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A responsive style page for style tiles and generating a style guide
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Designer's QuickStart Better introduction plus table of contents
style-guide Style Guide is now a symlink into the Compass stuff

Style Sites

Design In Browser, Sign Off In Browser, Build In Browser

UPDATE! Active development has moved to Team Sass Orginization. Current version has been renamed Style Prototypes and has been re-written using Grunt and Bower. Development on the Ruby version has ceased, but this repo will remain available.

Designing in browser is a long wished for goal but always has seemed just slightly out of reach. From the technical knowledge needed to set everything up to actually do the coding to getting sign off from clients, it seems like a daunting task to begin to do it. Style Sites aims to make the whole process much easier and much more approachable for everyone from Designers who don't know what a Git is to full on Unicorns. Style Sites grew from the wonderful Style Guide built by Mason Wendell for his kick ass Survival Kit and now constitutes a whole system for building Style Tiles, Style Guides, and Colour Guides straight in browser. By leveraging the power of Sass, Compass, Ruby, and Haml, we are able have at our fingertips the tools necessary to sit back and just design. If you're a designer new to all of this, I've written up a Designer's QuickStart Guide to get you started! Read it and enjoy it!

Style Sites are a unique tool because, not only are they responsive by default meaning your client will be able to sign off on styles they've been able to see natively on all browsers and devices, they encourage Style Guide driven Style Tile generation. This means that after you've built out your Style Tile, you'll be on your way to having finished your Style Guide, which you need to for Style Guide Driven Design (and coincidentally takes lots of design decisions off of the shoulders of Front End Developers). You'll also never need to have someone guess at what colours they can use with a fully built out Colour Guide with both hex and Sass values.

Speaking of Sass values, the whole shebang is designed to be turned into a Compass Extension to easily distribute and reuse your finished Style Guide throughout your team in a way that doesn't require an additional website and inspectors flying all over the place. Truly drop in and use functionality. Yah, it's that awesome.

Come with me on this journey.

Table of Contents

  1. Requirements and Installation
  2. Starting Your Server
  3. One Codebase, Multiple Clients
  4. Setting Up Your Style Site
  5. Your Style Guide
  6. Your Colour Guide
  7. Your Style Tile
  8. Your Compass Extension
  9. License

Requirements and Installation

Style Sites run through Serve. In addition to Serve, there are a handful of other gems you're going to need to install. You have two ways of installing all of the requirements. If you are on a Mac, the easiest way is to launch the "Install Requirements" application. You will be prompted to type in your user password (you won't see anything when you type in your password, just trust it's there) and press enter. That'll install everything you need. If you're not on a Mac, or would like to do it the old fashioned way, the following line should install everything for you (from the command line):

(sudo) gem install serve haml compass sass bundler toolkit compass-normalize sassy-buttons

I also highly suggest investing in either LiveReload or similar in order to see your site update when you save your files. This makes designing in browser much much easier. LiveReload will automatically do a reload of your pages on file save, saving you from needing to switch to your browser and reload the page manually.

Starting Your Server

After you've got everything installed, you are going to need to start the server to see the website from the terminal. Again, if you are on a Mac, the easiest way is to launch the "Start Server application". This will launch the Terminal application, start your server, and minimize the window so you can continue working. If you're not on a Mac, or want to do it the old fashioned way, simply cd to your project, something like cd /path/to/Style-Sites and then run the following:

serve _server

On your first run, you may get an error saying that you need to run bundle install. If you do, run bundle install from inside the _server folder, but that is the last you should need to dive into the _server folder.

Once Codebase, Multiple Clients

The best way to work with Style Sites is to have a branch or separate download for each of your clients. I prefer the branching method as it allows me to version the style changes and keep an easy log of everything that's changed. There are two ways you can do this; if you're uncomfortable or new to Git, I'd suggest downloading, installing, and using the official GitHub for Mac client to handle your Git repositories and branches. Otherwise, use the command line! There's lots of documentation on branching with Git, so read up if you're unfamiliar with the concept or are new to Git.

Setting Up Your Style Site

Things inside folders that start with an underscore (so _server and _compass) contain advanced, backbone type stuff so you generally won't touch anything inside of them for 90% of the work you do. If you absolutely need to change the way one of the default pages works, you'd edit it in _server. When you're ready to turn everything into a Compass extension, you'll work in _compass, but that's about it.

