Markup: HTML/CSS Wish Liststarted by Joe Gillespie on Jan 7, 2004 — RSS Feed
Here's my (short) wish list.
1. Microsoft fixes the bugs in IE (especially the box model)
2. valign feature for CSS boxes (top, middle, bottom)
3. Polygonal CSS boxes would be nice.
True CSS WYSIWYG editors for dummies.
It's all way-to-complicated for me. I do not want to learn programming to do graphics and layout.
But I must admit I'm one of those "grew up in the print world" guys and did things by hand and then adapted to Pagemaker when it first came out in the late 80's.
I was not forced to learn Postscript. So why should I be forced to learn CSS?
Where's the Pagemaker of CSS? Who's got a good CSS editor? Will we ever see such a thing?
I recently switched to Dreamweaver MX 2004, which I find has great rendering of CSS but still has some minor bugs. I heard that Adobe GoLive is great as well.
You can't compare CSS with PostScript, they are apples and oranges. PostScript is a page description language that determines the layout and look of a printed page right down to a dot. The Web doesn't work like that.
(X)HTML describes the semantic 'structure' of a page, the skeleton that contains the content. In print terms, the nearest equivalent would be the writer's copy sheets that contains the raw, unstyled content. It will indicate what is a headline, how important that headline is and how the text is grouped into logical paragraphs and sections. It will not make any mention of typefaces or sizes and like HTML, will not include pictures, just references to them.
The equivalent of CSS in PageMaker, XPress, Word, InDesign is also called 'styles'. It is not programming, it's about making design choices. Font styles, colours, how paragraphs look, etc.
As far as positioning element on a Web page goes, you can use HTML or CSS or a combination of both. CSS is more flexible and well worth the extra effort. It's not 'programming', it's not 'complicated' and you shouldn't be afraid of it just because it's a little different.
How many 'designer' do you know who didn't move over from traditional lick-and-stick page makeup to computer-based page makeup and are still working? Computers seemed 'too complicated' to them, but as we all know now, the benefits outweigh the 'complications' by a long shot. It's all about fear of the unknown.
Don't think of CSS as complicated and too difficult, dip your toe in the water, wade in a bit. Soon you'll be calling your friends in too, the water's lovely!
What's the best way to learn CSS (for a beginner)?
There are various ways to learn CSS - books, web pages, lessons.
I've written some tutorials on WPDFD but not necessarily for beginners.
Next month I'm starting a series of tutorials called 'CSS from the ground up' which covers the basics so that anybody can get on board.
Books: I reviewed several good CSS books last year.
I would particularly recommend the Christopher Schmitt book as being easy to read and not too technical.
Lessons: Westciv's CSS courses are very highly recommended
They are not free, but very reasonably priced.
As long as you understand the principles of CSS (IDs, classes, tags, and inline styles vs. external styles), I don't think you need to worry too much about learning every single attribute. That's because a lot of books have references and also Dreamweaver MX 2004 has a 'tag inspector' which lets you set the properties of styles you create.
Where's the Pagemaker of CSS? Who's got a good CSS editor? Will we ever see such a thing?
I came across a CSS editor on the westciv.com site. Haven't tried it out, so I don't know if it's any good, but you can read up on it here:
I've tried Stylemaster by Westciv but couldn't bring myself to like it. I suppose personal preference has a lot to do with it - I just found something lacking in the 'feel' of it
Also tried Topstyle Pro and liked it alot, this is much more of a coding environment though. Playing about with the trial version for a month taught me as much about CSS as anything else.
Good morning good people. It looks as if we've got our first FORUM BRAWL going here with the CSS complication issue. Is it complicated or not?
Maybe we consider CSS complicated for very good reasons. One is because we are not programmers. Another is that we are graphics oriented. A third is because we are busy building web sites and use every handy tool we can get our hands on. Dreamweaver is one of those tools. Also, CSS came into the ball game in the ninth inning, long after we were used to tagging everything up in our HTML. Yes, CSS remains complicated to us at this point. However...
