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Andrea Verlicchi

Making the web faster and more sustainable

Critical CSS with Jekyll and SASS

My blog used to be run by Jekyll on GitHub pages and its CSS was built using SASS. Today I decided to boost performance even more inlining the render-blocking critical CSS, but even searching the internet I struggled to find an easy way to do it. This post is for you, in case you want to do the same.

The critical style #

In the critical SASS file, use the SASS @import directive to include all the partials that have an impact on the layout of your page. Also include your variables and mixins that might be required from the imported partials.

For instance, I'm importing:

The posts_above partial initially was a single file called posts, but I decided to split it in two separate files to optimize even more. The other partial, named posts_below, contains information to style the post footer (the author section, the share button) so it's not included here.

→ Create a critical.scss file inside the includes folder.

File includes/critical.scss:

// Import partials for critical css content
@import "variables", "mixins", "base",
  "layout", "posts_above", "pages",

IMPORTANT: Place this file in the includes folder! You'll need to include it in your HTML later.

Stick it in your head #

Inline the critical CSS inside a style tag in the <head> section of your HTML. You can do that using the following Jekyll code, which is based on the Liquid template engine used in Jekyll.

→ Open your head.html partial if you have any.

File includes/head.html:

{% capture critical %}
  {% include minima_critical.scss %}
{% endcapture %}

{{ critical | scssify }}

The rest of your stylesheet #

If your website is simple enough, you can import the rest of your partials inside a single SCSS file, which you will load asynchronously using JavaScript.

I for instance imported there all the SASS partials which style the page sections that are likely to appear below-the-fold:

→ Put the rest of your SASS rules inside your regular CSS file.

File assets/main.scss:


// Import partials for below-the-fold content
@import "variables", "mixins",
  "posts_below", "syntax-highlighting",
  "footer", "code", "pagination",
  "icons", "iframes", "tables";

IMPORTANT: The two lines with a triple dash at the beginning of the file are required by Jekyll to recognize and deploy the file as content.

Load the rest of your stylesheet #

There are many ways to load the rest of your CSS using Javascript, but I've decided to use the modern async technique which makes a CSS file load with low priority, then apply it to the page when loaded.

File head.html:

  href="{{ '/assets/main.css' | relative_url }}"

This works!

Conclusion #

Inlining the critical part of your CSS makes your pages to display faster since CSS is in the browser's critical rendering path.

Give it a try! If you have any comments, let me know in the comments section below!