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Chris Biscardi

Emotion Patterns Button Group

CSS-in-JS patterns: Emotion Button Groups

How would we build a Button that can be set up as part of a larger ButtonGroup? Typically in raw CSS or with preprocessors, this is accomplished by using sibling selectors, etc. With the styled API and React* ecosystem style approach, we can take a different approach that separates grouping logic from style rendering.


In Bootstrap, the user-side API looks like this:

aria-label="Basic example"
<button type="button" class="btn btn-secondary">
<button type="button" class="btn btn-secondary">
<button type="button" class="btn btn-secondary">

and you can find the relevant SCSS on GitHub


With emotion we'll try to get an API that looks like this:

<ButtonGroup role="group" aria-label="Basic example">
<Button variant="secondary">Left</button>
<Button variant="secondary">Middle</button>
<Button variant="secondary">Right</button>

Since this isn't about a11y or other abstractions we'll just leave them there as passthroughs with the note that there are nice ways to require these properties using PropTypes or Flow or even abstract them into the component. We are trying to compare directly to the Bootstrap API here, although we could do better in a couple aspects.

First, we'll need a styled button that uses props to dictate it's border-radius. We'll be using border-radius as the example attribute rather than a full exposition of attributes to keep the example code small.

function btnGrouper({ groupPosition }) {
if (groupPosition === "first") {
return "3px 0 0 3px";
if (groupPosition === "last") {
return "0 3px 3px 0";
if (groupPosition) {
return "0";
return "3px";
const Button = styled("button")`
border-radius: ${btnGrouper};

In this example, we are using the groupPosition prop to dictate whether we alter the border-radius values for being first in the list, last in the list or in the middle of the list. We also set a final value which is used if the Button is not in a list at all.

In the following ButtonGroup we use React Children APIs to clone the child and apply our groupPosition prop. (Here is the link for do syntax if you are unfamiliar with it.

class ButtonGroup extends React.Component {
render() {
const count = React.Children.count(this.props.children);
return (
(child, i) => {
return React.cloneElement(child, {
groupPosition: do {
if (i === 0) {
} else if (i === count - 1) {

We can render our new Buttons as such:



The core point here is that the Button knows how to render itself stylistically in every situation it would be rendered. There are no overrides so we can debug more easily and co-locating all of the styling means we are less likely to forget that the Navigation in that one app has specific overrides. This means we can evolve our Button API with more confidence since it places global overrides distinctly in the region of unsupported APIs.

The ButtonGroup can control the ordering and grouping of child Buttons with it's own props, like vertical, if we want more flexibility. Changing the Button so that it can render vertically will take us right back to the same spot we are defining the logic for other rendering arrangements so we can take it all into consideration when evolving our APIs.