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Five Questions with CSS Author Dave Shea

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Dave Shea, director of the CSS Zen Garden, answers some questions about his upcoming book and what's coming next from this CSS guru.
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Five Questions with CSS Author Dave Shea

Dave Shea, owner and director of the Web design agency, Bright Creative, is also the creator and cultivator of the CSS Zen Garden (http://www.csszengarden.com). The site, which has won awards including "Best of Show" at the South by Southwest Interactive conference, is the inspiration for the new book from New Riders, The Zen of CSS Design (ISBN: 0-321-30347-4). What's so Zen-like about CSS, you might ask? Well, so did we and here's what Dave had to say about it.

1. What's so Zen-like about CSS?

The way it works. Take a plain old HTML file, apply some CSS, and magic happens somewhere along the way. If the HTML was well built, CSS can do wonders to make it look however you want it to. When someone first sees this in action at, oh, say, http://www.csszengarden.com, the reaction is almost always amazement.

There are a whole lot of side benefits to using CSS too. Because that nicely structured HTML you start out with is virtually the same as what's been around since the beginning of the Web, browsers that don't even support CSS (like those on mobile phones) can still view the site's content. Not to mention that file sizes go down, which makes for quicker downloads and happier readers.

2. What do you hope to accomplish with your new book?

I'd like to see it reach an audience of people who may not have seen the site, but vaguely hear about CSS every now and again and don't really understand it yet. There are many of them out there, as many new site launches don't make use of CSS layout.

3. In your opinion, why aren't more designers using CSS?

There are a few different reasons; some just don't live in the world of content and application design. CSS doesn't do multimedia or interactivity, so it's mostly irrelevant for that type of work.

For those that should be using it but haven't started yet, I'd suspect it's either from lack of time to learn new skills, or frustration at what they've found out when starting. As we explain in detail in the book, there are many little quirks about current browser support of CSS that make it somewhat frustrating to learn.

There's light at the end of the tunnel though. A growing community of CSS designers have tackled and conquered most of the cross-browser difficulties, and it's simply a matter of knowing which tools get you through the process. We've provided some great resources to put designers on the right track.

4. How do you see CSS design evolving?

There are some incredibly powerful capabilities coming up in the next generation of the language, CSS3. I'm particularly excited about multi-column layouts and advanced printed media support. Browsers have started supporting what they can in bits and pieces, but it's still going to take a while before we can start using CSS3.

In the meantime, we'll see what we can do with what we already have supported. I think there will be a lot more integration of other technologies into CSS-driven pages. JavaScript is coming back into vogue, and no one says Flash and CSS can't happily co-exist. It should be an interesting time.

5. What's your favorite example of CSS design on the Web (and no fair picking your own!)?

I think that's a little like asking what your favorite flavor of ice cream is; there are a lot of great ones to choose from. I'm a big fan of some of the sites that keep track of new CSS designs, like http://www.stylegala.com and http://www.cssbeauty.com

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