What is CSS?

If you are new to the world of Web design, you may have heard the term CSS and wondered what it is and how you use it. CSS refers to cascading style sheets. The style sheet is the actual document, and while they may sound like a new invention, style sheets have been utilized for document design for years. Whether online or print, style sheets form the technical specifications for a layout. In this way, they assist print designers in ensuring that the final designs are printed precisely to their specifications. In terms of a webpage, style sheets provide the same purpose. The only difference is that a style sheet communicates to the Web browser how the document being viewed should be rendered. Cascade is the exception when it comes to web design. Web style sheets are intended to cascade through a series of sheets.
Each webpage is affected by a minimum of one style sheet. This style sheet is the default style that the browser will utilize for displaying a page if there are no other instructions provided. If a designer does provider other instructions, the Web browser will need to understand which instructions should have precedence.

The Importance of CSS

For novice Web designers who do not understand CSS, it can be a significant challenge. This does not mean that you must sacrifice complete control of your website simply because you are not familiar with CSS. There are many tools and sites available that can assist you. One of the most popular is Weebly. This is a point-and-click interface that provides even novice users who are not familiar with CSS with the ability to design Web pages with the skill of a professional Web designer. If you can point and click your mouse, you can use Weebly. Even more experienced designers often take advantage of Weebly’s Advanced Theme Editor for editing CSS.shutterstock_200080904

CSS may sound as though it only plays a minor role in the design of a Web page, but in reality, it serves as one of the most powerful tools available to Web designers. With CSS, it is possible to change the entire look and feel of a website. With a well-written style sheet, it is possible to make quick updates without the need to change the underlying HTML. Among the more common styles that are often applied to HTML are text size and color. Prior to CSS, if you wanted to ensure that all H2 headlines were blue, you would need to type in the front tag before and after each H2 headline. As one might imagine, this could be a time-consuming process and one that could be fraught with the potential for error. CSS makes the process much simpler. All you need to do is declare that all H2 headlines are blue. For each page that utilizes that style sheet and for all elements using that style, they will be blue.

The most challenging aspect of CSS is that there is quite a bit to learn. Within each level of CSS, there are dozens of different properties. CSS is also more challenging than HTML because it can cascade and combine. Additionally, different browsers can interpret the instructions differently, which can serve to complicate things a bit.

Understanding Different Styles

Three basic elements comprise CSS: styles, placement and the cascade. Style sheets can be placed in three different locations within a document:

• In an individual tag
• In the HEAD
• In an external file

When a style is placed within an individual tag, that style will only affect that individual tag. By comparison, when a style is placed within the head of a document, the entire page will be affected. Styles that are placed in an external document will affect any Web page that loads that style.

Once you have learned CSS, you can take advantage of far greater control over your website and be able to accomplish much more than with just simple HTML. For example, with an inline style, you can create a style set that is contained within a single tag. This means that the style will only affect the current tag. Every other tag on the page will possess the default style. For instance, suppose you want a single paragraph to have a grey background, you could use an inline to create:

<p style=”background-color: #cccccc; border: none;”>
This paragraph has an inline style to change the background color to grey (#cccccc).
</p>

You can also establish style sheets that will affect a single Web page. To do this, you will utilize a STYLE element in the HEAD of the relevant document.

One of the more common questions that beginners to CSS often have is what they should use CSS to style. CSS can be used to affect the various visual aspects of a web page. You might be surprised to find that the majority of the design for a Web page is created using CSS rather than HTML. You can utilize CSS to change:

• Fonts
• Blocks of text
• Layout
• Lists
• Backgrounds
• Images

CSS also gives you precise control over the position of various elements of your web page. For example, you can use CSS to control the size of elements as well as where they are located in the document’s flow. You can even utilize CSS for providing elements with specific placements and coordinates within the layout of the page.

Learning CSS is often considered more complicated than learning HTML, but it can give you greater control over the final design of your Web page. Keep in mind that even if you are new to Web design, there are many Web design tools available that can assist you in creating beautiful, customized Web pages with professional looking results.

Posted on Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014