BEM : presentation

Block / Element / Modifier

What is BEM ?

BEM was created by Yandex, the "Russian Google" in 2009.
It is a component based architecture and naming convention. It stand for Block / Element / Modifier. You may be familiar with this very well known namming convention. But it is also one of the most misunderstood yet the most safe and advanced methodology I had the pleasure to work with.
I strongly encourage you to read the docs

Why BEM ? It's so ugly !

One of the most common critic for BEM is that it is ugly, and that those long classes names are making the markup hard to read. I completely understand and it is often the main reason why developer do not want to switch to BEM. It's very sad because the true beauty of BEM is hidden. And I make you a promise : used right, you will love it so much, that you will see it as the only option out there to writing good CSS.

What are we talking about ?

When I talk about BEM, i'm refering to the class naming scheme. If you carefully read the documentation, BEM comes with practices about file structure organization. As we will use ITCSS, we should not feel concerned with the BEM file structure principles.

The good stuffs about BEM

Just by looking at a piece of markup :

  • you can know witch classes are related to others
  • you can also know in witch file they are declared, reducing headache
  • you can understand the role of the class (And therefore better follow the SRP)
Following theses practices will help you:
  • make decision about emplacement easily
  • get self documented code, and logically reduce the need for CSS documentation
  • keep specificity low (because most of your selectors will only be composed of one classe)
  • make class colision almost impossible (all classes will be uniques)
  • thus, making it safer to have multiple sources of code (any CSS frameworks mixed with your own)

How does it works ?

Please note that the following part was completely copy-pasted from the documentation site

Block features

Nested structure
Blocks can be nested inside any other blocks.
For example, a head block can include a logo (logo), a search form (search), and an authorization block (auth).
Head block components
Arbitrary placement
Blocks can be moved around on a page, moved between pages or projects.
The implementation of blocks as independent entities makes it possible to change their position on the page and ensures their proper functioning and appearance.
Thus, the logo and the authorization form can be swapped around without modifying the CSS or JavaScript code of the blocks.
Altering the block positions
Altering the block positions
An interface can contain multiple instances of the same block.
Online store products


A constituant of a block
An element can't be used outside of his block.
For example, a menu item is not used outside of the context of a menu block, therefore it is an element.
Menu items


A BEM entity that defines the appearance and behavior of a block or an element.
The use of modifiers is optional.
Modifiers are similar in essence to HTML attributes. The same block looks different due to the use of a modifier.
For instance, the appearance of the menu block (menu) may change depending on a modifier that is used on it.
Add a menu to the footer
Modifiers can be changed in runtime (for example, as a reaction to a DOM event of the block), or via other blocks.
For example, if the wrong credentials are entered when a user clicks the Sign In button (the 'click' DOM event), the 'visible' modifier is set on a hidden block with error messages.
We will see later that our version of BEM provide a better way to handle those types of changes
here the end of the copy-pasted content, and i'm not even a little ashamed…

If you don't believe BEM is awesome

then you may want to believe them (they are all gurus in the CSS world) :
Harry Roberts Consultant Front-end Architect "I use BEM notation on everything I build now as its usefulness has proved itself over and over."
Mark McDonnell Technical Lead, BBC News "Itʼs less confusing than the other methods (i.e. SMACSS) but still provides us the good architecture we want (i.e. OOCSS) and with a recognisable terminology."
Connie Chan Design Director, Thoughtbot "Combined with a preprocessor, BEM makes keeping your CSS modular and object-oriented a breeze."
Jonathan Snook Author of SMACSS, Xero "Most common misspelling is “SMACCS”. I should just rename it to BEM."
Paul Irish Front-end Developer, Google Inc. "This BEM stuff is next-level shit. Itʼs incredible how methodical it is."
Necolas Gallagher Software Engineer, Twitter "BEM is far more than a HTML/CSS system. Iʼve got no plans to use it all; just adapted some of its ideas."
I strongly encourage you to read the docs (again...)