After reading Jeffrey Zeldman's "Designing With Web Standards," we realize that it's time to step-up-to-the-plate and get a good grip on a new bat, i.e, CSS. So we've been all over the place looking for a CSS editor.
WestCiv's editor was first recommended by the PVII group over two years ago. We bought it, tried it, and now don't use it much. Not sure why that is. Maybe it's not as intuitive enough for us. We've not tried Topstyle yet (we are Mac people here).
We try to teach CSS to our web design students at college and use Word's style sheet function as an example. Just about every student has a hard time getting used to the idea of CSS even with Word style sheets as a starting point. But most of these students have become used to WYSIWYG after first learning Photoshop, Illustrator, Fireworks, Word, Pagemaker and In Design. After getting used to markup and layout using those programs and then running into CSS, they complain loudly. One student reported: "Wow, is this some programmer's idea of simplicity?" At best, each student walks away with a simple style sheet that he uses over and over again throughout his web site projects.
Is CSS complicated? Maybe not to those who dive in and test the water. But to the world of WYSIWYG graphics people, CSS remains complicated. Why? Because of the example already set by other programs over the years. And (in my opinion) maybe because today's programmers are not willing to make CSS easy yet (job security).
Forgive us for starting a FORUM BRAWL here. We are not trouble makers. Our true concern here is "who can we trust?" We use Stylemaster now and then and still make mistakes with CSS. We've used Dreamweaver's CSS editor and make mistakes too. Were just not sure who to trust anymore.
We hope all the above makes some kind of sense to a few of you.
I have a lot of sympathy for what you say, I've been there myself.
Maybe we consider CSS complicated for very good reasons. One is because we are not programmers.
CSS is not programming. It's more akin to doing a type markup. I realise that younger designers may have missed-out on typographic markup in the last 20 years but I think that it is wrong to bypass the principles of design in the interests of instant gratification and worship of technology. Using a word processor doesn't make a good writer.
Another is that we are graphics oriented.
It's interesting that you didn't use the word design there. Graphic Design is about improving communication, not just making pretty layouts. The principles behind CSS are sound (if not implemented painlessly). Working with CSS can actually improve design by taking designers away from print disciplines.
A third is because we are busy building web sites and use every handy tool we can get our hands on.
House builders use handy tools too. I would find it very difficult to go back to using a hand drill or non-electric screwdriver. But tools are only tools, it's the person using them that makes the difference. If you have an appreciation for wood, for instance, you will do a better job with a hand plane, or an electric one, than somebody who doesn't. The hand plane does give more control but may not be quite as fast.
Dreamweaver is one of those tools.
As tools go, it's one of the best, but it's still only a tool and knowing how to use it is paramount. The tool doesn't do the job (well it does for some people, sadly) it's the designer. If I was interviewing a web designer for a job, I'd go straight to the 'source' window to see how good they really were. It's not just what's in the browser window that counts. Same with the builder's house, it has to be structurally sound or it's going to break.
Also, CSS came into the ball game in the ninth inning, long after we were used to tagging everything up in our HTML. Yes, CSS remains complicated to us at this point.
Therein lies the problem. It's something 'new' and there is always a fear of the 'new'. As I said before, computers are 'new' to some people and they keep them at arms length. They are set in their ways and not going to be budged from their - whatever. Okay. If they are not comfortable with using computers and can't find a 'user friendy' teacher so be it. I think you will have to agree that they are missing out on something?
Anyway, starting Feb 1, I'm going to explain CSS 'from the ground up' so that anybody can get on board - even if they have never created a web page in their life. It will involve typing. I would be the first to admit that CSS editors are not as simple as they could be and some, downright terrifying. I'm going to do the 'wood' appreciation bit so it won't be as instant as some people would want. I believe that it is the right way and will solve a lot of potential problems down the line. Like computers, CSS is not going to go away.
dzblack - good point about Topstyle only being available on PC. It will stay that way too unfortunately.
