Publishers of technology books, eBooks, and videos for creative people

Home > Articles > Web Design & Development > CSS

📄 Contents

  1. Prepare Yourself with Structure and Interrogation Know-How
  2. Page Layout Misdemeanors: Bringing the Usual Suspects to Justice
  3. Book 'Em, Danno!
  • Print
  • + Share This
Like this article? We recommend Page Layout Misdemeanors: Bringing the Usual Suspects to Justice

Page Layout Misdemeanors: Bringing the Usual Suspects to Justice

Now you have some tools to get to the bottom of layout problems. Unfortunately, your page still displays some of these common issues, and you aren't quite sure of the problem. Here's an overview of five of the most common problems, their sources, and solutions for fixing them.

Elements Lack Style

Issue: The page styles show up until a certain point; after that, the styles aren't rendering (see Figure 1).

Culprit: Author error: Omissions, mispelingz, and is syntax bad.

Often the little details can make all the difference in the world. A missing bracket at the end of a style declaration block is a major game-changer, because its absence tells the browser that the style block is unfinished, and therefore none of the styles following that point in the code will render. Code like the following will cause problems for everything after the last line:

#nav {
background-color: #EDE3A5;
border-top: 1px solid #AA9B4A;
list-style-type: none;
margin: 0;
padding: 10px 0;
text-align: center;

Misspelled selectors, properties, and values all have a similar (although less dramatic) effect. Misspelled selectors cause the styles of the entire declaration block to be ignored. However, the effect of a misspelled property or value, or a missing closing semicolon, is limited to that particular style declaration[md]not the entire selection block.

Finally, bad syntax will render your styles ineffective. Keep an eye out for these common mistakes:

  • Incorrect syntax of shorthand styles (many shorthand properties require values for the style to be applied):
  • No:

    #promo {border: solid black;}


    #promo {border: 1px solid black;}
  • Problems with the syntax of complex selectors:
  • Are you sure?

    .last li #footer {text-align: right;}

    Looking good!

    #footer li.last {text-align: right;}
  • Starting a selector name with a number:
  • Not so much:

    #5mistakes {padding: 0;}

    Much better:

    #fivemistakes {padding: 0;}

Solution: Validating your CSS code is the easiest way to catch author errors and is well worth incorporating into your workflow. Humans sometimes make mistakes. Luckily, we have applications that can catch them!

Elements Won't Go Where They're Told

Issue: You're trying to center an element, and it just won't go there (see Figure 2).

Culprit: Your element isn't fully defined, and thus the browser doesn't have enough information to render the style.

.centeredimg {
margin: 0 auto;
width: 380px;
<div class="centeredimg">
<img src="police-line-up.jpg" alt="line-up" />

Solution: If you're using margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; to center your element, remember that the browser also needs the width of the element to be able to calculate how much to offset the left and right margins:

.centeredimg {
margin: 0 auto;
width: 380px;

Make sure that you know the properties and how they work. It may help to revisit the CSS specifications.

Mystery Whitespace

Issue: There's extra space around your element (see Figure 3). What gives?

Culprit: Margin or padding values are not explicit.

Browsers are programmed with default values for margins and padding for page elements. Chances are that the elements in your specific design call for totally different values. If you don't make the margins or padding around elements explicit, the extra space may stem from inheriting and displaying the default values rather than your desired values.

Solution: Employ a CSS reset to establish the baseline values for particular elements on the page, and then style the desired element; alternatively, you can just style the element with the needed values directly. Either way, you'll get the correct amount of space (or lack thereof) around your element.

Element Overlaps Text/Borders

Issue: An image floated to the side of text overlaps the container's border, which wasn't your intention (see Figure 4).

Culprit: Uncontained floats.

Floats need to be contained properly inside of the parent element, or the parent will "collapse"; that is, the parent will shrink to the size of its content, except for that of its float.

