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CSS3: A Revolution in the Making

June 8th, 2010 by Erick Beck

It isn’t often that I radically change my opinion about anything web related.  I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve always been able to adapt and adopt new concepts incrementally.  That mindset was completely shattered this week when I finally took a real in-depth look at the cutting edge of CSS3.

I have been watching its development for a while, but never paid it serious attention because without standardized browser support I knew it wouldn’t be anything we could implement.  Maintaining the main university site means making it accessible to the masses, which in turn means coding to a quite low common denominator.  The nature of the sites we work on precludes us from using all the bells and whistles that can be put onto a site catering to a more sophisticated user base.  Most of my thoughts of CSS3 were therefore that it was basically nice, but mostly aesthetic, improvements that could be incorporated into sites — visible to the more advanced browsers and gracefully degrading on browsers that don’t support the technology.  This philosophy is nicely summed up by the webmasters from Wayne State University.

What I’ve seen in the last few days, though, convinces me that I was vastly underestimating the importance of the HTML5/CSS3 combination.  While it admittedly isn’t here yet, I’m now firmly convinced that it will make modern web development (and developers if we don’t learn and adapt) obsolete.   The introduction of CSS2 was problematic to a lot of developers because it forced a break from our traditional linear chain of thinking and implementation.  CSS3 is going to go way past that. Even imagining what can be done with the technology is going to require a new way of thinking, and to be among the leaders that thinking will have to be way outside the box.

As a quick demonstration, take a look at some of the online demos at the WebDesignerWall blog.  (You’ll need Safari or Chrome to get the full effects.)  These are admittedly isolated demos that serve as proofs of concept rather than elements for a live website, but they show that base HTML/CSS can take the place of a lot of the jquery that is seen as leading edge today.  The line between application design and web design is going to get even more blurred as we are able to do more and more with basic styling.  The gap between designers and developers is also going to narrow, as both are going to have to have an increased understanding of the other’s area of expertise in order to do their own job.

Maybe I’m late to the party in this realization, but when I look at the state of so much web development today that barely scratches the surface of CSS2, I can’t help but think that a lot of developers are going to be in for a rude awakening.  It might take a few more years, but we are going to experience a complete paradigm shift, and we need to start getting ready for it now.

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Tuesday, June 8th, 2010 CSS
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