The Economic Advantages of TailwindCSS That Nobody Talks About

TailwindCSS is a utility-first CSS framework, introduced by Adam Wathan in 2017. It was developed to improve the developer experience of styling modern web apps. TailwindCSS provides a set of utility classes that can be embedded into UI elements to rapidly build User Interfaces. The utility classes given by Tailwind are very minimalist where each Tailwind utility class maps to 1-3 CSS rules.

TailwindCSS is designed with rapid iteration in mind. It improves the developer productivity over traditional CSS with its utility class-based model.

It is often compared to other styling solutions. Some common concerns like the reduction of markup readability and violation of the separation of concerns principle are often raised when discussing TailwindCSS. These concerns were thoroughly addressed by the creator of Tailwind in this article and you can check it out for your own curiosity.

But I feel that these comparisons are missing the point because TailwindCSS was designed to solve more problems beyond just styling and provides unique economic advantages for a business that uses it. Therefore, the goal of this article would not be to discuss about these comparisons, but to introduce the unique problems solved by TailwindCSS.

TailwindCSS as a communication channel

In a business environment, software development is not done in isolation. It is a collaborative effort with the interest and participation of multiple parties. For the context of this article, we will focus on full-stack web development projects. A subset of different parties in a full-stack web project can be outlined in a spectrum as follows.

Each of these parties contribute to the development of a project according to user requirements. Efficient communication and collaboration between these parties are critical to the successful delivery of a product.

The design team is often the first entry point in the process of converting user requirements into a cohesive product. They decipher the user requirements and generate UX flows, which are then converted into UI designs and prototypes. After multiple iterations of the design with feedback from the user, each completed design is handed off to the front-end team.

In order to maintain a seamless development lifecycle, there should be strong bi-directional communication between the design team and the front-end development team. But the design team and the front-end team are used to thinking in different paradigms. This friction between the two teams can slow down the progress of the development of the entire project.

This is precisely the point where TailwindCSS can be utilized to the best of its ability. We can use it to create a fast communication channel between the designers and front-end developers.

TailwindCSS bridges the gap between designers and front-end developers.

The User Interface at the design system level can be readily expressed by TailwindCSS utilities as the utility classes that Tailwind provides have been selected according to a carefully curated scale that works well with each other. The design team can identify reusable components in the design and annotate the properties of that component with the utilities. When there is a need to introduce spacing, color, etc. values to the design beyond the curated values given by Tailwind, the teams can work together to add them to a configuration file with the same names used in the design.

This process can greatly accelerate the development team's velocity. That's because the development team can now translate those components into code using the same utility classes put forward by the design team. Since TailwindCSS makes it easy to express different component states and responsive breakpoints via its prefix system, these states and breakpoints can also be communicated efficiently in terms of utility classes.

The product development process becomes seamless with the design team and the front-end team engaging in frictionless communication. This introduces a level of flexibility to the product development process. The design team and the development team can make changes on either end and communicate the changes efficiently with each other in a single channel. This enables a rapid iteration cycle that helps to satisfy the user's requirements to a greater degree.

Due to better communication, the interaction between designer and developer teams becomes fluid. Which enables increased developer experience and designer experience. As a side effect, the overall quality of the software product is also increased that leads to a great user experience for the users.

In summary, TailwindCSS allows development teams to prototype and iterate fast on a product due to its built-in design system. It can also act as a coding style guide that helps to mitigate conflicts in styling that can happen in a team codebase. This is because the developers cannot use any value possible for styling purposes. A level of consistency is enforced as a feature of the styling solution offloading that responsibility off the tech lead. The accelerated velocity of the development team and the increased efficiency in the design handoff process is made possible by choosing TailwindCSS.

This directly translates to favorable business outcomes that cannot be obtained with any other mainstream styling solution. Tailwind provides these economic advantages out of the box while you might have to setup a custom system to gain the same advantages using other styling solutions.

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Manupa Samarawickrama

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