I think we have a situation regarding CSS where some people have taken the plunge inspite of the fact that 'designer friendly' CSS software is lacking. Others don't want to really get stuck in until such software is available. Simple.
As Joe says, CSS will not go away, infact it will become more popular. It is just a question of when each individual feels ready to learn and use it.
I don't feel it has much to do with programming. It's more like learning a set of grammatical rules for a foreign language. Yes you have to learn them but once learned it's easy. Personally I've always found myself getting 'dirty' trying to tidy up nested table layouts, 1px transparent gifs etc. in code generated by WYSIWYG editors. Doing the same thing with CSS is actually easier for me.
CSS is not hard to learn at all. It is natural to feel that way about something new. However, I suggest you look at an actual style sheet before forming an opinion that it is "programming" or "complicated", because in fact, I find it extremely easy to learn compared to other 'languages'.
CSS is simple, convenient, and efficient. When I was first exposed to CSS, I didn't want to change from traditional <font> tags. Because I was attracted to the simplicity and usefulness of CSS, I started to create simple style sheets just to maintain formatting across my entire site. Back then I was only using classes and now that Dreamweaver MX 2004 has come out, I have only begun to discover the power of CSS.
For example, let's say I have an image on the sidebar. I want a border around it, but some spacing to separate it from the image. With CSS, you can define the spacing, colour, thickness, and practically everything you want for the border. Making a change is really simple. If you put your styles on an external file, all you have to do is just change that and all images on the entire website will change. You can even define which images on the page follow the rule! If you define an ID for the image, along with <img> redefinition, you can specify different styles for different images on the page. In this case, the sidebar images can have borders while the header images are left alone (since they do not need borders).
If you are still not convinced, wait until February when Joe churns out more great articles on CSS.
Hey folks, let me bring all this back to perspective. We already believe in CSS and use it with every site we build. I wouldn't live without it. And yes, CSS makes sense and is not going away.
But this is a forum for exchange of ideas, thoughts and concepts. And with that said, we brought up some CSS issues to be bounced around amongst the group, things we hear mostly from out students. Most of our earlier posting on this subject stems from the perspective of the students trying to learn web design.
Maybe we should be more careful with out postings. I admit that one can write with too much ambiguity and sound like they are against something when in reality, they are just sharing thoughts. Maybe we are also just trying to help Joe get his new forum going good with thought-provoking subjects.
Anyway, our apologies to anyone offended in any way. And CSS is a good thing. So is this forum.
P.S. I will admit this: I've hung around the PVII newsgroup for too long and purchased many PVII PAC's. I have recently woken up to the fact that one can get hooked on Al Sparber's templates and fancy behaviors to the point that confussion sets in. We've been a good customer of his for a long time and now find ourselves using him as a crutch too much. (Does any of that make sense?)
Dave, nobody is offended and it's quite okay to have views, even strong views.
The guys who dreamt-up CSS were not graphic designers and if you look at how the Web came about, it was all based on 'documents'. The WWW was a way of publishing documents on the internet – by government departments and academics – and the formatting necessary for a document is fairly minimal. CSS doesn't go much beyond that even now but the important thing is that the Web is slowly moving off the desktop and into other devices – handhelds, phones, freezers. It is no longer safe to assume screen sizes or shapes and CSS takes that in it's stride.
The basics of CSS are very simple. It can get a bit hairy further on down the line but you might not even need to go that far. Try to understand the limitations and work within them.
Hang on in there.
Glad to see our first 'forum brawl' has been resolved amicably. I too, was not in the least bit offended.
Yes, I agree with dzblack about getting hooked on crutches, especially while learning the ropes of web design. You can find a good idea or technique and if you're not careful you start using it out of habit rather than really thinking about the job and choosing an original solution.
One of the most positive benefits of a forum like this is to stimulate discussion and allow us to identify some of our crutches/bad habits etc.
