Cascading Style Sheets, better known as CSS, have become a staple tool in web design. In short, CSS is the way in which web designers separate the presentation or design of a web site from the structure or the markup. By using CSS a web designer can built his web site so that any style or presentation changes he wants to make in the future can all be handled in one place. This consolidation of resources is not only helpful to the web design professional but also to the site visitor as well.
When you use CSS the idea is to generate very clean HTML markup that has absolutely no built-in styling. That means when you write a heading you use the < h1 > tag alone with no extra tags to define the heading’s font, color, size, etc. Then you built a separate file with a .css extension where you define tag styles. In your CSS file, you would then tell the browser how the < h1 > tag should look. Back on your HTML file you create a link to the CSS file and then any changes you make on that CSS file in the future will instantly be reflected on your site without having to change any of the site’s HTML.
The added bonus of using a separate CSS file is in bandwidth and load times. Most modern browsers will cache any files with a .css extension. This is a nice bonus because it means the visitors to your site will have less to download and make your site appear faster. If you make a change to the CSS file, the browser will be smart enough to recognize the difference and reload the cached copy it has on file. This way you never have to worry about people seeing an older version of your site’s design.
CSS can even be used to style other sites you don’t control as well. Some browserds have extensions that have been developed to allow you to overwrite a websites style with a CSS file on your local machine. This is especially common with some of the more popular web applications like free email services from the major providers.
Cascading Style Sheets are practically a must for any serious web design professional. There is no excuse to not use CSS in your site designs especially when you consider all of the obvious benefits involved. CSS makes your life easier by increasing the speed and efficiency in which you can update your site’s appearance.