A Case For CSS

A worrying trend that has caught and held my attention over the last couple of years, in addition to the over abundance of CSS “showcase” sites that have cropped up, is the fact that these very same “showcase” sites make CSS out to be the end-all of webdesign.

The Problem

These showcase sites proclaim their featured sites have been created with CSS. The problem lies within this simple yet misleading statement.

Yes, CSS was used in the building of the sites they showcase, but so was HTMLJavascript and maybe even a little PHP and a slew of other languages (PerlPythonRubyJava.NET) too. Some even had to be designed first. They simply fail to make it clear enough to the layman that this is the case.

CSS, as all “web coders” know, is just a part of the web design process. Being able to copy and paste someone else’s code does not make you a web coder nor a web designer. But being able to put all these processes and skills together into a functional, usable site IS web design.

My research made it clear these sites fail to explain exactly what they are trying to achieve. I found that the “about” page was markedly absent from 8 out of 10 results in the top 10 Googled results for “CSS showcase”. By omitting these essential pages they leave their content open to misinterpretation. The 2 exceptions being cssbeauty and cssmania, both of whom try and explain their purpose.

Pretty sites are being listed, that’s it. So why not just say that? A disclaimer, stating that they are only showing these sites as reference and not promoting the listed sites as made entirely of CSS, would be helpful.

It seems that the showcase sites are just a front to generate revenue by hosting ads for sites like firehost(hosting) and psd2html (templating), elegantthemes (themes), resourcesfree online games and others. Or maybe its just an exercise in shameless self-publicity for designers who want their work featured. Then again, any publicity is good publicity, right?

The Solution

Showcase sites have done their bit in promoting the use of CSS. I propose they clear up what is really nothing more than a simple misunderstanding. The addition of those missing “about” pages is a start. This will ensure fledgling web designers / developers won’t get disillusioned when they find out they need some design skill and coding know-how to reproduce what they see on the showcase sites.

The issue here is the simple and effective communication of information or the lack thereof. After all, clarity is a part of clear and effective communication in web design is it not?

Further Reading

The following articles were all written well before 2010, yet we’re still facing the same problem.

– Simon Collison says these showcase sites have to change in order to survive. – The end of CSS showcases

– Simon Collison talks about showcases in general – Part 1: CSS showcases – the sites

– The author of this article takes a look at the very popular CSS showcase site, css Zen Garden. – css Zen