February 5, 2002 2:42 PM   Subscribe

Interesting The guy who wrote Your CSS Bores Me(previously linked and discussed here) has decided to accept his own challenge. For the month of February, he will be applying a different stylesheet to the index page of his site, with no manipulation of the HTML document itself. This is one to watch, if you're also a code geek.
posted by Su (21 comments total)
"Code geek" that I am, I still fail to see the point in separating display from content on the client as necessarily a good thing. CSS has its place, but its not much of a cause.

However, again being a "Code geek", I'm all for setting up arbitrary technical limitations like this one, and seeing what you can come up with.
posted by malphigian at 3:04 PM on February 5, 2002

Not trying to be sarcastic, but what's so exciting or innovative about changing the look of a site using only CSS? Other sites have been doing it for ages.
posted by Xkot at 3:05 PM on February 5, 2002

Interesting and not unlike the latest NTK challenge. My favorite is the one with new fonts
posted by TNLNYC at 3:06 PM on February 5, 2002

Interesting and not unlike the latest NTK challenge. My favorite is the one with new fonts
posted by TNLNYC at 3:07 PM on February 5, 2002

I guess it's a neat idea, but it's a shame the guy doesn't have any real talent in graphic design. Some of the examples so far have been butt-ugly. Aside from the one with the packing peanut, I personally don't care for any of them.
posted by crunchland at 3:23 PM on February 5, 2002

malphigian has an interesting point. With the rise of more accessible server-side technology, some of the original impetus for CSS is gone. CSS is still useful, of course, for refining the presentation, but when you can serve a document customized for a particular browser while still preserving its logical structure on the server (using XML + XSL, or whatever you like), is strict separation on the client end really important? I'd like to see a browser that can do XSL Formatting Objects, myself, and that certainly throws a lot of dogma about separation of structure and content out the window.
posted by rodii at 3:32 PM on February 5, 2002

I would be happy to write one document that works on every platform. If this single page is generated on the server with xsl or something else, I don't care much.

Also, html4.01, xhtml, css1, css2, dom1, dom2... and then also native XML and XSL support? There must be a limit to the technology. How much of it do you want to pile into a browser? Should it all be be internally compatible and such? To implement all this stuff client-side, the development time for new browsers is becoming outrageously long... just look at the mozilla project.

I don't think XSL should really be considered as a client-side technology right now, and cascading style sheets will do just fine!
posted by Icestorm at 3:47 PM on February 5, 2002

Xkot: You did read the article, right? The use of CSS isn't innovative in itself. He's saying that most people who use it, do so uninterestingly. Oooh, another box with a dashed border! And he's pretty much right.
The designs he puts up aren't particularly pretty, but this is an experiment, and he listed what he was trying to do with each of them so far. They're ideas, not idealizations. Besides, you try coming up with 30 different looks for a page, plus make them pretty, plus code them, etc.

Rodii: I'd say that one reason to keep CSS around is that it's just plain simple. What you're proposing is nice for large projects, but most of the web doesn't require all that much to work. If it can be done easily enough with plain old XHTML and CSS, why bother with XML, DTDs, XSL(T) all the rest, and (sometimes more expensive) server-side technologies?
posted by Su at 4:13 PM on February 5, 2002

I don't think XSL should really be considered as a client-side technology right now, and cascading style sheets will do just fine!

Who said it should? Oh, I see. No, I'm talking about XSL-FO, not what most people think of as XSL (=XSLT). FO is mainly a way of specifying rendering in a fairly medium-neutral way--kind of an XMLized CSS/PDF hybrid. Unlike HTML, etc., it's not really a human-readable markup language. My point was, if I had a device that could use it, and a server that could send it, I wouldn't need HTML or worry about structure vs. content. The point is, if you get the authoring part right, it almost doesn't matter what you do on the client side. I'm typing this on a Mac that uses, in essence, PDF (Quartz) for rendering, with HTML + CSS as an intermediate step. Why not (in principle*) send PDF over the network? The document structure and presentation logic are still intact, just on the server side, not the client side.

*Please take this point as more of a thought experiment than a real position. Just trying to see where malphigian's thought leads, not suggesting that PDFR is the new HTML. Everyone knows that's Flash anyway. ;)
posted by rodii at 4:19 PM on February 5, 2002

PDFR, is, of course, "New Deal" PDF (not).

Su: I know, I know. I'm just saying that some of the "crucial"ness of CSS seems to have gone away because some people are finding it easier to work around some of the problems on the server side--sending n versions of a document, in some cases, is easier than trying to work out all the quirks of cross-platform CSS. (Wasn't Steve Champeon suggesting this, more or less, years ago?)
posted by rodii at 4:27 PM on February 5, 2002

The value of CSS is to use the semantic value of HTML tags so that any browser can "understand" a document while still applying styles that might be contradictory to their meaning, as many web designers like to do: making an heading1 smaller than heading2 or making list items run together like a sentence. Without styles, the structural meaning of the information can still be understood and processed as needed. When you make a complicated table with pixel images for column spacing instead of using styles on a definition list, it can't.

