Saturday, October 09, 2004

CSS is the Future

I can say I grew up in web designing since I learned how to do this since 1996. My career in web designing and web development all started with basic HTML. HTML was still in it's early stages when I started, and the W3C was still with the HTML 2.0 standard and was working on HTML 3.0. Tags and attributes were limited then. And Microsoft Internet Explorer was inventing tags that only Internet Explorer knew and so was Netscape Navigator was also inventing tags that one Netscape knew.

Some tags became standard, others not, some tags are starting to be obsolete and were being removed from the standards made by the W3C but the major browsers still seem to know many of the old tags.

The additional languages and plug-ins started to come out since HTML is limited. Some are still used today, some died in history. Today, HTML in it's pure code form is widely used with JavaScript and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). We're not talking about plug-ins like Flash, Quicktime, MediaPlayer, Real Player, Java, or the server-side programming languages. We're just talking about HTML code and everything you type in it that will run without any other plug-in and the browser will simply understand it client-side.

When CSS came out and I even actually bought a book about CSS in it's early stages, I just read it cover to cover and said to myself, that's it? CSS is easy and why do I need it if I can do things with HTML alone?

Although I used CSS early, I used it only for links. Since there is really no way to take out the underline in text links using HTML alone. And I found it cumbersome in it's early stages figuring out how things should be done in Internet Explorer and how it should be done in Netscape.

Today CSS has evolved into the most powerful tools in web design. Once mastered you will totally forget HTML's table tags and frame tags, even iframes. Now this article is not a full fledged CSS tutorial, sorry if that's what you are expecting. Actually this article is intended for people who have been playing with HTML already since they are the main people that will appreciate all of this. What I am going to mention though is how to optimize CSS and the advantages of it and why I am starting to shift to use this so much.
  • A basic is as much as possible, place all styles in one CSS file and link the HTML page to it. I guess many CSS users already know this. And the advantages, many of you also know, for easy updating, change the CSS file and you change everything. If you change the font size in the CSS file, the whole website is affected.
  • Cleaner code without table tags. Simply using div tags and height, width, margins and padding in CSS and you're ready to go. Having div containers help a lot too. Background images in divs even have the option to be tiled or not. No need to use transparent spacer graphics as well to position things around.
  • Controlled padding in the p, li and heading tags. P, li and heading have large paddings and to be able to control them would be great.
  • Byebye to frames. Like tables, code just get so many, real long code, especially in nesting them. With CSS, it is way more simpler. Faster to implement, shorter code, more precise and accurate in positioning and sizes.
  • Cascade whatever you can cascade. I never really understood this before, I used CSS, but it was like I was only using the "SS" without the "C". Consolidate your elements as well in CSS file. Using it and doing it will get you a better picture of the advantages of this. Minimize ids and classes as much as possible.
  • Learn how to float div boxes and this makes shopping carts and picture galleries a lot more easier to implement, than having tables with repeating td tags and numerous computations and counting to determining when tr tags must come out.
Right now, if you do not know CSS, everything written here may sound nonsense. But when the days comes and you do get into CSS, remember all the tips I said above. If you know CSS but still have no idea what the real advantage is, it is a lot more easier to understand why, when you see it yourself. I hope I have time soon to type in a few CSS tutorials next time.

I'd like to thank everyone at Einstein Industries, they are giving new meaning to CSS as how the way I understood it. To my students, experience is still the best teacher. I read all about CSS before, I was even teaching it in school, but the real advantage of it, I just saw it now with the help of other people who use CSS too. CSS is the future of web design.


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