CSS reading (Day 113/365)

I spent a lot of today reading through two new books I bought on CSS: The CSS Anthology: 101 essential tips, tricks & hacks, and The Zen of CSS Design: visual enlightenment for the web.

The latter is devoted to explicating the contents of the website csszengarden.com, a pioneer in getting web designers to consider CSS as a design force. I had encountered it before, but never really needed to look at it in depth.

The concept is pretty interesting: the site has a single HTML file, and scores of approaches to that single page using CSS to lay it out. WARNING! TECHNICAL EXPLANATION AHEAD: HTML was originally developed to mark up research papers (and the web was originally developed to share research papers.) It was never meant to be a layout tool. Before long, the designers wanted layout capability, so frames and tables were developed, i.e., ways of chopping up your screen into little squares that your browser would reassemble to match what the designer wanted you to see.

However, we are all supposed to despise frames and tables now. (Actually, we’ve been despising frames for some years now. It’s hard to keep up.) Nowadays, CSS is what all the cool kids use to spank HTML into submission.

I’ve cheated in redesigning my main website by using templates provided by DreamWeaver. However, I’ve modified the template to meet my needs, and now I’m thinking about making it a little more elegant if I can figure out exactly what that might look like. From what I can tell on csszengarden, it’s all about using images as backgrounds. It’s all very complicated and, I’m afraid, time consuming. Still, I’ve had some cool ideas about the eventual William Blake website that I think will dazzle.

First, though, I think I’m going to redesign and rescue the production photos from Figaro. At the moment, they’re still in the old NCTC design, using tables. Quel recherché.