If you have been paying attention, you certainly have noticed an increasing number of websites that are employing CSS and an increasing number of resources talking about how great CSS is. If you have not yet jumped on the CSS bandwagon, you may want to consider doing so immediately.
CSS has many different benefits for website owners. The most obvious is the pure, raw design capabilities CSS brings to websites. CSS can control everything from the size of your font to the very layout of your page. A site designed with proper HTML and CSS can avoid incorporating almost any design elements into the actual HTML. This means a website owner can change the entire look of their whole site without changing a single HTML page. For owners of sites with dynamic content or sites that have a lot of content (blogs, forums, stores, etc), this becomes a huge time saver.
CSS also allows a website owner to build their HTML in a nice, logical order. Often when using tables to layout a website, the HTML that powers the website is not laid out in a logical order (this is referred to as the ‘code flow’). This can hurt website owners in two ways. The first, and more important way, is to recognize that not everyone who uses the Internet is viewing your website through a visual browser such as Internet Explorer or Firefox. There are a whole group of people who are viewing websites using web readers and other tools which rely on well-organized code. Secondly, a well-organized website can actually help your search engine rankings. When a spider discovers a page that is well organized and not filled with a lot of extra HTML code, it can determine more accurately and quickly what that page is really about. Let’s face it, we all want to help the spiders, right?
It is in the spirit of CSS that this article is written. There are hundreds of websites offering CSS tutorials, CSS examples, competitions, and showcases. There may be some that we are not aware of which are not displayed hë²¥, and if so, we encourage you to let us know in the Site Reference Forums.
With that said, we must offer a word of warning before going to any of these websites. These sites can become very addicting if you enjoy web design in the slightest way. Some of these sites link to literally hundreds of other sites which will catch your interest.
Now that the warning has been issued, we present to you a list of our favorite CSS websites.
If you have any doubts over how powerful CSS really is, then you need to visit CSS Zen Garden. CSS Zen Garden is a display of the power and beauty of CSS. The concept is simple: see how many ways designers can take the exact same HTML code and produce completely different looking pages. As you browse through the various designs, you will find that the only thing changing the way each page looks is the CSS file. The HTML is exactly the same.
CSS Zen Garden is a great showcase of creativity and technical expertise. It is also important to point out that CSS Zen Garden does not use any tables for their layout. Everything is done in pure, simple HTML and CSS.
The Web Developer’s Network
Any of the sites that make our favorites list are certainly listed on this extensive resource page. Be warned, this page has so many resources listed it is easy to get lost for hours exploring them. Some of the resources are just fun to explore while others offer some very practical advice on practical matters.
The page is not limited to CSS resources, but also delves into areas of good website design and creativity, along with anything else you could possibly want for your design needs. Our only criticism of this site is that it might be too extensive to find a specific tutorial or help guide.
Official Cascading Style Sheets Level 2 Specification
This is the place where it all starts if you want to learn CSS. Hë²¥ you will find the official documentation on how to use CSS and what CSS is used for. Many novice website owners are scared away from this site because it is written in very technical language and they fear that they will not be able to understand it. If you feel this way, be careful not to sell yourself short. The specifications are actually much easier if you know how to read them.
When going over this document, keep in mind a few things. First, CSS was built for more than just the Internet. CSS can be used in print media and broadcast media as well. So when you are reading some of the instructions in the official manual you may find some aspects that do not apply to what you are doing. Secondly, do not worry if you do not understand a certain chapter or bit of information. The trick to learning CSS is to get a basic understanding of it first, then practice, then go back and re-read what you have already read (things will make a bit more sense this time around), then practice, then go back and re-read again, and so on. Every time you practice what you learned and go back to re-read some of the specifications, it will make more and more sense to you.
As a point of reference, if you want to just go over the most important chapters in the manual, be sure to read these chapters: Chapters 8-12, 14-18, and 4-6.
CSS from the Ground Up
Ok, so you have tried the official manual and it is just too difficult to understand. That is fine. There is a lot of information included in the manual, and they certainly do not work at entertaining you with the manual. If you want a bare bones tutorial on CSS, the people from Web Page Design for Designers have put together a pretty good basic tutorial which should get you started on your first CSS pages.
One thing you will learn as you begin to work with CSS powered layouts is that lists are extremely powerful tools. Lists are a vital part of building a website with good code flow. Getting lists to appear correctly in different browsers, or to appear in new, original ways, however, can be quite challenging.
Listamatic offers several examples of lists that use simple CSS. The examples cover nearly everything that you could possibly hope to achieve from an HTML list. Of course, if you are working with a nested list, they have examples of those as well.
This site offers a little bit of everything. They offer a great gallery for you to stop by and gawk at, as well as a number of resources on everything from lists to building layouts that do not use tables. Definitely a good overall resource on CSS.
CSS Layout Techniques
No CSS guide would be complete if we did not address the issue of building a layout that does not use tables. This is certainly the most challenging aspect of CSS, learning how to build a nice layout. The people over at Glish.com have put together examples of several different types of layouts. They may not offer every layout you could possibly use, but looking over their guides will certainly help you learn different techniques to learning how to layout your page.
There really cannot be enough resources on how to work with layouts using CSS. Ruthsarian Layouts offers several very good examples of popular layouts.
And yet again, we offer another site dedicated to learning layouts and the little quirks that each browser brings into your CSS design. This site may just have the most information on position with CSS than any other site.
This is another site that goes a bit beyond CSS and into some other aspects of design, but still offers so much to learn from that it is highly worth putting in your favorites file. Included in this site is an impressive gallery, some forums, a collection of bullets that you can use on your site (where has this been for the past several years?), and a great collection of resources.
Using These Resources to Learn
Whether you are a code junkie or are a person who relies on FrontPage to do all of your design, moving in the direction of CSS and properly formatted HTML is the future of the Internet. For many, beginning the process of learning CSS may seem like a useless and overly-difficult venture. However, if you are responsible for the look and feel of your website you should begin to explore this technology which is being used more and more.
The best way to learn CSS is to start using it. Experiment with different parts of CSS. Try and accomplish different tricks that you have nevë² done before. If you have nevë² created a page without tables, try and do so today. If you have nevë² worked with a list to format it in a completely different manner, experiment with that. Browse through some of the sites in the many different gallerï¥³ offered to us and get inspired. Use these sites and these resources to imagine what your website could look like.
Your website is your salë³ pitch to your visitors. When they arrive at your website, it should be your goal to present to them the best looking page you can possibly provide. A well designed page will provide your users with the comfort that you are invested in your business, and you will be invested in them as a customer and visitor.
The Internet is a rapidly changing environment, with new technology and new tools being made available to enhance your site every day, and thus enhance your visitor’s experience. It is your responsibility to make sure that your website sells, and that requires using the modern and powerful technologies that are available to us.
About The Author
Mark Daoust is the owner of Site Reference and TowerSearch. You are frë¥ to use this article on your website as long as you make all the links active and include this resource box.