Today’s Internet is a lot different than it used to be. With new developments such as SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and web standards, building websites the same old way just won’t cut it anymore. The W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) creates guidelines and regulations that designers strive to follow to make their sites as accessible and functional as possible. Compliance with W3C standards ensures that your site achieves its full potential across a range of systems. However, the W3C regulations continue to change everyday. Do these new rules and regulations on the Internet mean that your website has to suffer aesthetically? The answer is NO. With CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), web designers have the ability to do anything on the web, from browser compatibility to full control of all the aesthetics of any web page. CSS also gives a more solid foundation for SEO, usability, and compliance with web standards.
From a development aspect of web design, the first great advantage of CSS is cross browser compatibility. Every web designer has sat down at a foreign computer and opened one of their websites only to find that the layout is mangled. Everything is either in a different spot or not present at all. This happens because different Internet browsers, and even different versions of the same Internet browser, display websites slightly differently. Web designers are forced to test their builds on as many browsers as possible to minimize this problem. However, users constantly upgrade their computers and download new features to enhance their experience on the Internet. As a developer, you can never control all the variables, but you can eliminate the majority of the problems by using CSS – an extreme advantage when one considers that everything on the Internet is about usability. If the user is at ease and comfortable then they are more likely to return to your site, purchase your product, recommend your service to others, etc. If they get confused because the navigation moves or doesn’t function properly, they are more likely to move on to another site.
Web designers know that the power of CSS gives them many options, but a great deal of designers do not use CSS to its full capabilities. By learning about this language, you can develop it to do more. The cascading part of CSS is the most important feature and yet it is still the most over-looked. CSS makes it possible for the designer to alter one file and, in doing so; make modifications to the entire site. For example, rather than adjusting every font tag individually, this programming technique allows the designer to alter every font in the entire site by changing a single tag in the CSS file. CSS also creates code that is cleaner and less bulky than other scripting languages. Less code means that the search engine “bots” will have enhanced access to the content on your website. In turn, your website will be indexed more effectively, matching your site with appropriate inquiries from users looking for your services. Older development techniques like frames and tables limit the search engines’ ability to crawl your website, so the bot will leave without registering the content. This significantly limits the search engines’ ability to view and catalogue all of your information, and ultimately limits your presence online.
Increased ease and efficiency is another great benefit of CSS. Once you have obtained a decent knowledge of the programming technique, however, it is very easy to let the styles of the CSS control the way you design. CSS functions much like building blocks. At the bottom levels, building is very easy to accomplish, but the larger you go the more advanced and detailed the work becomes. I see many websites that boast about the designer’s ability to utilize CSS, but the site is rather plain and boring. I am a big fan of minimalism but not when it results from a lack of creativity. Which brings me to the question, has the ease of CSS made designers lazy? For some, the answer is yes, but others use the many advantages of CSS to connect creative design with utility and performance. As a full-time designer, I devote all of my energy to creating graphic-focused, visually stimulating websites with CSS as the structure everything is built on.
A website doesn’t have to be simple or boring to work properly. CSS does not limit the design graphically but instead gives the designer the power to create an aesthetically pleasing and fully functional website. If you took two identical designs and built one with tables and one table-less (CSS), the CSS site would have a higher usability across more platforms, it would rank better with the search engines, and the overall performance of the website would be better. Graphically intense CSS layouts do take more time to think through and build out, but that is why I make custom websites. In the ever-changing online world, CSS-based sites are the most up-to-date and effective way to build W3C compliant websites that push the limits of design and function.