I agree CSS was made by people with absolutely no imagination. Well not a good enough imagniation anyway, they had a great vision and design for text, and found a great way to stop designers fouling up HTML with <font> and misusing tags, but so far fail to give a suitable alternative. It's progressing all the time, slowly but surely, so things can only get better!
I thnk the basics of CSS can be learned failry eay with the right tutors, so I'm here to help out.
Advanced CSS requires an understanding of the document tree and css box models in my opinion.
I will also have my wish-list ready soon enough, (gotta find where I put it!)
Hello all, this is my first post here
First, to introduce myself, my name is Guillaume, i'm french, my job is to make website, and i switched fully from html to xhtml+css few weeks ago.
Even if i do sometimes design and coding, my main skills are on the "coding side".
I would like to talk about that :
"The guys who dreamt-up CSS were not graphic designers"
That's 100% true. The main goal of CSS, is not to help people making design or making more accessible website, but to separate design from content.
And thats why CSS is fantastic.
I understand that css can be difficult for designers, and pearhaps you will find some good software that will help you to make some website, but as you said, CSS was not made for graphic people.
And i really think that HTML was not for graphic people too. Using Dreamweaver helped designers to make website alone, but never helped them to make website as good as a designer and a coder can make together.
Of course, there will still have people who can make design and good code (css is not that hard to learn), but the main goal of a designer is to make good designs, the main goal of a coder is to make a good codes. Thats make sense isnt-it ?
And when you say : "today's programmers are not willing to make CSS easy yet (job security)" you are in the wrong way. Programming IS a job, like design, and today's programmers are working to help themselves, not to help designers making websites.
Those who can help graphic people to make CSS website, is those who help them to make HTML website : Macromedia, Adobe, Microsoft and many others. But trying to learn how to make CSS without those tools is a far better approach.
Now to the question, is CSS hard to learn ? the answer is : No, CSS is really really easy. If you only use photoshop and dreamweaver, yes it could be hard to learn.
The difficulty of making XHTML+CSS website is not in the CSS language, but in the approach of how you make websites because you dont make website in XHTML+CSS like you make website in HTML.
Changing our habits, loosing our mark is the main difficulty, but more you use CSS, more you like it.
If you are a designer who is trying to learn CSS, and if you think this is difficult, i encourage you to persevere because it worth it.
Note : i have nothing against graphic people who are making website, i wanted to show that CSS was not make for them, so thats normal if they think CSS is difficult.
Hello, and yes, the seperation of style from content, the seperation of aestehtics from semantics, that was the very reason for CSS, which is fantastic.
But even more fantastic, is how they did it, they way CSS is written is genius!
The biggest problem, is the geniuses that made CSS, didn't understand what it's like to be a graphic designer for the Web. It's a classic design mistake - not understanding what the user wants.
Currently CSS appears to be too much focused type-seting, emmulating paper-desktop publishing, and working well for long acedimic documents. It needs a totally new approach in my opinion.
Given that the Web is a different medium from print, and cinema, and tv and all those other things that have to be approached differently from a design point of view, CSS does a pretty good job if you let it.
It's true that it is angled towards traditional 'documents' but when you get to know it, it will do some amazing things.
When I did the FunWithFonts site, I wanted to see how far I could push it. With a bit of work, you can do almost anything you want - but there are no reliable tools that somebody looking 'instant results' can use. It's not difficult, but it does take some effort.
I will go out on a limb and predict that until some great WYSIWYG CSS editor comes out, graphic designers will probably not put their hearts into CSS.
Sure CSS can do some amazing stuff I know, but why should you have to push it to its limits, it's those limits that would not exist if our future graphic design needs were taken into account.
I think CSS will mature into a much better thing, currently the immense power it has is not easy to handle, you get better at ahndling it with practice, but what puts most people off is:
1) Browsers not doing as expected, and
2) CSS not being able to reproduce simple layouts that are easy with <table>s.
and a note on (2):
Before I discovered CSS I only used <table>s in order to get a border drawn on the page!