The myth that needs to be squashed for good is that HTML documents need to look exactly the same on every browser, because that's entirely contradictory to the concept of a browser. But I digress (apparently back to 1996, with that argument).
posted by teradome at 4:56 PM on February 5, 2002

Good points, teradome.
posted by rodii at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2002

What is the point of creating 5 different designs for 5 different browsers and serving them up dynamically based on user-agent strings when you can write code once and have it work everywhere, as well as be easier to read and maintain? All that means is making more work for youself and decreasing the probability of your site looking the way you want it to look.

Why write bloated code and cross your fingers when you can slap on a doctype, tell the browser "display this page like so" and worry about more important things?

Do buy Honda-brand gasoline for your car? Do you buy sony-formatted CDs for your stereo? Do you have a different radio for each station you listen to? It's about time web markup languages got a set of actual, defined, quality, usable, logical standards.
posted by tomorama at 5:19 PM on February 5, 2002

my exposure with XSL and XSLT has, thus far, been a disappointment. the technology seems on the surface to be a bit dense. i like XML in that it makes structural design much simpler, but HTML already has a lot built into it that is useful (for example, anchor tags to link to other documents). XHTML seems to be your best bet: "XHTML documents are XML conforming. As such, they are readily viewed, edited, and validated with standard XML tools." XHTML is HTML that can be extended the way that XML can be. to me, with CSS, that's joe designer would ever seem to need. simplicity will help drive the most popular markup languages a lot, i think.
posted by moz at 5:36 PM on February 5, 2002

that's all, i meant to say. sorry.
posted by moz at 5:37 PM on February 5, 2002

Of course I read the article. I ignored the business about challenging boring CSS layouts because - gee wiz - his layout was boring, too.
posted by Xkot at 5:54 PM on February 5, 2002

I think you kind of missed his point, Xkot. He wasn't saying that every site needs to reinvent the layout -- certainly, it wasn't this way with tables, either. What he is saying is that there's been a lack of experimental sites using CSS, and he's hoping to help rectify the situation, not just with his own site, but by spurring others to follow suit.
posted by Ptrin at 6:16 PM on February 5, 2002

Thanks crunchland, it is, i'd kill for more skillz. As it is I think I'm probably on the same level as that creative director that everyone hates cause they suck -- which is why I tend to team up with a designer who knows what their doing when a project really means something.

As for Xkot's concerns I think Ptrin's got it mostly right. Most of the feedback I had gotten from my article was people either (a) defending their choice to use a bluerobot template on their blog and (b) people interested in what I was saying but didn't know where to start.

To those on the defensive I told them they shouldn't be - for the same reason is quite plain there's a lot of other types of sites that should be too - template or not.

But I had a hard time directing people to specific examples of CSS being used creativly. There was Eric Meyer's CSS Edge, and not really much else that didn't also involve heavy scripting. So the main goal of this process with my neuralust space is to add somethign to the conversation. Hopefully when the month is up and there are 28 radically different designs posted, along with the additional instruction I plan on adding when I get the time, they'll be plenty there to help kick start those who are looking for direction. That's it, nothing more, i'm not trying to become a design god, to prove my own talents to the world, just proove that one can do more then the run of the mill with CSS if they so choose.

And teradome - you rock!
posted by 10sball at 8:45 PM on February 5, 2002

I don't see why more creative designs would be a good idea. Seems to me we've had plenty of creativity in these last few years of javascript, flash, noise, and chaos, and it's about time things settled down a bit and readability became important again.

I like the run of the mill; it doesn't get in the way.

posted by Mars Saxman at 11:01 PM on February 5, 2002

I like the run of the mill; it doesn't get in the way.

Then stick to your run of the mill sites. Not every site on the internet is about maximizing readability. To expect that would be the same as expecting every site to be about weather, or to expect every movie to be about britney spears taking a road trip. Nobody's advocating "the new flash-css-noise-chaos" version of google or amazon here. These people are conducting their experiments on their own sites, for their own satisfaction. If you don't like that, don't go looking at them. They're pretty clearly not meant for you.
posted by chrisege at 12:08 AM on February 6, 2002

I am glad to see this experiment gaining the attention that it needs. CSS design is a great tool for designers who choose to use it. One of my favorite sites redesigned a few months ago to be fully CSS designed. Then they released six different skins, allowing the users to decide how the site would look for them.

They are on to something there.
posted by DragonBoy at 7:27 AM on February 6, 2002

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