Introduction to Google Tag Manager (for web developers who know Google Analytics)

As a web developer, you know Google Analytics (GA). Probably you've dropped the GA snippet into more than one website, maybe you've even used its Javascript API to implement tracking at the event level.

Google Tag Manager (GTM) is a related tool, but on a higher level and thus with much more power. GTM is not a replacement for GA. Rather, it can make GA configurable without changing anything in the application's code base (and much more beyond, see below).

Only prefer GTM if the customer requests it, or if he is updating his tracking r…


Ruby constant lookup: The good, the bad and the ugly

In Ruby, classes and modules are called constants. This card explains how Ruby resolves the meaning of a constant.

The good

E. g. in the following example, Array could mean either Foo::Array or simply Array:

class Foo
  def list

What Ruby does here is to see if the name Array makes sense inside of Foo::, and if that fails, resolves it to ::Array (without a namespace).

The bad

You might be surprised that these are all valid ways to reference Ruby's String class:

CSS: Using interaction media detection to disable hover styles for devices that have no hover

Since late 2015, all major browsers (still excluding Firefox) support pointing device media queries. These can be used to distinguish e.g. coarse from fine pointers (e.g. finger vs mouse), or a device with hover support from one without (e.g. desktop with mouse vs tablet).


When hover styles modify the DOM, most mobile devices activate the hover styles on first tap. A second tap is required to trigger a click. While this can be handy, at times it makes the UX worse.

Another issue with hover styles is that they tend to st…


Stretching an HTML page to full height

This card existed before, but was outdated due to browser implementation changes. The information below is validated for the current list of browsers we support.

By default your html and body elements are only as high as the actual page content. If you only have two lines of text in your page, your html and body elements will only be around 40 pixels high, regardless of the size of your browser window.

You might be surprised by this, since setting a background on either html and body does cover the enti…


Rails asset pipeline: Why things break in production and what precompilation does to your assets

When you work with a Rails 3.1+ application, you will be working with the asset pipeline. The asset pipeline is awesome until you deploy. Then it will be less so if you haven't done everything as the pipeline expected it from you.

The problem

When using the asset pipeline your assets (images, javascripts, stylesheets, fonts) live in folders inside app:


With the asset p…

Rails: How to provide a public link in a mail

Lets say we have a user with a contract whereas contract is a mounted carrierwave file.

Now we want to send the link to the contract in a mail. For this use case join the root_url with the public contract path in the mailer view:

Plain text email

URI.join(root_url, @user.contract.url)

HTML email

link_to('Show contract', URI.join(root_url, @user.contract.url).to_s)

Note: You need to follow […


Do not use transparent PNGs for iOS favicons

Safari on iOS accepts an apple-touch-icon favicon that is used for stuff like desktop bookmarks. Always define a solid background color for them.

If you use PNGs with a transparent background, Safari will use just set a black background on your pretty icon. This is almost never what you want.
You can fix that by applying a white background via ImageMagick like this:

convert a...

Designing HTML email

The 90s are calling: they want their tables back. Unfortunately, you'll need them all for laying out your HTML emails. (It is really that bad.)

Email client HTML rendering is way more scattered than browser HTML. While you might have a pretty good understanding of what features and patterns you can use to support all major browsers, I doubt anyone masters this craft for HTML email clients.

The only way to ensure your email looks good (acceptable, at least) in all mail clients, is to check it. Litmus is your go-to solu…


How to make your application assets cachable in Rails

Note: Modern Rails has two build pipelines, the asset pipeline (or "Sprockets") and Webpacker. The principles below apply for both, but the examples shown are for Sprockets.

Every page in your application uses many assets, such as images, javascripts and stylesheets. Without your intervention, the browser will request these assets again and again on every request. There is no magic in Rails that gives you automatic caching for assets. In fact, if you haven't been paying attention to this, your application is probabl…

CSS: Using the current text color for other color properties

There is a kinda secret, yet well supported CSS feature called currentColor. It's like a special CSS variable that has been supported in almost all browsers for almost all time (see linked Caniuse).


