File organization
Last modified on Tue 05 Jan 2021

Guides are not rules and should not be followed blindly. Use your head and think.

In all web projects, we usually have some kind of a css/sass folder, whose name can sometimes be chosen. The usual names would be:

Brush up on Sass partials and imports if necessary, as those are important to understand the file structure. If the app is a Rails app, sprockets can be used instead of imports; differences will be noted when necessary.

Because of the BEM philosophy, files will usually follow the structure of components (that is, blocks). Here is an example of their structure:

Only the main file (application.scss in the example above) should be a normal Sass file, everything else should be a partial. This is so only one CSS file is generated, and when a file is not imported, it will not be unnecessarily compiled.

The application.scss file should only hold imports. No actual rules, styling, variables, mixins, etc. can go in it. Usually, it looks something like this:

@import 'vendor/**/*';
@import 'overrides/**/*';

@import 'config';
@import 'utils/**/*';

@import 'core';

@import 'components/**/*';
@import 'pages/**/*';

@import 'shame';

If everything is done correctly, load order shouldn't matter, so using wildcards is recommended in sass-rails projects. If you are using LibSass, it might not work (currently it doesn't), so files need to be imported individually. The recommended way of solving the LibSass problem would be using folder name files to load. For example:

the folder.scss file would contain:

@import 'folder/first';
@import 'folder/second';

and the application.scss file would contain:

@import 'folder';

If using sprockets, the application.scss file would contain the Rails way of importing using require. Variables and other defines won't carry over to files, so they would have to be @imported manually as needed.

Vendor and overrides

The vendor folder should have CSS or SCSS files that are obtained from outside sources. As these files have nothing to do with the application styling, they should be loaded first.

Overrides are files that directly override vendor classes. For example, Bootstrap's modal class would be overridden in the bootstrap.scss inside the override folder with the modal class.

Any global overrides for the vendor files should go into the override folder with the same name as the vendor file, so that they can be easily found when necessary.

Core and config

The config file should contain the configuration for the imported vendors (Susy would be a typical example) or other configuration for user-defined mixins, functions, etc.

The core file should contain globally defined styles for the application. That could mean setting a global font size, adding global box sizing, etc. The core file should not contain any configurations or mixins, variables and such, only styling (or includes of such).


The components folder contains blocks that are shared between pages. Those could be form definitions, button definitions, and similar. Each component has to be in its own file, with the name of the file matching that of the block.


The pages folder contains an SCSS file for each page on a site. The styles inside should be specific to that page, while still following the BEM philosophy. Any blocks that will be shared between pages are placed into the components folder in a separate file, and not inside a specific page. The name of the file should match the page handle.


The _shame.scss file is to be used only for hackity hack code that really shouldn't be put in any other file. Using it is not recommended but is sometimes necessary. When writing a rule in the shame file, ALWAYS put a comment above it stating specifically why it was written, and what problem it solved. Don't be afraid to write multiple lines to explain it.

When you're working on a project with _shame.scss, always check the file when you have strange behavior, or if you're removing something from it, fix the underlying issue it was trying to solve.



The colors file should only contain color variables of the base and global kind. All colors for blocks or elements should go into their local file on the top.

Base colors are actual color values used on the site. They will be used by both global colors and block-element colors.

Avoid using names that correspond to the actual colors when naming color variables. Better use something like rouge, wood, mercury, etc.

Syntax and example:

Syntax: base-[value]-color

$base-rouge-color: #FF0000;

It is OK to use the name of the color only in base colors.

Global colors are colors to be used for block- or element-level colors. They should contain base colors.

Syntax: [primary, secondary, ternary ...]-<property>-color

$primary-color: $base-red-color;
$primary-text-color: $base-light-gray-color;

Block element colors go into their respective files on the top and are defined as such:

Syntax: [block-name][__element-name]-<property>-color

$some-block-background-color: $base-red-color;
$some-block__some-element-color: $primary-text-color;

Text is the only property that can be omitted, as its property name in CSS is a color as well.


When using z-indexes, use z-index variables defined in the z-index file.