Once you have everything in place and you have your server running, setting up your style site is very easy. Inside the setup directory, you will find the following files, in order of importance:

  • client.haml
  • webfonts.haml
  • sections.haml
  • javascript.haml
  • development.haml
  • _page-setup.scss
  • variables.haml

You will also find two directories, the images directory and the js directory. You can add and reference the images through the exposed variables and through your Sass. If you want to add any non-standard JavaScript to the page, you can do so using the @customJS variable inside of the js.haml file.


This is where all of the basic information about you and your client goes. Fairly simple, replace "Client Name" in @clientName with your client's name, if you have a logo, put it in the images folder and make sure the path is correct (otherwise, set it to false), and put a version in! Also, be sure to replace "Author Name" in @author with your name!


One of the most awesome things about designing in browser is being able to use real web fonts! Web fonts rock! There are two easy ways of using web fonts with Style Sites, the first is with Typekit. Simply grab your Typekit Kid ID (at the bottom of the "Embed Code" popup) and replace the false in @typekitID with your kit ID, wrapped in "double quotes". Be sure to include localhost in the domains in your Kit Settings. If you'd prefer to use Google Fonts, simply pick out your fonts, and when you're ready to use, click on the Javascript tab in Step 3, and copy what's inside the [brackets] on line 3. For instance, if you had the following Goole Fonts code from the Javascript tab in Step 3:

<script type="text/javascript"> WebFontConfig = { google: { families: [ 'Offside::latin' ] } }; (function() { var wf = document.createElement('script'); wf.src = ('https:' == document.location.protocol ? 'https' : 'http') + '://'; wf.type = 'text/javascript'; wf.async = 'true'; var s = document.getElementsByTagName('script')[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(wf, s); })(); </script>

You would replace false in @googleFonts with "'Offside::latin'". Again, be sure to wrap the fonts in "double quotes".


This section allows you to choose what sections of you'd like in your Style Site. You can rename, redirect, or create new sections with ease. Creating a new section is easy, simply place the haml file into the custom folder; there are two example folders in there, a Drupal UI and a General UI folder with corresponding haml files that you can use as guidance. Once you've created your custom haml files, add them to the @sections variable.


All of your JavaScript needs! This file will allow you to quickly and easily add custom JavaScript to your site (beyond the default Modernizr build). By filling out one of the JavaScript Library variables, you'll get that full Library pulled in. If you'd like to custom JavaScript beyond that, the @customJS variable will allow you to add in any JavaScript you'd like, just throw them in the js folder. By default, no libraries are on, but we're pulling in Chibi and Hammer.js. If you want to remove all custom JS, set @customJS to false. If you want to use a full JavaScript Library, be sure to remove Chibi.


There is currently one variable in here. Toggle @LiveReload to true to automatically add in the LiveReload script. This is especially useful when testing in browsers that don't have LiveReload extensions (such as the iOS emulator or Internet Explorer)


This file contains a handful of variables to set up the skeleton for the style site itself. Change them as you see fit!


This file currently contains nothing and does nothing. This file may be going away in future releases.

Your Style Guide

Your Style Guide is the driving force behind the Style Site! Use the Common Markup, Common HTML5, Typography, and UI Pattern pages to help you theme out your style guide, using as least specific selectors as possible. Included is a global folder containing the basic base items for sharing across the Colour Guide and Style Tile.

Inside your global/_colours.scss file are a handful of sample colours using Toolkit's Colour Stack functions to give you an idea as to how to use them in your Style Guide. Inside of global/_base.scss you'll see . In the main _style-guide.scss there is a little Sass for loop to colour your H1-H6 tags with the black shades that come by default. Feel free to remove them, and change the colours!

Remember! Any and all CSS that you put into files and folders in the style-guide folder will be available in the generated Compass Extension! Because of this, it's highly suggested that your styles be as least specific as possible and as concise as possible!

Your Colour Guide

Your Colour Guide is designed to be built based on colour stacks you've designated in your Style Guide. Inside _color-guide.scss you'll see a Sass mixing generate-colour-guide with a list of variables that match up to the colours inside of style-guide/global/_colours.scss. The list goes in the order you want them to appear. In colours.haml, you'll see two variables, @colours which is a list of the names of your colour variables, in order they get used in generate-colour-guide, and @colourShades which is the number of total colours in a colour stack. The default being used, tint-stack, adds five colours to the base colour for a total of 6 shades per colour.

