I recently, as many web designers and developers will have, became aware of a fantastic resource put together by web developer, Paul Irish, and Divya Manian. HTML5 Boilerplate, as they have named it, is a powerful starting off point for any website or web application.

As Paul Irish describes it: “It’s essentially a good starting template of html and css and a folder structure that works., but baked into it is years of best practices from front-end development professionals.”


We will start off by checking out some of the html snippets used in the resource. All of these are snippets of code that may not necessarily be only html, but will definitely be placed in your html files if used.

Favicon and Apple icons

The favicon is pretty much normality these day. the interesting bit here is the apple-touch-icon which is used if you save a bookmark to your home screen on an apple touch device such as an iPad or iPhone. Interestingly enough, android also supports its usage.

As far as I can tell, the apple-touch-icon size is 60px by 60px. As the comment says, if your icons are in the root of your domain, these links aren’t required.

<!-- Place favicon.ico and apple-touch-icon.png in the root of your domain and delete these references -->
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/favicon.ico">
<link rel="apple-touch-icon" href="/apple-touch-icon.png">

Faster page load hack

This empty conditional comment hack is used to basically increase performance of your site. When conditional comments are used on your site, for example, for an ie6 conditional stylesheet, it will block further downloads until the css files are fully downloaded, hence increasing load time.

To solve this issue, an empty conditional comment, like below, is used before any css is loaded in the document, and the problem will be solved! For further reading, check out this article.

<!--[if IE]><![endif]-->


Internet Explorer has many rendering engines ready for use. What this line of code basically does is force IE to use the most up to date rendering engine that it has available, so that your pages will render as well as possible. It then goes on to talk about Chrome Frame. Chrome Frame is a plugin for IE6, 7, and 8 which brings all the rendering, and js power of Google Chrome to IE.

If the user has it installed, we render our site using it. For more information on Chrome Frame, and how you can even prompt users without it to install it, check here.

<!-- Always force latest IE rendering engine (even in intranet) & Chrome Frame -->
<meta http-equiv="X-UA-Compatible" content="IE=edge,chrome=1">

Conditional body tag

This snippet is a Paul Irish original, and allows you to target IE browsers specifically without having to add in an extra http request with another separate stylesheet.

Basically, depending on the IE browser that the user is using, a class is added to the body tag. If the user is not using IE, then a classless body tag is used. This allows you to target specific browsers in your css without having to use css hacks, or further stylesheets. For further reading, check out the original article on this.

<!--[if lt IE 7 ]> <body class="ie6"> <![endif]-->
<!--[if IE 7 ]>    <body class="ie7"> <![endif]-->
<!--[if IE 8 ]>    <body class="ie8"> <![endif]-->
<!--[if IE 9 ]>    <body class="ie9"> <![endif<]-->
<!--[if (gt IE 9)|!(IE)]><!-->  <!--<![endif]-->

jQuery loading fallback

A vast majority of sites these days make use of the jQuery JavaScript library. A vast majority also make use of Google’s hosted version of the library for faster loading speed’s, and better cross site caching. However, what if there is ever a problem and jQuery is not loaded from Google? Well here is your backup.

What it basically does is check if jQuery is loaded from Google. If not, then we load it locally from our own version of jQuery.

<!-- Grab Google CDN's jQuery. fall back to local if necessary -->
<script src="http://ajax.googleapis.com/ajax/libs/jquery/1.4.2/jquery.min.js"></script>
<script>!window.jQuery && document.write('<script src="js/jquery-1.4.2.min.js"><\/script>')</script>

Optimised Google Analytics

Google Analytics is a very popular tool for tracking your website’s user behaviour, and visits.

This is simply an optimised version of Google’s asynchronous tracking snippet. To learn what has been optimised, and why it is faster than Google’s own version, read the article here.

<!-- asynchronous google analytics
change the UA-XXXXX-X to be your site's ID -->
 var _gaq = [['_setAccount', 'UA-XXXXX-X'], ['_trackPageview']];
 (function(d, t) {
  var g = d.createElement(t),
      s = d.getElementsByTagName(t)[0];
  g.async = true;
  g.src = '//www.google-analytics.com/ga.js';
  s.parentNode.insertBefore(g, s);
 })(document, 'script');


Moving on into CSS, this is where the vast majority of awesome snippets care to be found. Don’t be put off by some of the one-liners; they are just as useful and awesome as some of the larger snippets to be found.

HTML5 ready reset

Plenty of you will have used Eric Meyer’s css reset before now. It is included in many frameworks and so on, like 960.gs. This is a revamped version of that reset, that brings it into the present with full support for html5. It sets all the new structural tags as block level, and resets all their default styling as expected.

