The Zen of CSS Design

The Zen of CSS Design

The Zen of CSS Design

by Dave Shea and Molly E. Holzschlag

New Riders

CSS stands for “Cascading Style Sheets,” a specification for formatting web pages that has been around for a while. With CSS, you maintain separate files for your website content and its corresponding formatting, which is stored in a CSS file. A single change to the CSS file will propagate to all the content files in your website automatically, making site-wide tweaks and overhauls equally easy. A deep understanding of CSS can transform the way you design websites in unexpected and positive ways. For a good demonstration (and the source material for this book), visit the CSS Zen Garden (

Those new to CSS fear it to be an impenetrable jungle of complicated logic and arcane knowledge. Those experienced in the Art know this to be true. The learning curve is nearly flat at the beginning, but eventually it hikes skyward, as you begin to see more advanced concepts. At that point it seems impossible.

But fear not. The effects you see on CSS Zen Garden — and throughout the web these days — are not the results of some magical incantation that requires seven years cloistered away in a monastery to understand. The people behind CSSZG put together The Zen of CSS Design to explain what’s going on behind the pages visible on their site, and to illuminate some of the more important trends in web design.

There are code books and design books, and while Zen falls squarely between the two in content, its own design leans more towards the latter, filled with impressive illustrations, typographically set text, and all manner of careful graphical touches. You’ll find yourself appreciating design factors not necessarily covered by CSS, things such as color, contrast, use of graphics and text. The book works very well in explaining both the power and mystique of CSS, via extensive and well-written examples of code and accompanying graphic detail.

It’s impossible to say that once you’re done with The Zen of CSS Design you’ll be designing sites as visually stunning as the examples. Understanding CSS will not necessarily make you a talented designer. What it will do is give you the tools to implement your ideas in ways you hadn’t thought about.

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