CSS From the Ground Up - 5 - a very good place to start!

by Joe Gillespie — Jun 1, 2004

This month we have the last three sections of the CSS from the Ground Up series.

The series is intended to be an introduction to Cascading Style Sheets and as such, doesn't go into a great deal of detail nor does it tell the whole story – by a long shot. It gives a taste of the basics which will, hopefully, encourage the reader to find out more. A list of other CSS articles on this site is given on the last page and the CSS page in the Resources Section has links to a wealth of others.

This month, Styling Forms. This is an much neglected area and although the article is aimed at beginners, there s a lot of useful information and tips for any designer who thinks that forms are just something that 'happen' and they don't have much control over them.

Form design is an art in itself. Where it is true that the 'styling' aspects are not as well supported in browsers as they are for most other elements, the visual appearance of a form is inextricably linked to its function – to gather information accurately and efficiently.

If a form 'looks' too complicated, then it is, and becomes a prime candidate for the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) principle. Of course, the same thing can be said for any Web page layout but the distinctively different factor here is the form's inherent reluctance to be styled. They need a lot of coaxing!

Anyway, here are some guidelines as to what you can and can't do to make forms look, and work better.

Browsers and CSS. It's the old, old story; browsers behave differently from one another given exactly the same style sheet. Spelling out all the intricacies would require a much more extensive reference than this one but I give a few off the top of my head that bug me most.

And finally... CSS and the Future. What's going to happen next? CSS has been designed from the outset to work in broader areas than just computer browsers. Getting a good grasp of it now is vital and when you are aware of the enormous possibilities, it is bound to affect the way you design. You can't afford to take your eye off the ball.

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