/*   html5doctor.com Reset Stylesheet (Eric Meyer's Reset Reloaded + HTML5 baseline)  v1.4 2009-07-27 | Authors: Eric Meyer & Richard Clark  html5doctor.com/html-5-reset-stylesheet/*/
html, body, div, span, object, iframe,
h1, h2, h2, h4, h5, h6, p, blockquote, pre,
abbr, address, cite, code,
del, dfn, em, img, ins, kbd, q, samp,
small, strong, sub, sup, var,
b, i,
dl, dt, dd, ol, ul, li,
fieldset, form, label, legend,
table, caption, tbody, tfoot, thead, tr, th, td,
article, aside, figure, footer, header, hgroup, menu, nav, section, menu,
time, mark, audio, video {

article, aside, figure, footer, header,
hgroup, nav, section { display:block; }

nav ul { list-style:none; }

blockquote, q { quotes:none; }

blockquote:before, blockquote:after,
q:before, q:after { content:''; content:none; }

a { margin:0; padding:0; font-size:100%; vertical-align:baseline; background:transparent; }

ins { background-color:#ff9; color:#000; text-decoration:none; }

mark { background-color:#ff9; color:#000; font-style:italic; font-weight:bold; }

del { text-decoration: line-through; }

abbr[title], dfn[title] { border-bottom:1px dotted #000; cursor:help; }

/* tables still need cellspacing="0" in the markup */
table { border-collapse:collapse; border-spacing:0; }

hr { display:block; height:1px; border:0; border-top:1px solid #ccc; margin:1em 0; padding:0; }

input, select { vertical-align:middle; }

Font normalisation

To get rid of rendering inconsistencies that can occur between browsers and OS’s when rendering fonts in pixels, this snippet allows you to size your fonts in such a way that the size and line-height will remain consistent across these platforms for your website.

You will basically be setting your font sizes via percentages that can be found here.

fonts.css from the YUI Library: developer.yahoo.com/yui/
Please refer to developer.yahoo.com/yui/fonts/ for font sizing percentages
body { font:13px sans-serif; *font-size:small; *font:x-small; line-height:1.22; }
table { font-size:inherit; font:100%; }
select, input, textarea { font:99% sans-serif; }

Webkit font smoothing

This is anti-aliasing for webkit browsers, sadly only in Mac OSX. It basically makes your text render better, and make it more readable, without all the text thinning hacks that we have seen in the past. For further reading check out Tim Van Damme’s article on this.

/* maxvoltar.com/archive/-webkit-font-smoothing */
html { -webkit-font-smoothing: antialiased; }

Force scrollbar

Sometimes, pages can be shorter than the browser view-port, and when you load a page on the same site that has longer content and uses a scrollbar, content can jump side to side. By forcing a scrollbar no matter the height of our content, we stop this small, but annoying issue.

html { overflow-y: scroll; }

Formatting quoted code

This snippet simply makes the text wrap when it reaches the walls of its container, in this case, the pre tag, whilst still preserving line breaks and white space cross browser.

pre {
padding: 15px;
white-space: pre; /* CSS2 */
white-space: pre-wrap; /* CSS 2.1 */
white-space: pre-line; /* CSS 3 (and 2.1 as well, actually) */
word-wrap: break-word; /* IE */

Aligning Labels

Alignment of labels with their relevant inputs can be a horrible task to achieve in older browsers. This snippets solves that for us by making it consistent across browsers!

/* align checkboxes, radios, text inputs with their label */
input[type="radio"] { vertical-align: text-bottom; }
input[type="checkbox"] { vertical-align: bottom; *vertical-align: baseline; }
.ie6 input { vertical-align: text-bottom; }

Clickable inputs

For some reason, most browsers don’t apply a pointer cursor to some clickable input’s by default to let the user now that this item is clickable, so we solve this by doing it ourselves.

/* hand cursor on clickable input elements */
label, input[type=button], input[type=submit], button { cursor: pointer; }

Screenreader access

This snippet basically gives us the best of both worlds, allowing the best usability when it comes to link outlines for both screenreaders tabbing through links, and mouse users.

a:hover, a:active { outline: none; }

a, a:active, a:visited { color:#607890; }
a:hover { color:#036; }

IE7 image resizing

Ie7 by default uses an image resizing algorithm that means that scaled down images can look far from awesome. To solve this, we simply enable a much better resizing algorithm that is available in Ie7 that produces results similar to what you’d expect from most image editing software.

