Think of any business, big or small. What is its most distinguishable feature? Whether it’s Target’s bullseye logo or McDonald’s golden arches, companies large and small invest heavily in developing and publicizing a symbol that the public will associate with their brand.
Before having an online presence became a necessary part of every business’ growth strategy, that branded “look” extended across all marketing materials: letterheads, business cards, signs, and more. Now that same appearance must also fit into a company’s web presence — especially in instances where online sales are a vital part of a company’s revenues. That means that the typeface, colors, styling and other elements of a company’s website must be designed to coordinate with their real-life branding so that the website maintains a professional and consistent look.
This online “look” for websites can be achieved either through programming languages or through a set of configurable text properties called Cascading Style Sheets (CSS). As is often the case in the tech world, there are tradeoffs to consider when choosing between these two approaches. Critics grumble that CSS doesn’t absorb changes easily — add too many, and the code quickly becomes unwieldy, especially if those changes are long lists of additional specifications demanded by a graphic designer. There are currently many alternatives to CSS, and there may be others on the horizon, but CSS is still a foundation on which many websites are built. Here’s why it’s worth your time to learn the basics:
CSS is easy to use
CSS is made for mobile
American consumers now spend more time on mobile devices than they do on their desktops. With the explosion in the availability and use of mobile technology, it is only natural that most online content has graduated to mobile platforms. Given the pervasiveness of the iPad and the iPhone, Nexus, the Samsung Galaxy, and a whole host of other mobile devices, it is more important than ever for a company to maintain a consistent marketing look both offline and online. CSS allows graphic designers to do just that; by using CSS they can decide how the site should be presented on a wide array of mobile devices for a consistent look.
CSS is for animation
CSS is a web standard
Firefox, Chrome, Safari. These common browsers now support CSS on all platforms, so using CSS helps you build responsive, future-proof, and highly accessible websites. Proprietary plugins and language libraries, on the other hand, can make your programmers very productive today, but tomorrow when the “in” thing changes, or a vendor decides to discontinue a library, your website can remain hostage to an obsolete or unsupported software package. It is best to stick to common industry standards to prevent lock-in.
Sometimes web application developers throw so much jargon-heavy language at you that it seems as though they are speaking a different language. When acronyms like SVG, PHP, HTML5, and polyfills become confusing, just remember: you want your graphic designers to be able to control the look and feel of your web presence without having to become programmers. And if this is your goal, CSS is (still) pretty much the only game in town.