What you need to know about CSS

Style sheet is a progressive breakthrough for the advancement of web. Today, more and more browsers are implementing style sheets, opening authors’ eyes to unique features that allow influence over presentation while preserving platform independence. The advantages of style sheets have become – apparent — and the disadvantage of continually creating more HTML tags — galore — for presentation effects with the gradual development of CSS.

Let’s understand CSS in the right perspective.

Style sheets in retrospect

Style sheets have been around in one form or another since the beginnings of HTML in the early 1990s .

As the HTML language grew, however, it came to encompass a wider variety of stylistic capabilities to meet the demands of web developers . With such capabilities, style sheets became less important, and an external language for the purposes of defining style attributes was not widely accepted until the development of CSS.
Teething problems with implementation of CSS

Many implementations of CSS are fraught with inconsistencies, bugs and other quirks . Authors have commonly had to use hacks and workarounds in order to obtain consistent results across web browsers and platforms .

One of the most well-known CSS bugs is the Internet Explorer box model bug; box widths are interpreted incorrectly in several versions of the browser, resulting in blocks which appear as expected in most browsers, but are too narrow when viewed in Internet Explorer. The bug can be avoided, but not without some cost in terms of functionality.

This is just one of hundreds of CSS bugs that have been documented in various versions of Internet Explorer, Netscape, Mozilla, and Opera many of which reduce the legibility of documents. The proliferation of such bugs in CSS implementations has made it difficult for designers to achieve a consistent appearance across platforms.

Currently there is strong competition between Mozilla’s Gecko layout engine, Opera’s Presto layout engine , and the KHTML engine used in both Apple’s Safari and the Linux Konqueror browsers – each of them is leading in different aspects of CSS. Internet Explorer remains the worst at rendering CSS by standards set down by World Wide Web Consortium as of 2005 .

Some breakthroughs …

These problems have preisely led the W3C to revise the CSS2 standard into CSS2.1, which may be regarded as something of a working snapshot of current CSS support. CSS2 properties which no browser had successfully implemented were dropped, and in a few cases, defined behaviours were changed to bring the standard into line with the predominant existing implementations..

What makes style sheets significant enough?

et representsStyle she an enormous step forward for the Web. With the separation of content and presentation between HTML and style sheets, the Web no longer needs to drift away from the strong ideal of platform independence that provided the medium with its initial push of popularity. Authors can finally influence the presentation of documents without leaving pages unreadable to users

A style sheet is made up of style rules that tell a browser how to present a document. There are various ways of linking these style rules to your HTML documents, but the simplest method for starting out is to use HTML’s STYLE element. This element is placed in the document HEAD, and it contains the style rules for the page.

Functionality and Usage of CSS

CSS is well-designed to allow the separation of presentation and structure. Prior to CSS, nearly all of the presentational attributes of an HTML document were contained within the HTML code; all font colors, background styles, element alignments, borders and sizes had to be explicitly described, often repeatedly, in the midst of the HTML code.

CSS allows authors to move much of that information to a stylesheet, resulting in considerably simpler HTML code. The HTML documents become much smaller and web browsers will usually cache sites’ CSS stylesheets. This leads to a reduction in network traffic and noticeably quicker page downloads.

For example, the HTML element h2 specifies that the text contained within it is a level two heading. It has a lower level of importance than h1 headings, but a higher level of importance than h3 headings. This aspect of the h2 element is structural .

Customarily, headings are rendered in decreasing order of size, with h1 as the largest, because larger headings are usually interpreted to have greater importance than smaller ones. Headings are also typically rendered in a bold font in order to give them additional emphasis. The h2 element may be rendered in bold face, and in a font larger than h3 but smaller than h1 . This aspect of the h2 element is presentational .

Prior to CSS, document authors who wanted to assign a specific color, font, size, or other characteristic to all h2 headings had to use the HTML font element for each occurrence of that heading type.

Moreover, CSS can be used with XML, to allow such structured documents to be rendered with full stylistic control over layout, typography, color, and so forth in any suitable user agent or web browser.

