Fun and Games with CSS

Lately I’ve been seriously contemplating moving my blog to another host. Actually I contemplate moving almost every year, but end up staying with Typepad partly because of certain key features and partly because of inertia. But things are different this year. Amid much fanfare, Typepad recently “upgraded” its platform, and it’s been a disaster (not that they’ll ever admit it because they are into being “positive”). Oh, the blogs are still up, but the system is riddled with bugs that are taking months to fix and which never should have been there in the first place. I’ve actually had to switch to composing posts in Windows Live Writer (which is excellent, by the way) to save time and frustration. Typepad did add a few “new” features, but they are things the free blog hosts have had for quite some time now, and we are still lacking features that are standard elsewhere. That’s just not good enough for a paid host!

So, I’m looking at One downside is the lack of design options, but for a mere $15 a year one can edit the stylesheet (CSS). It’s not quite as easy as Typepad’s more automated design functions, but my level of discontent has gotten to the point that I’m ready to try it. I know a little CSS  but not enough to design a whole page from scratch, so I’m trying to learn more now. Whether I move or not I’m sure it’ll come in handy.

CSS design tutorials and websites abound, but I wanted to share one that pausetowonder sent me. The CSS Zen Garden is a showcase of what can be done with CSS. Designers are invited to take the bare bones content of the page and apply their own styles to it. The result is a truly mind-boggling diversity of looks and layouts. You can browse the designs here, but I’d also like to point out some that might be of interest to a bookish crowd: Ballade (Gorey-esque); Odyssey (Homer-esque); Angelus (inspired by medieval prayer books); and Kelmscott (inspired by master printer William Morris). It’s an inspiring collection and makes me think I could perhaps come up with a much more interesting design for my blog. Like everything else it’s a question of time. It’s nice to know what’s possible, though.


9 comments on “Fun and Games with CSS

  1. wil says:

    You can certainly do a lot with CSS alone, but if you want to get really jiggy with it, you can host it yourself and go crazy modding the WordPress code itself (for example:

  2. Sylvia says:

    That's the next evolution… I don't think I can take on php just yet!

  3. Stefanie says:

    I like WordPress. They are very stable and I have never had any problems with them. Even when you don't upgrade to tinker with the css they still have lots of widgets and they add a new theme every month or so. I like a three-column layout but don't like any of their three-column themes so chose a two-column one I can change the header picture on. I don't change it as often as I thought I would. I am so glad you found that css site since my web design class starts tomorrow. If I learn any good tricks I will be sure to pass them on! This is the book we are using in class: It is pretty basic in many respects but it fills in some holes in what I know how to do.

  4. Carol A says:

    CSS can be a bit maddening, sometimes it is better to use a template rather than design it yourself (and that's from a person who writes HTML with a text editor!). Part of the problem is the different ways of rendering in different browsers. A good idea to have at least the popular ones on your computer and test run anything radical. And be prepared for a lot of hair-tearing!

  5. Sylvia says:

    Stefanie, yes, the dearth of three-column designs is a bit of a stumbling block for me, though I gather one can override just about anything with CSS. I suppose I could put some of my sidebar material into pages and go to two columns, but I kind of like the way they frame the page.
    That looks like a good textbook, with a mix of basics and useful advanced stuff. If the past is any indication you'll be a web design ace in no time! 😉

  6. Sylvia says:

    Carol A, I'm afraid I'm already acquainted with hair-tearing associated with CSS! 😉 I don't think I'll be doing anything too radical. One interesting thing about the CSS Zen Garden is that they ask people to use the most basic CSS. Judging by the results that is plenty!

  7. Inkslinger says:

    Oooh, love those links to the designs! Makes me want to turn all techie.

  8. Goldberry says:

    Oh my goodness, the Angelus design is so gorgeous. I suppose there's no way for us to get it ourselves.
    Sylvia, I thought you (and your readers) might be interested in a site called Volunteers record books which are in the public domain, to be made available to the world! Anyone can sign up to record part of a book digitally.

  9. Sylvia says:

    Goldberry, I don't know if we are allowed to “borrow” those designs or not. I glanced at the code and the classes are specific to that page so it's probably not something one could apply elsewhere. One could certainly adapt from them, though.
    Thanks for mentioning Librivox. I think I have a link to it here somewhere (rummage rummage…) under Great Books Online. It's a wonderful volunteer project as well.

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