Solution: For the float to be shown entirely within the parent container, the float needs to be cleared. There are many ways to clear floats, but I'll share these two popular techniques:

  • Float (nearly) Everything (FnE): If the parent container is itself a float, it will contain the child float.
  • Easy clear: With the "easy clear" method, you create an entity with the generated content property and then apply the clear property to it. You style the entity to take up no space and disappear. On the page, it's invisible, but it forces your floated element to clear, and thus forces the parent to contain it properly.
  • The traditional easy-clear is usually structured as follows:

    .clearfix {display: inline-block;}
    .clearfix:after {
    clear: both;
    content: ".";
    display: block;
    font-size: 0;
    height: 0;
    visibility: hidden;

Floats Drop on Page

Issue: You've calculated the numbers correctly, but one of the floats still drops below the intended space (see Figure 5).

Culprit: Double-margin float bug (IE6).

If you have the pleasure of having to code for IE6 because of your site's audience, then you'll probably encounter the double-margin float bug. This bug comes from having a margin value set on the same side where a element is floated. Suppose an element has styles like this:

#secondcontent {
border: 1px solid #33cc99;
float: right;
margin: 15px 15px 0 0;
width: 300px;

Then the double-margin float bug will turn the 15-pixel right margin into 30 pixels! That additional space will most likely cause the float to drop down on the page and break the layout.

Solution: IE6 is becoming less of a concern as more users finally adopt newer browsers, but this problem still needs to be addressed. The quick-and-easy solution is to add the following to your element's code:

#secondcontent {
border: 1px solid #33cc99;
display: inline;
float: right;
margin: 15px 15px 0 0;
width: 300px;

This addition will fix the problem.

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Peachpit Promotional Mailings & Special Offers

I would like to receive exclusive offers and hear about products from Peachpit and its family of brands. I can unsubscribe at any time.


Pearson Education, Inc., 221 River Street, Hoboken, New Jersey 07030, (Pearson) presents this site to provide information about Peachpit products and services that can be purchased through this site.

This privacy notice provides an overview of our commitment to privacy and describes how we collect, protect, use and share personal information collected through this site. Please note that other Pearson websites and online products and services have their own separate privacy policies.

Collection and Use of Information

To conduct business and deliver products and services, Pearson collects and uses personal information in several ways in connection with this site, including:

Questions and Inquiries

For inquiries and questions, we collect the inquiry or question, together with name, contact details (email address, phone number and mailing address) and any other additional information voluntarily submitted to us through a Contact Us form or an email. We use this information to address the inquiry and respond to the question.

Online Store

For orders and purchases placed through our online store on this site, we collect order details, name, institution name and address (if applicable), email address, phone number, shipping and billing addresses, credit/debit card information, shipping options and any instructions. We use this information to complete transactions, fulfill orders, communicate with individuals placing orders or visiting the online store, and for related purposes.


Pearson may offer opportunities to provide feedback or participate in surveys, including surveys evaluating Pearson products, services or sites. Participation is voluntary. Pearson collects information requested in the survey questions and uses the information to evaluate, support, maintain and improve products, services or sites; develop new products and services; conduct educational research; and for other purposes specified in the survey.

Contests and Drawings

Occasionally, we may sponsor a contest or drawing. Participation is optional. Pearson collects name, contact information and other information specified on the entry form for the contest or drawing to conduct the contest or drawing. Pearson may collect additional personal information from the winners of a contest or drawing in order to award the prize and for tax reporting purposes, as required by law.


If you have elected to receive email newsletters or promotional mailings and special offers but want to unsubscribe, simply email

Service Announcements

On rare occasions it is necessary to send out a strictly service related announcement. For instance, if our service is temporarily suspended for maintenance we might send users an email. Generally, users may not opt-out of these communications, though they can deactivate their account information. However, these communications are not promotional in nature.

Customer Service

We communicate with users on a regular basis to provide requested services and in regard to issues relating to their account we reply via email or phone in accordance with the users' wishes when a user submits their information through our Contact Us form.

Other Collection and Use of Information

Application and System Logs

Pearson automatically collects log data to help ensure the delivery, availability and security of this site. Log data may include technical information about how a user or visitor connected to this site, such as browser type, type of computer/device, operating system, internet service provider and IP address. We use this information for support purposes and to monitor the health of the site, identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents and appropriately scale computing resources.

