Difference Between CSS and SCSS: A Guide for Web Developers

Learn the key differences between CSS and SCSS, their features, advantages, and disadvantages, and how to choose the best one for your web development needs.

Difference Between CSS and SCSS: A Guide for Web Developers

CSS and SCSS are both popular technologies for styling web pages and creating attractive layouts. But what are the main differences between them, and why should you use one over the other? In this blog post, we will explore the features, advantages, and disadvantages of CSS and SCSS, and help you decide which one is best suited for your web development needs.

What is CSS?

CSS stands for Cascading Style Sheets, and it is a scripting language used to define the presentation and layout of a web page written in HTML or XML. CSS follows a cascading hierarchy, where styles defined at a higher level in the stylesheet cascade down to affect the lower-level elements. CSS is now an essential part of web development in conjunction with HTML and JavaScript. CSS has a file extension of .css.

CSS was first proposed by Håkon Wium Lie in 1994, and the first W3C CSS Recommendation (CSS1) was issued in 1996. It is designed to allow the separation of content and presentation, such as colors, fonts, and layout. The separation of content and presentation may improve the content usability and give more flexibility to control the presentation specification. It also allows many web pages to share formatting by specifying the associated CSS in a separate .css file and minimizing complexity and duplication in the structural context.

Some of the advantages of using CSS are:

  • Consistency: CSS helps to create a consistent structure that web designers can use to construct other pages. Because of this, the web designer's working efficiency also improves.
  • Ease of Use: It is very easy to learn CSS and facilitates the creation of websites. All codes are put on one page, meaning it would not involve going through multiple pages to improve or edit the lines.
  • Website Speed: Typically, the code used by a website may be up to 2 or more pages. But with CSS, that's not the code, and thus the web site database remains uncluttered, avoiding any website loading problems.
  • Multiple Browser Support: Many browsers support CSS. It is consistent with all the web browsers on the internet.
  • Transfer Size: It decreases the size of the file transfer. Therefore, the file transfer is very quick.
  • Web-Page crawl: CSS helps to allow SEO for the website. Adding CSS to the web pages makes it easier for the search engine to find the website in the search result.

Some of the disadvantages of using CSS are:

  • Many CSS versions: As opposed to other versions like HTML or JavaScript, CSS has various versions such as CSS1, CSS2, CSS2.1, and CSS3.
  • Fragmentations: There's a possibility with the CSS that we work with one browser, and we will not be able to work with other web browsers. Thus, web developers need to verify compatibility by running the software through various browsers before the website is set up.
  • Complications: With the use of third-party tools like Microsoft FrontPage, CSS might become complicated.
  • Lack of Security: CSS is a system based on open text, so it has no built-in security mechanism that stops it from being overridden. Anyone can alter the CSS file and modify the links by accessing its read and write operations.

What is SCSS?

SCSS stands for Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets, and it is a preprocessor scripting language that is a superset of CSS. On its official website, it is described as "CSS with Superpowers". It provides additional features and functionalities that are not available in regular CSS. SCSS syntax is very similar to CSS, but it allows for the use of variables, nesting, mixins, and other programming constructs. SCSS has a file extension of .scss.

SCSS is an enhanced version of SASS (Syntactically Awesome Style Sheets), which was created by Hampton Catlin in 2006 as an extension of Ruby. SASS has two syntaxes: SASS (indented syntax) and SCSS (bracketed syntax). SCSS is more compatible with standard CSS than SASS, which makes it easier to convert existing CSS files into SCSS files.

