Preloading link tags

As we've seen in the previous exercise, the <script> tag can get a fair share of performance optimizations. But it's not the only tag that can control the priority of how its assets are loaded.

Enter the <link> tag. HTML links are most commonly known to load CSS remotely, but their role in HTML is a bit wider than that. You can think of link tags to express a relationship between the current page, and any asset that will eventually need to be fetched.

The way to express how <link> tags should operate, is through its preload attribute. The normal way to load CSS is by doing:

  <link rel="stylesheet" href="/bundle.css">

Exercise 1

Now this is not ideal. If you open the performance tab in your devtools (Chrome is strongly recommended here), you'll notice that the CSS here is render blocking. This means that no rendering will happen before the network request is resolved. Not great.

Let's make it so CSS loads asynchronously. We can do this by using the preload attribute. The idea is to make the <link> tag preload the CSS first, and once it's loaded, interpret it as CSS. The easiest way to achieve this is as follows:

  <link rel="preload" as="style" onload="this.rel='stylesheet'">

Exercise 2

Wrapping up

And that's it for preloading CSS. If you've paid attention to the loading of the page, you might see a flash of unstyled content — a brief flash of unstyled DOM elements. We'll dig into how to prevent this in a later exercise.

Next up is preloading webfonts!

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