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Introduction

Introduction

Stylin' was inspired by my friend Dan Reich, who called me back in spring of 2004 with a CSS question. After I provided a lengthy explanation about what he needed to do, he said, “You should put this all in a book—I'd buy it.” So I jotted down a few ideas about what I would put into a CSS book and thought no more about it until a month later when my former business partner Michael Nolan, who is now an acquisitions editor for New Riders, called me to ask if I had any names of potential authors for Web related books. Fatefully, I uttered the word “Me?” and after a brief discussion of my ideas, sent him my outline. Within two weeks, Stylin' was scheduled for publication. All I had to do then was write it.

I have discovered that writing a book is no trivial task. Before I started, I asked another New Riders author, Jesse James Garrett, if he liked writing, and he replied: “I like having written.” Now I know what he means. Part of the reason that Stylin' has been a nine-month labor-of-love (besides having two small children and full-time job) is that I have tried to make it both in-depth and easy to understand. If you want to use CSS to design Web sites you can't do it in a half-baked way. You are in or you're not in.

Web design has changed in the last few years, and CSS is at the center of that change. The focus is now on structure first, rather than presentation, so that content is clean and free of the mass of presentation tags such as FONT and table tags that ten years of presentation driven “killer Web sites” have left us with. Today, we want to present our content on a number of different user agents, such as the new generation of standards-compliant Web browsers, cell phones, and handhelds. The problem is that our Web sites are covered in presentational “chocolate sauce” written to make content display on obsolete Web browsers; some serious remedial work must be undertaken to separate the content from its presentation.

The pay-offs of are great though; using CSS, we can take clean, structural markup, and using style sheets, present it in a variety of layouts for a variety of user agents. Sites like CNN have already bitten this bullet and converted their pages to Web standards by cleaning all the presentational elements out of their content, and using CSS to lay it out onscreen; they can now look forward to the future of delivering their content easily and economically on a myriad of current and yet-to-come devices. We will examine the practical issues around this new approach to Web design in greater depth throughout this book.

Stylin' is also a very practical book, from which it is very easy to take ideas and code for your own work. I take you step-by-step from using simple typographical CSS styles through to building complex layouts created entirely from simple XHTML with all aspects of presentation controlled by CSS. Each example is designed to take your CSS skills to the next level, from basic beginner concepts to the techniques used in professional site development.

You can copy the examples, either from the book, or as code from the Stylin' Web site (www.bbd.com/stylin), and drop them into your designs to rapidly create numerous useful elements such as navigation links, drop-down menus, and graphical links. On the Web site, you'll find page templates for all of the layouts in the book, organized by chapter.

Also, I will show you numerous “hacks”; the term given to using CSS in ways that it was not intended, to enable consistent display of your pages across both newer, standards-compliant browsers and also the older, “legacy” browsers, still used by many, that cannot correctly interpret CSS. As long as Microsoft holds out on joining the Web standards party, the hacks must continue.

Most, of all, I hope this book will help you successfully realize your creative ideas. This is not a book about design, per se, but it is a book for designers, and contains key techniques you need to make standards-based Web design a reality. If you have been thinking about adopting CSS as a design tool, or want to move entirely to CSS-based presentation for your Web pages, this book is for you.

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