For years, the only way to format HTML in a visually appealing way was to use tables. As the web evolved, designers wanted to do more than just display text, they wanted to emulate printed documents. This was done through CSS or cascading style sheets. With this, designers are able to separate content from presentation, and gain more precise control over layout. Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, allow you to modify properties of existing HTML elements. With style sheets you have increased flexibility and the capability to add several attributes that are not available with normal HTML.
The word “cascading” applies to a hierarchy of importance in that the user has the highest level of control. By applying a user-selected style sheet, the user has complete control over the styles of the web page. This is an accessibility benefit. People can view web pages in any browser that they choose, and they can manipulate it as much as they like. Using CSS to your advantage One of the primary benefits of CSS is that it allows authors to separate content from its presentation. The content can be presented with any combination of styles, but the content itself will remain unchanged.
With style sheets, you have greater control over layout than you do with tables. You can change the linear layout of a page without altering its visual layout. Linear layout refers to the order of elements in a web page when all styles and formatting are removed. One of the nice things about style sheets is that you don’t have to alter the visual formatting of a web page when you alter the linearized reading order. This can be useful when you want to make sure that screen reader users access the page content in a certain order. CSS Pitfalls
It is sometimes tempting to take advantage of the wide-ranging capabilities of CSS to convey meaning. This is one of the most dangerous pitfalls of CSS-based design. For example, different colors of text could be used to separate certain words into different categories. In a sense, this sort of visual categorization technique provides visual cues that are helpful to readers. Not everyone has full visual capabilities though. Individuals with low vision, blindness, or color blindness or those that use old browsers and monochrome devices may or may not be able to make sense of the information if it is presented this way.
This is the same with the use of meaningful background images. Since background images cannot have alternative text explicitly associated with them, there is potential for abuse, or at least negligence, in terms of ensuring accessibility. Some of the strengths of style sheets are also weaknesses. For example, the ability to change the linearized reading order of your content without changing the visual layout can lead to some wonderful accessibility solutions, but it can also create a huge mess.
Even though it is possible to present the content to screen reader users in any conceivable order, most of the times, the more experimental design, the more likely it will confuse users. It is interesting to note that when you use CSS, you have to accept the fact that your content will not look right in some browsers. Some may not even support CSS at all. (Creating accessible CSS. Web Accessibility in Mind. ) Reaction The article from WebAIM is a good head start to learn more about CSS.
It presents an overview of Cascading Style Sheets to help the readers get a grasp of how it was created and how it evolved as an answer to a changing need to have more flexibility in HTML. It provides a detailed yet highly comprehensible approach to CSS; the basics of it and the certain issues it entails. CSS is indeed a creative way to enhance our ability to manipulate web pages and relay information over the internet. WebAIM also presents the advantages and disadvantages of CSS in a concise manner. CSS has gained popularity because of its many advantages.
The article emphasizes the value of how you can separate the content from presentation. In a time when both content and presentation are important in order to effectively communicate the message to the viewers, it is especially important that a demarcation between the two be made. Being able to change one while not sacrificing the other, is a good attribute that CSS has brought to HTML. CSS improves the ease of changing tags and styles while also being efficient with its process. However, useful as it is, CSS has also some disadvantages. The rather lenient way of manipulating styles may also be subject to abuse.
More confusion can be made if improper and abusive use of style variation is done. Careful thought must be ensured when creating web pages so as to convey messages clearly and effectively. Like in any other fallible structures, it is important to be cautious of any mistakes that might be done, paying closer attention to detail and the efficiency of the method or style used. Moreover, one must understand that although browser support issues are inevitable, there are some strategies to manage this. Bibliography “Creating accessible CSS. ” Web Accessibility in Mind. <http://www. webaim. org/techniques/css/>
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