What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?


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What Does This Mean to Me, Laura?

Keeping Up

CSS Part I: Why you need them

2nd June 2009

scary words–> CASCADING STYLE SHEETS! <–scary words

Are you scared?  Cowering in a corner?  (Okay, I suspected you weren’t.)   How about uncomfortable?  A teeny bit?

If you’re a regular user of CSS, you probably think I’m a bit nuts.  If you’re not, you might feel intimidated by the idea of using Cascading Style Sheets instead of those old <font> and <b> tags in your web pages.  Or, you might not even know what Cascading Style Sheets are, except that they’re just one more thing you’re supposed to know about and don’t have the time to learn.

In Part I, I’m actually not going to talk so much about about what CSS is, as much as why you need to make the time to learn it.  “What” and “why” are really difficult to explain separately, so no doubt there will be some intermingling here.  But I’ll give it a shot.

Why should *I* learn CSS, Laura?

  • Power. Lots of it.  [Insert evil laugh here.]  With CSS, you have extremely granular control over how your web pages look; much more power than using old HTML.  With CSS, you can change things you never could with just HTML–positioning elements on the page in particular.  With much more finesse to boot.  You also get, at no extra charge, the ability to manage how EVERY page in your site looks from one central location.  It’s like the display control panel for your entire site.  No more changing inline code on every #@$! page of your site when the library’s logo colors change and the whole site has to match the new color scheme.
  • Standards-compliance. I covered this in a separate post, but it’s worth bringing back up here:  using those old tags immediately makes your site’s code non-compliant with current coding standards.  Sorry, there are no exceptions.  As soon as you start putting those old tags in, game over.  Your site  now immediately qualifies for 1) Non-professional status and also likely for 2) Visitor frustration, especially if they are coming to your site with a more obscure browser and/or a mobile device.
  • Accessibility. Want your site to be clear and understandable to those visitors using adaptive software, such as many of the blind and visually impaired use?  The first thing you have to do is learn CSS.  CSS gets a lot of those styling instructions off the individual pages (remember the “control panel” I mentioned earlier?) and out of the way for them.
  • HTML 4.01 is dead. It has been since 1999.  That’s right–CSS has been around for 10 years.  It’s time to move on.  If you’re still using old HTML tags to do your dirty work, you’re basically using zombie code.

Coming up next week in Part II:  What is CSS and a gentle introduction to using it