What Is CSS3?
The standard Cascading Style Sheets language was invented to provide design tools for web pages. With the increased use of Hypertext Markup Language to create internet content, web developers wanted more stylistic choices and more control over a website’s appearance. Variations in web browsers made consistent website appearances difficult, and users had little control over how content was displayed.
While initial web pages were built with style sheets hard-coded into programs, demand increased for having separate style sheets that could be linked to documents on the web. Different style sheets could also be created for separate situations, such as for editing software, printing, or screen-based presentations. CSS1 was released in 1996 by the World Wide Web Consortium, the organization that continues to maintain CSS’s specifications. CSS2 was released in 1997 to address issues that were omitted in CSS1. What is CSS3? It’s the current and most widely used version, which began in 1998 and is still considered under development today.
Why Is CSS3 Needed?
HTML alone is not sufficient enough for website development. CSS3 works well with HTML, resulting in technically stronger web pages and ensuring compatibility across web browsers, which is especially important in web application development. CSS also makes a website more professional, attractive, appealing, and welcoming to site visitors.
Other benefits include the ability to create print-friendly web pages. This is achieved in many ways, such as removing colors, images, and other graphic items in order to save ink. Developers could even create columns for easy printing and reading. When CSS is applied to a web page, the page loads faster and uses less bandwidth. CSS removes the need to use HTML tables to visually organize content, an outdated practice that required more code — and therefore more bandwidth. Additionally, this type of code is downloaded only once and stored in the browser’s memory cache for continued fast page loading.
CSS gives web developers more freedom to position elements on a page wherever they wish and use less code in doing so. It’s also easier to update a style sheet that affects multiple pages, rather than going into each page to make a change. This makes website maintenance easier and less risky.
Users can even customize how they view websites without changing the content if the CSS for a page or a site is stored externally, that is, if the style sheet is linked to the page rather than embedded within the page. For example, users can change the font style and size to suit their own preferences and to allow easier reading.
CSS can store information related to positioning, layout, font styles, font sizes, element sizes, background specifications, and color choices. It expands the design possibilities and capabilities of a website. CSS is also a timesaver for developers who need to make adjustments to multiple pages on a website and for visitors who will be able to see their pages faster because of the decreased code and shorter load times.
How Do You Use CSS3?
There are numerous articles, tutorials, courses, and books available on learning CSS3. If you are new to building web pages and web development, you should learn HTML first so that you understand how to structure a web page. After HTML, CSS3 is the next technology to dive into.
Once you have defined the semantics of the page content and determined a structure for the page using HTML, you are ready to use CSS to lay out the page and style it. Besides determining fonts, sizes, colors, and spacing, you can decide whether to split the page content into columns or to add animations and other visual features. You can learn both HTML and CSS at the same time, but learning CSS first doesn’t make sense without an understanding of HTML.
After you have learned how to write rules and make specifications in CSS, you should investigate how to style text, starting with basics such as choosing a font and determining whether bold or italic is needed. You can also determine line and letter spacing and add drop shadows for effect. With CSS, you can also style specific HTML objects, such as lists and links.
You also learn the basics of the box model and how to style boxes. This is essential to your ability to successfully lay out a page. At this point, you discover how to set margins, borders, and padding. You also learn how to set custom background colors and handle images and other features. Once you understand that, you need to make sure your boxes are properly placed in relation to each other and how they appear in the viewport. There are also modern layout tools such as CSS grid and Flexbox that help simplify layouts.
CSS is also critical in creating responsive web pages. Responsive web design is a core web development skill. It's required learning if you want to create a document that can display properly on various devices, according to screen width, resolution, and orientation.
Three Ways of Inserting CSS3
One way to use CSS3 with your HTML file is by linking an external style sheet. All the CSS code is contained in a separate file, but the HTML page must have a reference to this external style sheet file. In an HTML file, you would use the <link> element, which goes into the <head> section. A text editor can be used to write the code for the external style sheet, which should not contain any HTML tags. This style sheet should be saved with a .css extension.
Another way to insert CSS3 is by using an internal style sheet. All the CSS code goes into an HTML <style> element, which is inside the <head> section of an HTML page. There is no separate page or file. This could be appropriate if a single page uses a unique style that other pages of a website do not.
A third way of using CSS3 is to create an inline style. This is used to apply a unique style for one element. To do this, the style attribute needs to be added to the appropriate tag, such as a heading or a paragraph tag. This method should not be used often, as it makes the larger style sheet less effective.
There is a cascading order when more than one style is defined for an HTML element. An inline style that is placed within an HTML element always gets the highest priority over external and internal style sheets. This means that the inline style automatically overrides the style defined in an internal or external style sheet — and the browser default value, which gets the last priority.
Using CSS3 Instead of Images
Images have always been a challenge for web designers and developers. Their large file sizes cause slowdowns in downloading and rendering time. One image file is often larger than the file size of an entire page of code.
There's another issue: more often than not, the web designers are the ones who can edit an image using Adobe Photoshop or a similar tool, not the web developers who are usually more focused on code. If a web designer is no longer with the company or organization, it may be a challenge to edit the original file. If a graphic element is created using CSS3, a developer could go into the style sheet and make a simple edit, as opposed to the longer time it would take for even a skilled designer to edit the image.
CSS3 can handle special effects that used to be done solely with image editing software. Those effects include drop shadows, gradients, and background transparencies. CSS3 code is supported by major web browsers, including Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Internet Explorer. Rounded corners, for example, have become increasingly popular but may not necessarily be supported by all browsers. The CSS code can be written so that the rounded corners are used in browsers that support it, while square corners are used in browsers that do not.
Final Thoughts: Why You Should Use CSS3
Unless you are creating the most basic HTML page and do not have any concerns about design and usability, you should always use CSS3 in conjunction with your web pages and applications. CSS3 uses less code, which equates to less work for web developers and faster loading for users. It also allows for design flexibility that is not possible with HTML alone. Pages look more attractive and are more usable when a style sheet is applied, and CSS helps make pages more compatible across various web browsers. A separate CSS file can be used for easier printing to omit decorative elements when all that is needed is the essential information, which also spares the user from wasting ink. CSS3 gives web developers more control over layout and styling while allowing users to adjust their viewing settings to their liking without altering page content.