.

Envato Tuts+, who offer courses on web design, offers the following recommendations for writing style sheets:

  • Spell out the dos and don’ts. Don’t just tell people what is incorrect, but also provide solutions to stylistic issues.
  • Include a best practices list as well. Carefully enumerate what the standards for your code are. While writing best practices, take into account that all programmers write code differently and what your list needs to address to achieve standardization.
  • Break down your list into short style sheets organized by category. It is much easier to navigate multiple labeled files than one long wall of words.

Test & Incorporate Feedback

Understanding what works and what doesn’t in your documentation increases success. Before putting your document into action, verify every component of it with your time. Test it and take feedback to heart.

Update Your Documentation

Allow current and future members of your team to float new ideas for your code, style guide, and best practices. If a change does occur, always update your old documents.

Where Can I Find Resources About CSS Technical Documentation? 

There are countless places to look for CSS technical documentation help. CSS resources come in the form of articles, technical documentation forums, podcasts, open learning resources, and so on.

Take, for example, MDN, previously known as the Mozilla Developer Network. It is a one-stop shop for web developers that provides information about CSS and other web design skills such as HTML, JavaScript, APIs, and HTTP. Here are some other CSS documentation resources that we recommend you check out:

  • MDN
    • As mentioned, MDN has a complete guide to various coding languages.
  • CSS Tricks
    • CSS Tricks offers articles, newsletters, and guides about CSS and other coding languages. With thousands of resources on its website, you’re sure to find new things to consider when designing your CSS documentation.
  • Frontend Mentor
    • Frontend Mentor is a place to practice coding, collaborate, and get feedback from other programmers. If you want to explore the possibilities of CSS, this is the place for you.
  • SitePoint
    • SitePoint also offers articles, tutorials, and collaboration in the fields of AI, computing, and programming. You can even join their Discord to exchange notes with others in your field.
  • W3C
    • The World Wide Web Consortium publishes standardized guides to all web standards technologies, including CSS. Here is W3C’s quick reference index for all CSS elements.


CSS technical documentation is often overlooked or considered unnecessary. While programmers are capable of designing serviceable webpages without documentation, they, like any member of a team, benefit from guidelines. CSS documentation prevents coding conflict between programmers past, present, and future. Because of the intricate nature of code, altering it can be a delicate and time-consuming process. CSS documentation uses the knowledge of programmers and the communication skills of technical writers to decrease resources spent on untangling CSS and prevent future programmers from writing code that unnecessarily complicates a company’s system.

Whether you need a single technical writer for a brief project or a team of consultants to produce a complete line of documentation, the quality of our work is guaranteed for you. Our clients work closely with an Engagement Manager from one of our 30 local offices for the entire length of your project at no additional cost. Contact us at (800) 221-0093 or to get started.