/* bicubic resizing for non-native sized IMG:
code.flickr.com/blog/2008/11/12/on-ui-quality-the-little-things-client-side-image-resizing/ */
.ie7 img { -ms-interpolation-mode: bicubic; }

Print styles

Any decent site should be print ready, as even though we live in a technology driven time, people still like to have  a hard copy of some information. This snippet firstly uses a css media declaration, allowing you to include this in your main stylesheet, and not having to place another link in the head of your document.

This benefits load time, as even when the page inst being printed, a browser will always download that extra css file, generating an extra http request. The snippet then goes on to include some useful print styles such as printing our link urls, and so on.

* print styles
* inlined to avoid required HTTP connection www.phpied.com/delay-loading-your-print-css/
@media print {
* { background: transparent !important; color: #444 !important; text-shadow: none; }
  a, a:visited { color: #444 !important; text-decoration: underline; }
  a:after { content: " (" attr(href) ")"; }
  abbr:after { content: " (" attr(title) ")"; }    .ir a:after { content: ""; }  /* Don't show links for images */    pre, blockquote { border: 1px solid #999; page-break-inside: avoid; }    img { page-break-inside: avoid; }
  @page { margin: 0.5cm; }
  p, h2, h2 { orphans: 3; widows: 3; }
  h2, h2{ page-break-after: avoid; }

Device orientation

These are just two css media queries you may want to use for your website development. With lots of smart-phones, and tablets being able to orientate their screens from landscape to portrait, you may want to include different styles for each. This is how you would go about achieving this.

@media all and (orientation:portrait) {
/* Style adjustments for portrait mode goes here */

@media all and (orientation:landscape) {
/* Style adjustments for landscape mode goes here */


One thing that this starting point template does come with that other starting point templates generally don’t, is server sided files. Check out these awesome .htaccess snippets that can easily improve your site.

X-UA-Compatible Server sided

This is the same as the html version mentioned above, forcing the latest rendering engine in IE, and Chrome Frame if it exists. The benefit of including this in your .htaccess file is that it saves you having to declare this in the head of each and every html document you produce.

  <IfModule mod_headers.c>
    BrowserMatch MSIE ie
    Header set X-UA-Compatible "IE=Edge,chrome=1" env=ie

Gzip compression

Gzip compression allows us to drastically reduce out file sizes. This .htaccess snippet does the gzipping for us.

# gzip compression.
<IfModule mod_deflate.c>
  # html, xml, css, and js:
  AddOutputFilterByType DEFLATE text/html text/plain text/xml text/css application/x-javascript text/javascript application/javascript application/json
  # webfonts and svg:
  <FilesMatch "\.(ttf|otf|eot|svg)$" >
    SetOutputFilter DEFLATE

Expiry date for cache filetypes

When we cache our files on the user’s machine, we may want to specify how long they remain there, depending on how often we change them ourselves. This snippet provides basic times for common file types, some of which you may wish to change for your own site.

# these are pretty far-future expires headers
# they assume you control versioning with cachebusting query params like
#   <script src="application.js?20100608">
# additionally, consider that outdated proxies may miscache
#   www.stevesouders.com/blog/2008/08/23/revving-filenames-dont-use-querystring/
# if you don't use filenames to version, lower the css and js to something like
#   "access plus 1 week" or so
<IfModule mod_expires.c>
  Header set cache-control: public
  ExpiresActive on

  # Perhaps better to whitelist expires rules? Perhaps.
  ExpiresDefault                          "access plus 1 month"
  # cache.manifest needs re-reqeusts in FF 3.6 (thx Remy ~Introducing HTML5)
  ExpiresByType text/cache-manifest       "access plus 0 seconds"
  # your document html
  ExpiresByType text/html                  "access"
  # rss feed
  ExpiresByType application/rss+xml       "access plus 1 hour"
  # favicon (cannot be renamed)
  ExpiresByType image/vnd.microsoft.icon  "access plus 1 week"
  # media: images, video, audio
  ExpiresByType image/png                 "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType image/jpg                 "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType image/jpeg                "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType video/ogg                 "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType audio/ogg                 "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType video/mp4                 "access plus 1 month"
  # webfonts
  ExpiresByType font/ttf                  "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType font/woff                 "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType image/svg+xml             "access plus 1 month"
  # css and javascript
  ExpiresByType text/css                  "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType application/javascript    "access plus 1 month"
  ExpiresByType text/javascript           "access plus 1 month"

# Since we're sending far-future expires, we don't need ETags for
# static content.
#   developer.yahoo.com/performance/rules.html
FileETag None

Further Thoughts

I strongly suggest you go check out their website. It is a fantastic resource that houses all of these snippets and more, that I am sure you will find useful.

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