Adding a new colour to your colour guide is a three step process.

  1. Add the variable and its corresponding colour stack to style-guide/global/_colours.scss. For this example, we're going to add $badass: tint-stack(#b4d455);
  2. Add the variable in place in the mixing in color-guide/_colour-guide.scss. We're going to add it at the end, so using the example that comes with Style Sites, our generate-colour-guide mixin will now look like the following: @include generate-colour-guide($black, $red, $orange, $yellow, $green, $blue, $purple, $badass);
  3. Add the variable name to the @colours variable in color-guide/colours.haml. Using the example that comes with Style Sites, our @colours variable will now look like the following: @colours = ['black', 'red', 'orange', 'yellow', 'green', 'blue', 'purple', 'badass']

Your Style Tile

If you've built out your Style Guide before your Style Tile, there isn't much that really should go into the _style-tile.scss file. That being said, any styles you need to make the style tile look correct should go in here. It's important to note that anything you put in this file will not be available in your final Compass Extension, so keep that in mind. There is a possible-colours mixin that will deal with colouring the possible colours squares. The number of Possible Colours is controlled inside tile.haml. Inside tile.haml is also an array of Possible Patterns pointing toward images, either from the web or inside the images directory. You can create demo buttons on the Style Tile by defining classes you'd like the button to have with buttons with more than one class being wrapped in [brackets]. These buttons will also show up on the UI Patterns page, if you have that section enabled. There is also a place for you to put the list of words that inspired this Style Tile. For more on Style Tiles, see the Style Tiles site.

Your Compass Extension

Once you're done with your Style Site, it's drop dead easy to turn it into a Compass Extension to be used on any project you wish! Simply go into the _compass folder and do the following:

  1. Rename lib/client-styleguide.rb to the name of your client, and change the two instances of Client Styleguide inside the file, one client-styleguide on line 16 and one Client_Styleguide on line 24 to the same. If you create new versions of your style guide, be sure to update Version and Date accordingly before building a new gem.
  2. Rename client-styleguide.gemspec the same name you used for lib/client-styleguide.rb
  3. Open client-styleguide.gemspec
  4. Make sure that require '/lib/client-styleguide.rb is changed to your renamed client-styleguide.rb
  5. Make sure that Client_Styleguide is changed to what you used in client-styleguide for s.version and
  6. Change the value of to match the name of the file
  7. Edit s.description, s.summary, s.authors,, and s.homepage respectively.

Once you're done with the edits, save, and in your command line, run gem build client-styleguide.gemspec (using the name of your renamed gemspec) and you've got a working Compass extension! This will create a gem called client-styleguide-1.0.gem (the 1.0 is the version number from lib/client-styleguide.rb, and the client-styleguide will actually be the name you renamed everything).

Now comes the hard part, figuring out how to distribute your Style Guide. If you're OK with it being out in the open, make sure you've got a RubyGems account, then type gem push client-styleguide-1.0.gem (substituting name and version as appropriate). If you distribute this way, then installing and updating the style guide is the exact same as any other Compass Extension. A simple gem install client-styleguide will do. If you don't want it out in the open, you can email or self-serve the gem yourself, the only difference becomes gem update will no longer update the gem if you push an update. Users will then need to download the gem and, from the directory they've downloaded it to, run gem install client-styleguide-1.0.gem to install the extension.

In either case, it's easy to use. Simply add require 'client-styleguide' in your config.rb file and add @import "style-guide"; to your Sass file, and you're set (no trailing semicolon if you're using SASS syntax instead of SCSS syntax). It's important to note that you shouldn't use two style guides generated from this system in the same project, as their @import will conflict I believe. You can bring your images and JavaScript in as well. From the command line, run compass install client-styleguide. If you're creating a new project, you can do the whole thing in one go! Simply type compass create <my_project> -r client-styleguide to just require the style guide and do the @import yourself, or compass create <my_project> -r client-styleguide --using client-styleguide to create a new project with everything.

That's It! Have Fun!


© Sam Richard and Mason Wendell.

Original code licensed under MIT/GLPv2 Open Source projects used within this project retain their original licenses.

GPL license:

MIT license:

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