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Using CSS Houdini with Progressive Enhancement & Final Thoughts

Adrian Bece
React, Frontend, Magento 2 certified developer. Magento PWA Studio contributor. Rock and metal music fan. Reads Dune, sci-fi novels and Calvin & Hobbes. Creates amazing interfaces @
Originally published at ・3 min read

This post has been originally published on Smashing Magazine and I decided to split it into parts to make it more digestible. This is the last part in the series. If you've followed this series up to this point, thank you and I hope you found it useful and insightful!

Houdini And Progressive Enhancement

Even though CSS Houdini doesn’t have optimal browser support yet, it can be used today with progressive enhancement in mind. If you are unfamiliar with Progressive enhancement, it would be worth to check out this handy article which explains it really well. If you decide on implementing Houdini in your project today, there are few things to keep in mind:

  • Use feature detection to prevent errors.Each Houdini API and Worklet offers a simple way of checking if it’s available in the browser. Use feature detection to apply Houdini enhancements only to browsers that support it and avoid errors.
  • Use it for presentation and visual enhancement only.Users that are browsing a website on a browser that doesn’t yet support Houdini should have access to the content and core functionality of the website. User experience and the content presentation shouldn’t depend on Houdini features and should have a reliable fallback.
  • Make use of a standard CSS fallback.For example, regular CSS Custom Properties can be used as a fallback for styles defined using Custom Properties & Values API.

Focus on developing a performant and reliable website user experience first and then use Houdini features for decorative purposes as a progressive enhancement.


Houdini APIs will finally enable developers to keep the JavaScript code used for style manipulation and decoration closer to the browser’s rendering pipeline, resulting in better performance and stability. By allowing developers to hook into the browser rendering process, they will be able to develop various CSS polyfills that can be easily shared, implemented and, potentially, added to CSS specification itself. Houdini will also make developers and designers less constrained by the CSS limitations when working on styling, layouts, and animations, resulting in new delightful web experiences.

CSS Houdini features can be added to projects today, but strictly with progressive enhancement in mind. This will enable browsers that do not support Houdini features to render the website without errors and offer optimal user experience.

It’s going to be exciting to watch what the developer community will come up with as Houdini gains traction and better browser support. Here are some awesome examples of Houdini API experiments from the community:


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