One of the primary motivations behind Theme UI is to make building themeable, constraint-based user interfaces in React as simple and as interoperable as possible. This library builds upon years of work on various libraries, including Basscss, Tachyons, Rebass, Styled System, and various other internal style guides and design systems. While some of the ideas encapsulated within this library may seem familiar, the intent here is to combine modern CSS tooling into a single "mini-framework" with good guidance on how to fall into the pit of success for creating white-label products, themed component libraries, and even full websites.
MDX has, in my opinion, quickly become one of the best ways to render Markdown in React.
The ability to render custom React components for any Markdown element with the
MDXProvider is a very powerful API and has the potential to open up how Markdown is leveraged in ways I think we'll continue to see evolve over the coming years.
While the final rendered HTML can be styled using global CSS or a wrapping element with child selectors, there are certainly drawbacks to this approach,
and they can lead to unexpected styling bugs when composing themes together.
MDXProvider to render custom styled components in MDX is a great way to avoid this, but the overhead for applying styles in this way can be a lot of work, even with UI component libraries like Rebass or Material UI.
Theme UI includes the
theme.styles API as a light abstraction on top of this, that hopefully feels familiar to people from diverse backgrounds, even those with little or no experience using MDX.
css prop is a powerful pattern for styling UI in React.
It works like the built-in
css prop can be leveraged in a similar way to the
styled higher-order component, but also offers more flexibility when making one-off, context-specific stylistic changes.
css prop also avoids some of the pitfalls of mixing CSS properties with HTML attributes.
sx prop is a light abstraction on top of the
css prop that can serve as a complete replacement and makes it easier to
ensure you use values from your global
theme object itself is an object, and keeping styles in a similar format helps reduce the API surface area.
Using and parsing strings that represent embedded DSLs introduces overhead when mapping over key-value pairs.
Theme UI avoids this overhead for reasons related to performance, testing, and overall bundle size.
For some of the same reasons that React itself uses JSX (i.e. function calls) instead of tagged template literals, Theme UI only includes support for authoring CSS with object literal syntax.
For Theme UI, the decision was primarily based on these factors:
- Emotion's implementation of the
cssprop and the custom JSX pragma allows for better integration with Theme UI's
- The Emotion API includes more lower-level utilities, like
createEmotionthat could be leveraged when considering how multiple themes could be composed together
- Emotion's theming context is directly available in
@emotion/react, allowing this library to leverage React's context API in different ways
- In the case of Theme UI internals, the
styledhigher-order component utility is not necessarily the best API for creating components, and by not including
@emotion/styledin the core package the bundle size is kept to a minimum – i.e. most of the same things can be achieved with the
sx prop was inspired by Styled System, and it uses the same theme spec that Styled System adheres to. Styled System is a much lower-level API that is not in any way coupled to React or Emotion.
For example, Styled System works with Node.js, Vue, Svelte, and many other libraries.
Theme UI is intended to be a higher-level abstraction specifically for use in React applications.