As for layouts - I learned how to use CSS before I tried using <table>s to lay out sites, but tables have a big advantage over current CSS as far as creating flexible sites that live up to your imagination.
I always continue trying to make CSS work for me, but clever people like you and me having to strugle so much over and over again is just not right.
I know CSS is still limited in many respects, but it amazes me just how much can be achieved with text styling, background color, tiny images and border styles. Attributes like letter-spacing and font-weight can really change the look of the few fonts that we can count on to be available cross-browser.
Wishlist? I wish for a universal OS and browser that PC, Mac and *nix/*nux users could all love.
(Peace on earth, too.)
yeah CSS fulfilled many long overdue needs.
I just finished reading all the posts in this thread and I have a challenge for those of you who insist that there are no good tools (editors, etc.) for designers who want to use CSS:
What would such beast look like?
I am a developer/programmer by trade and I always enjoy a grand challenge; if all of you can come up with a consensus as to what this ideal tool would be, and can explain it to me, I will do my best to build it, and distribute it freely to those of you who compose the final design.
If we get past the "whiteboarding" stage of this I'll stipulate the requirements for a formal design specification.
Since I am a programmer, I don't understand why anyone thinks CSS is difficult, but on the other hand, my "artistic" abilities are limited to pages like this: http://www.the-wall.net/~mr.black/; so maybe we can help each other out?
I await your specification!
If you can produce a good CSS editor (WYSIWYG) the World will beat your door down. None of the big companies have done it yet.
The nearest thing I've seen is the CasCadeS plugin for Mozilla. It was simple and elegant and got round the problems of needing a good rendering engine becuase it worked with Composer. Unfortunatley, the guy who was writing it seems to have abandoned the project.
After that, Adobe GoLive plus my new GoLive CSS palette http://www.wpdfd.com/golivecss.htm is headed in the right direction. It lets you drag and drop default <divs> of various types onto an empty GoLive page from where you can tweak the selectors to suit your needs. But then you need GoLive CS.
It's relatively easy to produce a CSS editor, there are several good ones on the market such as TopStyle and StyleMaster but they are still not for 'visual' designers who want to play with building blocks on their pages in real time without going near markup.
Of course, the rendering engine is key. GoLive and Dreamweaver use Opera, and it's not doing the job as far as I can tell. Apple's WebKit used in Safari and OmniWeb is okay, but not cross-platform. I think Gecko is the way to go.
I keep hearing words like "good" which are difficult to translate into code...
What I gather is that a "good" CSS editor would:
1. Never require the designer to see code
2. Allow for (accurate) previewing
3. Be visual by nature
On #3, what sort of interface would be ideal? Would a page-layout-type of tool, along the lines of Illustrator or PageMaker be desireable, or something completely different?
I think the reason there are no "good" tools is that these tools are written by programmers (like me) who don't understand what a "good" tool is, so we guess, or build what looks good to us...
Maybe a better understanding of the design process would open our eyes?
Tell me more about how the UI should work.
Well, start with the Illustrator concept. A page, a tool palette where you can pick-up a rectangle tool and draw it on the page.
Probably an 'absolute' box, a 'relative box', a floating (left or right) box.
An inspector would allow you to set all the attributes of the box inclucing its id or class, font-family, background-color, borders, margins padding etc.
It should be possibe to switch between 'outline' and 'preview' mode. It would need to take the major differents in the IE and W3C box models into account - maybe a 'flick switch' that shows the differences.
It would be fairly easy to do this so that it wrote the HTML out as a text file (or with a seperate external .css), StyleMaster can do that. The clever bit would be to get it to render existing documents as well and update the page in real time as inspector attributes are changed.
If you think 'Illustrator', you won't go far wrong - except Illustrator only draws static rectangles, you would have to do percentage ones as well that move with the browser width.
