CSS design: The basics

by Paul McCarthy on 1 March 2004

What is CSS design & why is it important?

CSS design represents a new, much more powerful way to lay out websites. Traditionally, cumbersome tables have been used to present web pages. In the future this practice will gradually fade out to be replaced by CSS design. To witness its true power have a look at the CSS Zen Garden

Using CSS design allows your pages to download more quickly, makes your website much easier to manage, and has numerous web usability, accessibility and search engine optimisation benefits. Basically, CSS design is a really good thing.

If you're completely new to CSS then you can find an excellent beginner's tutorial at Webmonkey.

Positioning with CSS

There are two main types of CSS positioning: relative and absolute. Absolute CSS positioning places an object in a specified part of the screen. Relative CSS positioning moves an object in relation to where it's supposed to be.

So, to position something 100px from the top and 200px from the left of the screen, you would use this CSS command:

position: absolute;
top: 100px;
left: 200px

To move an object 2em down and 50px to the left, use this CSS command:

position: relative;
top: 2em;
left: 50px

You can also use the margin attribute to move objects relatively:

margin-top: 2em;
margin-left: 50px

Page items not enclosed within the position:relative CSS command will not be affected in any way by it. Page elements featured after the margin CSS command, on the other hand, will have their position adjusted as a result of it.

Making navigation items with CSS

Long gone are the days where you have to use gif images to make fancy navigation items. CSS has opened up a whole new realm of opportunities.

The most important CSS tags here are probably the background and border tags. You could make a basic button with these CSS commands:

color: #fff;
background: #f90;
text-decoration: none;
padding: 0.2em;
border: 4px solid;
border-color: #99f #008 #008 #99f

background: #fa1;
border-color: #008 #99f #99f #008

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