CSS is a pain

Well after hours of work, all I have is a single, super simple index page done for GA. I spent a ridiculous amount of time trying to figure out how div’s work. You’d think it would be simple to center a div on a page. Oh, no. You have to creat a containing div with center text align set in a class somewhere, other wise nothing works. And then trying to get those stupid hover events to work for dynamic links was just as much a pain as the divs. I used some Zeldman code as a sample and copied it to the word and still couldn’t get it to work. So, I copy and pasted an voila, it worked. Yes I probably missed something stupid, but this really shouldn’t be this hard.

The state of CSS right now reminds me of the early days of the Internet–designed for programmers. Sure there’s lots of control over elements on a page. But the application tools to enable creative graphic design simply aren’t there. Yes,
Dreamweaver supports _reading_ CSS files correctly. But that doesn’t enable easy graphic design. I had to have code open at all times otherwise, nothing worked. Exactly like back in ’94 – – effectively editing text files.

Erik mentioned the other day that he’s been somewhat underwhelmed by the design of most CSS sites out there. Well, I figured out why this is. It’s not that CSS doesn’t offer some great new tools for presentation design. It’s developers are the only ones doing any work in it right now. Given most of the best designs come from graphic designers, it’s no wonder why CSS compliant sites today are boring.

Most graphic designers are visual and work in apps that let them work visually. There’s nothing there yet for easy visual design. Heck, Jana and Jeff still whip out good ‘ol Photoshop when they want to get mockups done fast. A great sign that the creative tools in WYSIWYG web development tools like Dreamweaver still aren’t there yet.

Now that all new browsers are CSS compliant, there’s really little need for the HTML WYSIWYG editor. These damn things don’t work very well today because they can never create code (for sophisticated designs) that work the same on any browser and platform. Adobe and Quark should just take their professional page layout apps (like InDesign) and make them export CSS. Given those apps already use a layout model centered around boxes, it seems easy to migrate them to handle the CSS box model with all it’s associated properties. That means, no need to get into code for relatively static sites. Want your web site accessible for pre 6.0 browsers? Great, just flip a palette switch. Want it accessible for the blind? Great, just flip another palette switch. Right now there’s some much crap you need to remember for just these two cases, learning CSS (if you’re a graphic designer) just doesn’t seem worth it.

When was the last time you saw a designer using a text editor! Alright, I’m done venting now.

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4 Comments on “CSS is a pain”

  1. Jeff says:

    Yeah, CSS takes hours to learn something that was simple in the old HTML, but you know what? It probably used to take you hours to code HTML as well. At least, it did for me. I can’t tell you how many hours I had to play with triple-embedded tables to get everything to work exactly right. Once you learn the pitfalls, it will get easier, but don’t expect it to happen overnight.
    As far as having designers use CSS, you’re right that support isn’t all that great right now in their WYSIWYG tools, but it will get better over time. For now, the best uses of CSS will have to be hand-coded.
    The main frustration I seem to find with CSS these days is IE’s lack of support for some of the more advanced features. Things like the :hover attribute for anything other than the tag, immediate selectors (e.g., “tr.selectedrow > td”), or the display: fixed attribute, all not yet supported. It was great two years ago but has fallen behind now that they’ve “won the war”. *sigh*

  2. jana says:

    Reading Zeldman’s book had me quaking in my boots for fear of CSS complexity. I’m not un-installing Photoshop yet!
    I did read something about the hover state in CSS doesn’t work well in IE so don’t try and get all fancy with your a links.
    Good luck! Let me know when there is something to see for your parent’s site.

  3. jana says:

    Just for the record… I can use a text editor! I just haven’t done if for oh…. three and a half years now. šŸ˜‰

  4. It seems like every time I stopped by the Macromedia booth at Macworld, the only thing they were demoing was Dreamweaver MX 2004.
    Maybe I missed something, but it seemed to me that CSS was the *only* thing its WYSIWYG editor would produce. Do you need to upgrade your software?
    This really seemed to freak me out. As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t anything that CSS can do that can’t be done with a triply-nested table. And what about Lynx compatability? Oh, am I just dating myself as a web developer?
    It’s like that scene from the original Matrix (you know, the only good one in the trilogy), where the little kid is trying to explain to Neo: “There are no tables”.