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Like many who are self-taught in the area of web development in the early days of the Web, I learned CSS well after I started wrapping my head around HTML. I remember hammering out rinky-dink web designs on Dreamweaver (yes, using layout tables) and not giving CSS a second thought. When I wanted something centered, floated, blue, red, whatever, I just clicked the necessary controls and Dreamweaver did the rest. It wasn’t until several months after that first site that I decided to figure out what all the [horribly named classes and inline styles] code meant.

Of course my code was still shit but at least I began understanding what CSS was meant to do.

Despite everything CSS2 (at the time) was capable of, we couldn’t break out of the era of bad designs fueled by Photoshop plugins and JavaScript gimmickry. Remember the first time you wanted a box with rounded corners? That called for a 3×3 table with 8 or 9 different image slices. Chances are your backround was (brilliantly enough) a picture so you probably exported some transparent and crappily aliased GIFs (remember the GIF98 export option?) to do the job.

You say you want a drop-shadow with that? Sure! Fire up Photoshop and churn out some badly-dithered JPGs that won’t blend in at all against your awful background.

Sorry, I’m off track. As much as I loved the youthful days of the WWW I can never forgive myself and others who committed atrocious acts of brutality against design and common sense.


Remember all that? Well, ever since CSS3 we can add dropshadows and rounded corners to any block-level element. What’s more, it can easily be changed so if you don’t like it, hell, just edit a line or two of CSS and BAM! It’s changed!

Convenient? You bet, though, I can’t help but think that CSS is just catching up to our old bad habits. I mean, YES, there are hundreds (if not, thousands) of tastefully composed designs out there on the Web that make liberal use of rounded corners and drop-shadows and even gradients, but we’ve been there, done that. Rounded corners. Woohoo. Dropshadows. OMG that box looks like it’s jumping off the page!

Again, I’m all for having the convenience of writing in these aesthetic features via CSS, but providing that convenience means sacrificing a bit of imagination and originality.

Yes, I still use these CSS declarations, myself. No, I won’t stop being your friend if you use them a lot, too.

I guess I should have a point besides ranting about it. Ok, here it is: go back to Photoshop and come up with the next big design gimmick that will make it into the next CSS spec and implement it, even it if means using layout tables.