CSS has its share of inconsistencies as well

CSS may at times be misused, particularly by the author of web documents. Some developers who are accustomed to designing documents strictly in HTML may overlook or ignore the enabling features of CSS. For instance, a document author who is comfortable with HTML markup that mixes presentation with structure may opt to use strictly embedded CSS styles in all documents. While this may be an improvement over using deprecated HTML presentational markup, it suffers from some of the same problems that mixed-markup HTML does; specifically, it entails a similar amount of document maintenance.

Discrepancies compared: CSS vs programming languages

CSS also shares some pitfalls common with programming languages. In particular, the problem of choosing appropriate names for CSS classes and identifiers may afflict CSS authors. In the attempt to choose descriptive names for CSS classes, authors might associate the class name with desired presentational attributes; for example, a CSS class to be applied to emphasized text might be named “bigred,” implying that it is rendered in a large red font.

While such a choice of naming may be intuitive to the document author, it can cause problems if the author later decides that the emphasized text should instead be green; the author is left with a CSS class called “bigred” that describes something that is green. In this instance, a more appropriate class name might have been “emphasized,” to better describe the purpose or intent of the class, rather than the appearance of elements of that class.

In a programming language, such a misuse might be analogous to using a variable name “five” for a variable which contains the value 5; however, if the value of the variable changes to 7, the name is no longer appropriate.

CSS in a nutshell

CSS is used by both the authors and readers of web pages to define colors, fonts, layout and other aspects of document presentation. It is designed primarily to enable the separation of document structure (written in HTML or a similar markup language) from document presentation (written in CSS).

This separation provides a number of benefits, including improved content accessibility, greater flexibility and control in the specification of presentational characteristics, and reduced complexity of the structural content. CSS is also capable of controlling the document’s style separately in alternative rendering methods, such as on-screen in print, by voice (when read out by a speech-based browser or screen reader) and on braille-based, tactile devices.

CSS allows complete and total control over the style of a hypertext document. The only way this can be illustrated in a way that gets people excited is by demonstrating what it can truly be, once the reins are placed in the hands of those able to create beauty from structure.


Good Web Design – What is it?

There is unlimited possibilities when it comes to designing a website. Flash, Database, content management, Client Login, etc,etc. A question to ask yourself when deciding how to do your website is:

How can I most effectively present my information to my visitors

Of course there are several things to consider like budget but I feel that when talking strictly design it is important to put your visitors as first priority as they are the reason you are building the website.

  • Flash – Flash I find is normally over done. It can do wonders to a site if used right, but it can also make a site look awful if not used correctly. To simply put it: If you have multimedia content on your website consider flash, if you don’t: stay away from it altogether. Flash is more time consuming to develop, and it can take away a lot of important aspects from your sites like SEO Search Engine Optimization.
  • Database – Adding a database back end to your site can be very useful if you are going to be storing a lot of data, or if you are going to be changing information often. If you are just simply putting a page with your contacts online, I wouldn’t recommend using a database backend, again for the time that it costs to develop and especially for the minor benefit that you will see. On the other hand if you are storing all of your products online and you need the ability to update/add/delete products often I wouldn’t recommend not using a database and some type of content management.
  • Content Management – Content management is most likely used with a database back end in which you will have a control panel that you can use to “Manage Content”. Content that can be managed is anything and everything. Sample uses for Content Management are:
  • Managing Products – Add new and delete/edit existing
  • News/Journals – If you want the ability to constantly update your site with current news items or journals
  • Page Layout – Some more advanced Content Management systems will all you to manage all aspects of your site from the layout to the colors!

    Again I stress the importance of putting your visitors first. Although you might think it would be cool to have a flashy intro and design, your visitors might find it annoying and distracting.

    Feel free to reprint this article as long as you keep the following caption and author biography in tact with all hyperlinks.

5 Important Website Writing & Design Conventions

This article outlines the five most important conventions for writing and designing your webpages.