The currentColor value can be used in CSS to indicate the current value of color should be used. A common use case is setting a border color:

  color: white
  border: 1px solid currentColor
    color: red // Border color will change as well 

Note that in many cases, you can simply omit the color to ac…


Fix PNG colors in IE, old Safaris and new Firefoxes

Some browsers render PNG images with color profiles and other shenanigans, some don't. Remove some PNG chunks to render colors uniformly.

Geordi brings a command png-optimize which conveniently optimizes your PNGs for the web. See Github for a description

  • Single file and batch optimization is supported
  • png-optimize will overwrite the original files

Without Geordi

sudo apt-get install pngcrush
  • Single file:

    pngcrush -rem...

Generating test images on the fly via JavaScript

When you need test images, instead of using services like lorempixel or you may generate test images yourself. You can do this via JavaScript.

Here is an ES6 function that generates a simple SVG image and returns it as a data: URI. All browsers support SVG, and you can easily adjust it yourself.

function svgUri(text) {
  let svg = `
    <svg width="320" height="240" xmlns="">
      <rect x="0" y="0" width="320" height="240" style...

Optimizing images for web

For webpages to load fast it's recommended to optimize images. Ideally an image's file size should be as small as possible while still being of decent quality. This card demonstrates two command line tools for image optimization

Use identify to fetch information about pictures. convert can change size/quality and strip meta information. Both commands are supplied by ImageMagick.

$ identify in.jpg
in.jpg JPEG 294x440 294x440+0+0 8-bit sRGB 92.8KB 0.000u 0:00.000
$ convert in.jpg -resize x220 -strip -quality 85 out.jpg
$ identify…

Using the Ruby block shortcut with arguments

Ruby has this handy block shortcut map(&:to_i) for map { |x| x.to_i }. However, it is limited to argument-less method invocations.

To call a method with an argument, you usually need to use the full block form. A common case is retrieving values from a list of hashes (imagine using a JSON API):

users = [ { name: 'Dominik', color: 'blue' }, { name: 'Stefan', color: 'red'} ]
names = users.collect do |user|

But with a little extension, you can do better.

Block shortcut with arguments

By defining `Symbol#c…


Printing background color of elements

Browsers' printing methods usually don't print background colors. In most cases this is the desired behavior, because you don't want to spent tons of ink printing the background of a web page. But in some cases you want to print the background color of elements, e.g. bars of a chart. For those elements you need to set the following css styles:

Chrome and Safari:

-webkit-print-color-adjust: exact;


color-adjust: exact;

Lazy-loading images

Since images are magnitudes larger in file size than text (HTML, CSS, Javascript) is, loading the images of a large web page takes a significant amount of the total load time. When your internet connection is good, this is usually not an issue. However, users with limited bandwidth (i.e. on mobile) need to mine their data budget better.

One popular strategy to improve the website performance is to not load images until they enter the viewport – aka "lazy-loading images".

General Issues

  • Crawlers do not execute JavaScript (generally sp…

Carrierwave: Built-in RSpec matchers

CarrierWave comes with some RSpec matchers which will make testing more comfortable. Let's say you have an Uploader like this:

class MyUploader < CarrierWave::Uploader::Base
  include CarrierWave::MiniMagick

  # Create different versions of your uploaded files:
  version :small do
    process resize_to_fill: [100, 100]
  version :medium do
    process resize_to_fit: [200, nil]
  version :large do
    process resize_to_limit: [400, 400]


Imagine you have a class Movie with an attribute poster. In …


Common mistakes when storing file uploads with Rails

1. Saving files to a directory that is not shared between deploys or servers

If you save your uploads to a made up directory like "RAILS_ROOT/uploads", this directory goes away after every deploy (since every release gets a new). Also this directory is not shared between multiple application servers, so your uploads are randomly saved to one local filesystem or another. Fixing this afterwards is a lot of fun.

Only two folders are, by default, shared between our application servers and deployments: "RAILS_ROOT/storage" and `"RAILS…

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