Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How to Build a Basic CSS Layout

Designing without tables by using CSS layouts is fast becoming the new standard on the Web because of the benefits mentioned in my previous article. Web browsers used these days are now able to render web pages proficiently. In this article I will endeavor to create a basic 2 column CSS layout which you can use for future design projects.

Web Page: http://www.isitebuild.com/css/css-layout.html
Style Sheet: http://www.isitebuild.com/css/stylesheet.htm

1. Divide your page into sections - the div id tags allows you to create distinct divisions on your web page. They are identified with a unique id. You can then add a
style (css selector) that specifically applies to the div of that id. Remember to include the DOCTYPE (to render your page accurately in the browsers) and meta tags (enables search engines to spider your pages).

wrapper: is the div that wraps around all the other divs like a container for the page elements.
header: defines the top banner of the page
main: defines the main content of the page
nav: defines the navigation of the page
footer: defines the footer and sub-navigation of the page

2. Create the CSS code - the CSS code styles the page as a centered 2 column CSS layout with a navigation bar and a footer. The div#wrapper style creates the centered box which acts as a container for the rest of the page content. The width: 80% rule sets the width of the div. The background-color:#FFFFFF rule creates a white background for the div. The margin-top: 50px and margin-bottom: 50px rules create a space of 50 pixels for the top and bottom margins for the div itself.

The proper way to center a block-level element with CSS is to set margin-left: auto and margin-right: auto. This instructs the browser to automatically calculate equal
margins for both sides, thus centering the div.

The border: thin solid #000000 rule adds a border around the outer div. The rest of the CSS code styles the divs for the header, footer, nav, and main content.

The div#header and div#footer styles set margins and padding for those divs. In addition, div#header includes the text-align: center rule to center the header text, and div#footer includes the border-top: thin solid #000000 rule to create a border along the top edge of the div to replace the horizontal rule above the footer in the table-based layout.

The div#nav and div#main styles create the two columns in the middle of the centered box. In the div#nav style, the float: left rule pushes the div to the left side of its parent element (the wrapper div), and the width: 25% rule sets the div's width to 25 percent of the parent element. With the nav div floated to the left and limited to a set width, it leaves room for the main div to move up to the right of the nav div, thus creating the two-column effect. The div#main style includes the margin-left: 30% rule to keep the main text aligned in a neat column instead of spreading out below the nav column. The main div's left margin is set to a value slightly larger than the width of the nav div.

Style Sheet

If links are placed elsewhere on the page they will inherit the same properties as above..a blue link that hovers to red. What if you wish to create another set of links that are a different color and on passing your mouse over them they are underlined.

4. Create the bottom navigation - to include this in the

section of the page, I use div#footer and code each link accordingly. To make the list go horizontally I use: display: inline;

Now that I have finished creating my style sheet I want to shorten the code on page by linking it to my external style sheet. Here's how:

4. Create an external style sheet - copy and paste all the css code (without these tags: ) into notepad and label it something like "style sheet". Place this style sheet between the head tags of your web page.

This will reduce the code on your page so it will load fast plus the search engines can more easily spider your web page.

4. Add content to your page - after you have got your page looking correctly, you can add more content to it. Adjustments can easily be made to any style on the page (or
your whole site) by simply editing one style sheet.

5. Upload your files - be sure to upload your web pages and style sheet to the root directory of your server.

6. Validate your code - be sure to validate your xhtml
code: http://validator.w3.org/ and css code:
http://jigsaw.w3.org/css-validator/ and make corrections where necessary.

7. Check browser compatibility and screen resolution - check that your page renders well in the popular browsers (IE6, NN7, Firefox)

If you are beginning with CSS layouts, implement then slowly by making small changes to your pages i.e. creating a style sheet for your main headers and fonts only. As you become more familiar with CSS you may eventually build all your future sites with CSS layouts.


Basic CSS layout


CSS Style Sheet


Benefits of CSS


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