Web Analytics

Pearson may use third party web trend analytical services, including Google Analytics, to collect visitor information, such as IP addresses, browser types, referring pages, pages visited and time spent on a particular site. While these analytical services collect and report information on an anonymous basis, they may use cookies to gather web trend information. The information gathered may enable Pearson (but not the third party web trend services) to link information with application and system log data. Pearson uses this information for system administration and to identify problems, improve service, detect unauthorized access and fraudulent activity, prevent and respond to security incidents, appropriately scale computing resources and otherwise support and deliver this site and its services.

Cookies and Related Technologies

This site uses cookies and similar technologies to personalize content, measure traffic patterns, control security, track use and access of information on this site, and provide interest-based messages and advertising. Users can manage and block the use of cookies through their browser. Disabling or blocking certain cookies may limit the functionality of this site.

Do Not Track

This site currently does not respond to Do Not Track signals.


Pearson uses appropriate physical, administrative and technical security measures to protect personal information from unauthorized access, use and disclosure.


This site is not directed to children under the age of 13.


Pearson may send or direct marketing communications to users, provided that

  • Pearson will not use personal information collected or processed as a K-12 school service provider for the purpose of directed or targeted advertising.
  • Such marketing is consistent with applicable law and Pearson's legal obligations.
  • Pearson will not knowingly direct or send marketing communications to an individual who has expressed a preference not to receive marketing.
  • Where required by applicable law, express or implied consent to marketing exists and has not been withdrawn.

Pearson may provide personal information to a third party service provider on a restricted basis to provide marketing solely on behalf of Pearson or an affiliate or customer for whom Pearson is a service provider. Marketing preferences may be changed at any time.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user's personally identifiable information changes (such as your postal address or email address), we provide a way to correct or update that user's personal data provided to us. This can be done on the Account page. If a user no longer desires our service and desires to delete his or her account, please contact us at and we will process the deletion of a user's account.


Users can always make an informed choice as to whether they should proceed with certain services offered by Adobe Press. If you choose to remove yourself from our mailing list(s) simply visit the following page and uncheck any communication you no longer want to receive:

Sale of Personal Information

Pearson does not rent or sell personal information in exchange for any payment of money.

While Pearson does not sell personal information, as defined in Nevada law, Nevada residents may email a request for no sale of their personal information to

Supplemental Privacy Statement for California Residents

California residents should read our Supplemental privacy statement for California residents in conjunction with this Privacy Notice. The Supplemental privacy statement for California residents explains Pearson's commitment to comply with California law and applies to personal information of California residents collected in connection with this site and the Services.

Sharing and Disclosure

Pearson may disclose personal information, as follows:

  • As required by law.
  • With the consent of the individual (or their parent, if the individual is a minor)
  • In response to a subpoena, court order or legal process, to the extent permitted or required by law
  • To protect the security and safety of individuals, data, assets and systems, consistent with applicable law
  • In connection the sale, joint venture or other transfer of some or all of its company or assets, subject to the provisions of this Privacy Notice
  • To investigate or address actual or suspected fraud or other illegal activities
  • To exercise its legal rights, including enforcement of the Terms of Use for this site or another contract
  • To affiliated Pearson companies and other companies and organizations who perform work for Pearson and are obligated to protect the privacy of personal information consistent with this Privacy Notice
  • To a school, organization, company or government agency, where Pearson collects or processes the personal information in a school setting or on behalf of such organization, company or government agency.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that we are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of each and every web site that collects Personal Information. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this web site.

Requests and Contact

Please contact us about this Privacy Notice or if you have any requests or questions relating to the privacy of your personal information.

Changes to this Privacy Notice

We may revise this Privacy Notice through an updated posting. We will identify the effective date of the revision in the posting. Often, updates are made to provide greater clarity or to comply with changes in regulatory requirements. If the updates involve material changes to the collection, protection, use or disclosure of Personal Information, Pearson will provide notice of the change through a conspicuous notice on this site or other appropriate way. Continued use of the site after the effective date of a posted revision evidences acceptance. Please contact us if you have questions or concerns about the Privacy Notice or any objection to any revisions.

Last Update: November 17, 2020