It should also link into the W3C validators for HTML and CSS.
Now we're getting somewhere!
Ok, what you describe sounds like an obvious (not to say it would be easy) solution to the problem (take Illustrator, tweak it for dynamic layout, make it read and write CSS); that being the case, has someone already done this?
I haven't used any of the commercial CSS tools you've described (deliberately, I don't want to pollute my imagination just yet), but I would assume, based on the above, that someone has attampted to build something along these lines.
I say "attempted" because if they had succeeded, then we wouldn't be having this discussion, correct?
So, for our next exercise, tell me more about other applications, if there have been any like we are describing, and if so, why are they not "up to snuff".
None of the commercial products (and I have them all) come anywhere close to what I'm describing. They have all been painfully slow in catching up with CSS layout. The latest versions of Dreamweaver and GoLive (the two leading WYSIWYG editors) go half way there, but then leave you high and dry. In another couple of years, maybe they will get there, but then things will have moved along and they will still be out of date.
There are a couple of other products which I would call web page generators (not editors) Freeway and MS Frontpage. One is aimed at the diehard Quark XPress user and one at the MS Office user. I think that these go too far the other way offering ease of use (for their intended markets) but very limiting and I don't think any 'serious' designer would consider them. I won't go into the finer details but the Web is NOT print and it's NOT MS Word, it is a medium of its own and I believe in working with the medium not against it.
I don't know of any other products other than the ones I've already mentioned that are in the ballpark. Anyone else?
Is this just a layout editor?
I think some things are far to complex or abstract to have in a visual editor (even with dialogues) without the user having an understanding of CSS.
Who is the tool for?
If it is for people like us, who have a good understanding of the HTML Document Tree and CSS selectors, then good, there's lots we can do.
I once made a wysiwyg web page editor, with a CSS editor that allowed you to set up all the default styles for elements, and add more for use with the class attribute. Plus in the layout of the page you could access each element and set up it's inline style with my dialogue interface.
The difficult but is complex selectors, how can you chose an element and say "all the other elements like this should be red"? - the 'other elements like' bit is very very hard to define. A better solution might be to have a selector creator, that helps you make selectors by chosing options and stuff.
One thing I would like to see is a composer/editor/whatchamacallit that allows previewing with several different browser types. Never having used GoLive, I can't speak for it, but Dreamweaver allows you to preview in several different browsers, and link those to (Ctrl|Alt|Shift).* + F12 (if I remember the key combos correctly).
Something similar to this would be nice, but either built in to the editor itself, or available as plugins. For example, it's not easy to find a copy of NS 4, and many browsers don't play well with different versions. I also would like to avoid having to install each and every browser that may ever use my site. Lastly, as we all know, rendering differs even between the same version of a browser on a different platform (IE for Mac/Win, anyone)?
Have the preview within the editor able to render (or emulate rendering) like any one of a number of browsers, instead of being reliant upon one rendering engine or installing differing browsers and different versions of said browsers.
You can do all this at http://www.browsercam.com but you have to pay for it. Seems resonable to me.
My wish would be for that remaining 4% of people using IE 5 and 5.5 to upgrade.
I dont want to keep applying these box model hacks ;D
I'd like "centre" and "colour" to be valid code. ;D Spelling unmistakes of this sort account for 99% of my rendering errors!
What about all the people who don't speak English as their native tongue yet still have to 'program' in English.
Well they have to learn it from scratch anyway. Since they don't speak English they have no preconceived ideas about how to spell these words anyway. After all, they're learning to code html. They know, for example, that the string, align="center" puts a tag in the middle of the page. What the words actually mean in English is irrelevant.
I've often wondered, though, why the W3C hasn't made international versions of html. XML makes this perfectly possible. Maybe it's not as much of an issue for non-English speakers as we might think. Or maybe they have done but aren't going to announce it to the world until all the old, incompatible web browsers are out of use and everyone's using XHTML. ???
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