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Django front-end simplified

"Front-end" in web development refers to the visual appearance of an application or website. In Django, a web development framework, the front-end is created in DTL (Django Template Language), which is a superset of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language).

DTL represents the "what" of the page - the actual contents. The "how" of the page - how the page appears - is defined by CSS (Cascading Style Sheets).

Django template language (DTL) files

Here's an example of a DTL file:


{% load static %} <link rel = "stylesheet" href = "{% static 'css/stats-pane.css' %}">
<div class = "stats-pane">
    <div class = "stat-component-A">
        {% include "components/stat-component.html" with title="On Target" numdetail=stats.on_target_count %}
    <div class = "stat-component-B">
        {% include "components/stat-component.html" with title="At Risk" numdetail=stats.at_risk %}
    <div class = "stat-component-C">
        {% include "components/stat-component.html" with title="Efficiency Index" numdetail=stats.efficiency green=9 yellow=4 red=0 %}

Here is what is happening in this file:

  • The file loads a CSS stylesheet called stats-pane.css
  • The file establishes scaffolding for three components - stat-component-A, stat-component-B, and stat-component-C
  • Each div.stat-component includes a template file called stat-component.html
    • Information is passed to these templates using the with keyword

Here are the contents of the referenced stat-component.html file:


{% extends "components/generic-square.html" %}
{% block content %}
    {% load static %} <link rel = "stylesheet" href = "{% static 'css/components/stat-component.css' %}">
    <div class = "stat-container">
        <div class = "stat-title">
            {{ title }}
        {% if numdetail > green %}
        <div class = "stat-numdetail stat-green">
        {% elif numdetail > yellow %}
        <div class = "stat-numdetail stat-yellow">
        {% elif numdetail > red %}
        <div class = "stat-numdetail stat-red">
        {% else %}
        <div class = "stat-numdetail">
        {% endif %}
            {{ numdetail }}
{% endblock content %}
  • The file extends an existing template called generic-square.html. This means that some pre-existing content has been defined in the generic-square.html template, and this file will override some of the content.
  • The file loads a CSS stylesheet called stat-component.css.
  • {% block content %} represents the start of the overrideable section. All content from here until {% endblock content %} will override the section in the generic-square.html file of the same name.
  • The file defines a framework for containing a single statistic - stat-title and multiple stat-numdetail components, each wrapped in conditional logic.
    • Conditional logic determines whether particular styles shall be rendered. For example, if the numdetail variable is greater than the green variable, the statistic shall be displayed with the class stat-green. This class merely colors the text of the component in green.

Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Files

CSS describes how the elements of an HTML page appear. Here is the CSS file used by the stats-pane.html file described in the first section:


.stats-pane {
  display: flex;
  flex-direction: row;
  gap: 10px;
  justify-content: center;
  align-items: center;
  • The text before the {}, .stats-pane, is called an element selector. We know this element selector applies to classes because the statement begins with a .. If this applied to a different selector, such as id, it would begin with a different character.
  • This definition applies styling characteristics to elements that have an attribute of class = "stats-pane".
    • In this case, the stats-pane is defined as a layout style called flexbox[^flexbox], and the elements of the flexbox should appear as rows. The gap between each element is set to 10 pixels, and finally the contents are center-aligned.


  • Django Template Language (DTL) files represents the "what" of the page:
    • What are the structural elements (i.e. HTML elements)?
    • What is the basic logic for the page (i.e. embedded scripting)?
  • Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) files define the "how" of the page:
    • How are elements rendered (i.e. styles)?
    • How do those elements appear on the page (i.e. animations, transitions)?

While DTL contains some Python-esque language features, it only permits a small subset of the Python language to be run. This is a design choice - permitting arbitrary Python code to run can be dangerous. That said, DTL is fairly powerful and extensible via custom filters and tags.

CSS takes some time to become acquainted with and ultimately master. The core specification is constantly improving. This guide is a good way to understand the modern contours and best practices of CSS in 2024.