Your presentation is every bit as important as your content. The best content in the world won’t ever be read if the presentation is so bad that nobody stays long enough to read it. If you maximize your website usability, your visitors stay longer, read more, and you make more sales.

If the purpose of your web site is to educate your readers and/or lead them to a specific action, (like buying something) then you should seriously consider following these design and writing conventions…

1. Start Each Page With Your Most Important Content.
2. Use Meaningful Link Text to Provide Information.
3. Write Scannable Pages.
4. Use Simple Website Designs.
5. Use Clear, Consistent Website Navigation.

1. Start Each Page With Your Most Important Content.
People are impatient; they will scan your page quickly and leave as soon as they get bored. Put your best, most important content near the top of the page.

Design your layout so that nothing pushes your most important content down past the “page fold”. That is your “Prime Real Estate” — don’t waste it. Large logos, unnecessary graphics, ambiguous headlines…. all these things are a waste of your must valuable space.

Begin each page with a summary or a short list of page contents. Be specific, and place the newest items at the top of the list or in a “What’s New” section.

2. Use Meaningful Link Text to Provide Information.
Web surfers decide in seconds whether or not your page is worth reading. When you use bland, content-neutral words for your link text, you miss an important opportunity to provide information. (Also – visually impaired web users often instruct their computer to read the link text aloud, “Click here” won’t help them.)

The words used in your anchor text should suggest what the reader will find when they click on the link, and help them decide to click or not.

* Bad: To learn about icebergs
* Better: Icebergs
* Best: Where icebergs come from.

You can make your links even more informative by following them with a blurb:

Blurbs: Short Previews of Web Pages
A “Blurb” is a short paragraph that gives a preview of the page at the other end of a link. You are reading a blurb now. If a blurb helps a reader decide to click the link, then it works.

3. Write Scannable Pages.
Offline, books and magazine articles are designed for sequential reading: You start at the beginning and read to the end.

Online text is not necessarily sequential – it relies upon smaller chunks of text, which the reader often does not read in order. So each page of your website must make sense to a visitor who did not see the preceding page, or just arrived from a search engine.

Meaningful, informative headers & subheadings, bulleted lists, and bold keywords all help readers scan the page quickly and easily.

4. Use Simple Website Designs.
Your visitors didn’t come to see your fancy graphics. They came to find information about prices or availability, they’re looking for contact information or directions, or maybe they just want some technical details…

Unless your website is about cool graphic effects, I can guarantee that your visitors don’t really care about your spinning logo or dancing unicorns, or even whether or not your menu buttons blink or change background images on a mouse-over.

Web-savvy visitors have ‘trained’ themselves to ignore ads. Anything that flashes, shimmers, blinks or dances around will not get the attention that it deserves.

The more such things you put on your page, the harder your reader will have to work in order to find what they want. Too much of that and they are gone, never to return. Use images wisely. Every image on your page slows it down, sometimes a little, sometimes a lot….
* Use smaller images whenever possible.
* For large collections of images, use an index with thumbnails that they can click if they want to see the image full-size.
* Use an image editor to reduce the file size of your images

See our “Using images in your webpages” section for more about all that ~ http://blt-web.com/web_design/using_images.html

5. Use clear, Consistent Website Navigation.
Next to pages that take forever to load (and pop-ups), the biggest complaint that surfers have is difficult to understand and/or inconsistent website navigation…
* Use the same menu on all your pages.
* Use a logical link hierarchy, with related items together.
* Be perfectly clear with your link titles & descriptions.
* Use text links whenever possible.
* If you must use image links, use the alt=”link destination” element.

A website with more than ten or fifteen pages may not need a link from every page to every other page… you can link to each section from each page, but give each section its own “Table Of Contents”.

Every page should have a link to the home page and to the site map. (If you have less than ten pages, you may omit a site map, but your home page should have a text link to every page for search engines.)

Following these 5 simple guidelines will help your website be a success. With faster-loading pages and easier-to-find information, people will read more of your content and are more likely to take the action that you want them to.

To Your Success