BEM methodology is not about CSS

Some developers are sure that BEM is just a way to make class names in CSS are unique and, since a modern tools allow to make names unique automatically they have no reasons to use BEM. This is a mistake with a bad consequences, BEM is are methodology about atomic code design, it gives you a standards and guides how to simplify code maintaining.

The Pusher movie (1996)

First of all, let's see BEM definition from an official docs site.

BEM (Block, Element, Modifier) is a component-based approach to web development. The idea behind it is to divide the user interface into independent blocks. This makes interface development easy and fast even with a complex UI, and it allows reuse of existing code without copying and pasting.

No one single word about CSS as you see, because a naming convention is not a whole BEM, it just one of tools the methodology offers you.

BEM is a methodology to develop a high extensible modular components with low code coupling.

Best practices to create a robust software

BEM gives you a methods to improve a code maintainability, its based on most popular best practices like a code decoupling and dependency inversion principles and focused on front end problems.

For example, look at external geometry principle, the essence which is that blocks must never set their own position and external indents. This allows to reuse a block at any place and to set position by another element as needed with no problems about overriding CSS specificity.

Example for block search-form

<!-- `header` block -->
<div class="header">
        The `search-form` block is mixed with the `search-form` element
        from the `header` block
    <div class="search-form header__search-form"></div>

A search-form does not have margin, a block header is responsible to set position for a block search-form inside, it uses an element header__search-form to implement positioning, so block search-form may be re-used in other blocks.

BEM defines a responsibility model for entities.

Code composition

With BEM you can extend the basic component with a new features (the "decorator" pattern) just by add a a modifier.

For example, you can implement base List component:

const BaseList: IList<IListProps> = ({items, ...props}) => {
	// ...
	return <ul {...props} className="List">
			(item) => <li key={} className="ListItem" {...item.props}>

and then add feature to enable keyboard navigation over items by modifier

const withListKeyboardNavigation = (List: IList): IList<IListProps & { keyboardNavigation: boolean }> => {
	return ({ keyboardNavigation, ...props }) => {
		const onKeyDown = // navigation implementation ...
		return <List {...props} onKeyDown={onKeyDown}/>

now you can enable features you needs

const List = withListTypeCheckbox(

// You can now enable keyboard navigation by set modifier
<List keyboardNavigation items={listItems}/>

// Or not to use feature
<List items={listItems}/>

Unlike most popular UI kits who give you not flexible monolith components that includes all features out of box and not have a way to override features behavior, a BEM methodology force to decompose a complex component to block, elements and modifiers to allow you replace any feature with your implementation and to include in bundle only features you needs. This is benefits of elements and modifiers in BEM.

With this approach you can reuse components and its features between projects and even use code in BEM community that rely on interface, not on implementation.

Files structure standard

You may know about Feature-Sliced Design, an methodology for a frontend projects to eliminate chaos and to make standard how to organize files on project, to simplify find a files between projects. Maybe your framework or your company have their own rules and guidelines how to place files.

BEM methodology offers a way to organize a file structure by meaning, not by type.

When you have a button component, you should place all files of the button to one directory, file type are not matter - javascript, CSS, HTML, images and other resources, docs, tests, all things in one place.

This approach makes components really atomic and independent.


Of course, BEM also useful for naming CSS entities, but it is not main feature of BEM, it's just a result of methodology use.

Methodology lays a proper software design ideas applicable not only for CSS and even not only for front-end.

This is why advanced tools that improve development experience will not take out a BEM methodology, but enhance each other.

If you are interesting a BEM now - read the BEM methodology docs.

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