Some of the features of SCSS are:

Variables

SCSS allows you to define variables to store commonly used values such as colors, font sizes, and spacing. For example:

$white: #ffffff;
$ubuntu-font: 'Ubuntu', 'Arial', 'Helvetica', sans-serif;

body {
  color: $white;
  font: $ubuntu-font;
}

Nesting

SCSS allows you to nest selectors within other selectors, making it easier to write and read complex stylesheets. For example:

footer {
  div {
    p {
      margin: 2rem;
      color: #2f2f2f;
    }
  }
}

Mixins

SCSS allows you to create reusable code snippets using mixins, which are like functions in programming languages. You can pass arguments to mixins and use them in different places. For example:

@mixin border-radius($radius) {
  -webkit-border-radius: $radius;
  -moz-border-radius: $radius;
  -ms-border-radius: $radius;
  border-radius: $radius;
}

.button {
  @include border-radius(10px);
}

Operators

SCSS allows you to perform arithmetic operations on numbers, colors, and other values. For example:

.container {
  width: 100% / 3;
  background-color: #ff0000 + #00ff00;
}

Functions

SCSS allows you to define custom functions using the @function directive. You can also use built-in functions provided by SCSS, such as lighten, darken, adjust-hue, and so on. For example:

@function double($number) {
  @return $number * 2;
}

.box {
  width: double(50px);
}

Imports

SCSS allows you to import other SCSS files using the @import directive. This helps to organize your code into modular files and avoid duplication. For example:

@import "variables";
@import "mixins";
@import "layout";

Control directives

SCSS allows you to use control directives such as @if, @else, @for, @each, and @while to add logic and loops to your stylesheets. For example:

$colors: red, green, blue;

@each $color in $colors {
  .#{$color}-text {
    color: $color;
  }
}

Some of the advantages of using SCSS are:

  • Expressiveness: SCSS uses less amount of lines in its code than CSS, which makes the code load faster.
  • Maintainability: SCSS helps to keep your code organized and modular, which makes it easier to maintain and update.
  • Extensibility: SCSS helps to extend the functionality of CSS with variables, mixins, functions, and other features.
  • Compatibility: SCSS is fully compatible with standard CSS, which means you can use any existing CSS code or library with SCSS.

Some of the disadvantages of using SCSS are:

  • Compilation: SCSS files must be preprocessed into standard CSS files using a preprocessor such as Sass or Less. This adds an extra step to the development process and requires additional tools and dependencies.
  • Debugging: SCSS files may not be directly debuggable in the browser, as the browser only sees the compiled CSS code. You may need to use source maps or other tools to trace back the errors to the original SCSS code.
  • Learning curve: SCSS may require some learning time and effort to master its syntax and features, especially for beginners who are not familiar with programming concepts.

How to Choose Between CSS and SCSS?

Both CSS and SCSS have their pros and cons, and there is no definitive answer to which one is better. It depends on your project requirements, preferences, and skills. Here are some factors that may help you decide which one to use:

  • Project size and complexity: If your project is small and simple, you may not need the extra features and functionalities of SCSS. You can use plain CSS to style your web pages quickly and easily. However, if your project is large and complex, you may benefit from using SCSS to organize your code into modular files, reuse common values with variables and mixins, add logic and loops with control directives, and so on.
  • Development environment and tools: If you want to use SCSS, you need to set up a preprocessor tool such as Sass or Less in your development environment. You also need to configure it properly to compile your SCSS files into CSS files. This may require some additional time and effort on your part. However, if you use plain CSS, you don't need any extra tools or dependencies. You can write your CSS code in any text editor and link it directly to your HTML file.
  • Browser support and compatibility: If you want to use SCSS, you need to make sure that your compiled CSS code is compatible with all the browsers that you want to support. You may need to use vendor prefixes or polyfills for some features that are not widely supported by all browsers. However, if you use plain CSS, you don't need to worry about browser compatibility as much. You can use any standard CSS feature that is supported by most browsers.

Conclusion

In this blog post, we discussed the difference between CSS and SCSS as well as their larger role in the world of web design and development. CSS is the defacto web standard for styling a web page, while the preprocessor Sass and its SCSS syntax extend CSS with the programming features you need to do more with less.

I hope this blog post helped you understand the difference between CSS and SCSS, and inspired you to use them in your web development projects. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to leave a comment below. Happy coding!