Y! homepage – CSS sprites in action

December 1st, 2006. Tagged: CSS, firefox, JavaScript

Have you looked at the HTML markup of the new Yahoo homepage? Then you should. The markup (although it won't validate) is a piece of semantic art. Lists are lists, tabs are lists, only one table to be seen (obviously plugged-in coming from a different site)

The total number of markup elements on the page (document.getElementsByTagName(*).length) is 662, which is not bad for such a busy page. Compare that with Google search results page, which is semantically pretty much nothing but a just a list and uses 468 elements to display the content, among which there are 22 tables. Amazon's home page has the stunning 1469 elements.

Anyway, the thing that I saw and liked, was the use of the so-called CSS sprites (tut, tut, demo). It's a technique where instead of creating multiple images (10 little icons for example), you create one image file that has them all. Then you use CSS's background-position to only show the part of the big image that contains the icon you want. This may look like too much of a hassle, but when you think about the number of HTTP requests you save by getting one image instead of ten, then it starts making sense. Y! proves this point by using this technique on its homepage. Since the technique is used on what is probably one of the top visited pages on the web, I would considered it production-ready 🙂

You can get an idea of how Y! homepage works with its image assets by using Firefox's Web Developer extension: "Images -> View Image Information". In case you don't browse with Firefox packed with Web Developer extension (then you should!), then you can check the copy that I made - copy is here. Get a load of this guy for example.

Updated Dec 02, 2006:
Just deleted one comment by mistake (I got so much spam comments), pointing out that the correct syntax is:
where * is quoted.
This is true, a typo on my part.

Thank you very much Philip, I'm so sorry I deleted your comment 🙁

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