$z-base: inital;
$z-modal: 10;
$z-loader: 20;
$z-modal-raised: 30;
$z-notification: 40;
$z-debug: 1000;

//For use in local situations only (inside of a specific block or element)
$z-1: 1;
$z-2: 2;
$z-3: 3;
$z-4: 4;
$z-5: 5;

Shared variables

This file should contain only variables that will be shared across SCSS files, and doesn't include colors, z-indexes, media queries, or similar. Example:

$global-header-height: 250px;

Use a global prefix so that it is clear where the definition is when it is used in other files.

Media queries

A media file should contain the variables and mixins used to define the media queries and breakpoints on the site.

Using the media mixin is strongly recommended as it is explicit and will standardize media queries. The README in the repository explains configuration and usage of the mixin.

Otherwise, syntax is as follows:

SASS reference on mixins

$breakpoint-tablet: '(max-width: 991px)';

@mixin tablet() {
  @media #{$breakpoint-tablet} {


The placeholders file should contain globally shared pseudoclasses (or placeholders). Pseudoclasses in SASS are classes beginning with %, which generate no CSS output but can be extended using the SASS directive @extend.

Examples of using a global placeholder:

%container {
  @include container;
  width: $content-width-large;

  @include desktop {
    width: $content-width-desktop;
  @include tablet {
    width: $content-width-tablet;
  @include mobile {
    width: $content-width-mobile;

//Or with media mixin
%container {
  @include container;
  width: $content-width-large;

  @include media(desktop) {
    width: $content-width-desktop;
  @include media(tablet) {
    width: $content-width-tablet;
  @include media(mobile){
    width: $content-width-mobile;


The mixins file should contain any global mixin that can help organize SASS better. If your project contains a lot of mixins, it is recommended that you put them in separate files and group them according to their purpose. Then put all those files inside a new folder called mixins.

For instance, adding clearfix:

@mixin clearfix() {
  &::after {
    content: ' ';
    display: table;
    clear: both;

Example of structure: * utils * mixins * _buttons.scss * _containers.scss * _forms.scss * _general.scss * _sections.scss * _typography.scss


The fonts file should contain any and all font family declarations.

If the font has multiple weights, always use the same font family name, with different font-weight values. Font-weight values should always use named weights. The same goes for using fonts in other SCSS code. Exceptions can be made if the font has more than 3 weights or abnormal weight distribution.

The other part of the font file should contain font family pseudoclasses for using the fonts. Pseudoclasses should not contain any weight or size properties—those belong in the classes that use the font.

Name the font family pseudoclasses with primary, secondary, and so on. The primary should usually refer to the heading font and the secondary to the standard (body text) font.

For example:

@font-face {
  font-family: 'some-font';
  src: url('some-font-regular.eot');
  src: url('some-font-regular.eot?#iefix') format('embedded-opentype'),
       url('some-font-regular.woff2') format('woff2'),
       url('some-font-regular.woff') format('woff'),
       url('some-font-regular.ttf') format('truetype');
  font-weight: normal;
  font-style: normal;

@font-face {
  font-family: 'some-font';
  src: url('some-font-bold.eot');
  src: url('some-font-bold.eot?#iefix')
       url('some-font-bold.woff2') format('woff2'),
       url('some-font-bold.woff') format('woff'),
       url('some-font-bold.ttf') format('truetype');
  font-weight: bold;
  font-style: normal;

//primary font should refer to the heading fonts if such exist
%primary-font {
  font-family: 'some-font';

//secondary font is the body fonts
%secondary-font {
  font-family: 'some-other-font';

If your project uses PostCSS, there are libs that will make all these font-face declarations for you.


The animations file should contain all keyframes definitions in the project, as well as the mixins necessary for using the keyframe. Avoid animating anything besides transforms and opacity, as these are the least expensive operations.

Animations should be prefixed with the keyframe prefix, while mixins that use it should be prefixed with an animation.

@keyframes keyframe-move-down {
  0% {
    transform: translate(0, 0);

  100% {
    transform: translate(0, 100%);

@mixin animation-move-down() {
  animation-name: keyframe-move-down;
  animation-duration: 3s;

SASS style guide

For a reference of SASS functionality, refer to this page: SASS reference

This should cover almost all cases of writing Sass, including file structures, imports, code organization, and logic.

We use scss-lint and csscomb as our linter and code style checker. Dotfiles for these can be found in the Useful links guide