CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) is commonly thought of as the next step from HTML, though this is not precisely true; for one thing, it doesn’t replace HTML…and for another, CSS doesn’t even need HTML, as long as there is some kind of XML base to work with.
Basically, CSS is like a decorator or designer; though you’re still stuck with clunky old HTML (or whatever), you can now get it to do so much…less. In fact, as little as possible. By taking most of the control away from HTML tags and developing the presentation of the site with CSS, you’ll likely see a vast improvement in your options for flexibility, creativity, and adaptability.
On the other hand, if you were building an e-commerce website that would offer princess dress up clothes and all the necessary accessories, you would probably designate specific areas for particular princess dress designs. Obviously there would be sections where a customer could find find princess accessories, tiaras, crowns and cone hats, princess wands, princess capes and cloaks, princess gloves, and even tutus and pettiskirts. You also might want your customers to be able to shop by “princess”, ie: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, etc. With such a large e-commerce site, most owners would want the site to be built with “tools” so someone who did not know html code could enter products and content to the site’s pages easily. Therefore the web builder would need to create a user-friendly CMS with cascading style sheets and not even go with a CSS/HTML website. Many CMS sites need web their masters to enter content in a CMS “tool,” so for instance if an employee were describing a luxury wine gift basket product using the wine manufacturer’s description as well as some unique content, it would be not only easy, but would require no coding. For many small e-commerce site owners it would be a savings in their web master’s time and consequently money in the long run.
Some experts say that the initial investment is lower for an CSS/HTML. There are certainly plenty of templates available to use. However, in the long run a custom CMS system, once it is built, makes it easier to add and/ or edit content, changes take place immediately, and there is no need to contact a web developer and wait till they have the time to create/edit content. Today many CMS sites are built with a CSS as well.
If this sounds like potentially a lot of work to you, you’ll be relieved to learn that CSS will actually end up saving you a lot of work. Once you’ve created your style sheet (.css file), you can apply it to any number of pages or sites…instead of having to rewrite the HTML for each one. Think of it as a ‘universal makeover kit’ for your basic HTML content.
Of course, if you’ve never taken a look at the nuts and bolts of HTML, you should probably get a decent handle on basic markup language before trying to implement CSS. The good news? There’s very little reason for you to spend too much time learning all of the arcane details, because CSS will just replace much of what you learn anyway.
Just for the record: we’re not pretending to be CSS experts or anything. This is as much a learning exercise for us as anything else; if you find anything that we got wrong, please feel free to let us know! Oh, and yes, we are fully aware of the irony of a CSS site that looks rather drab and boring 🙂