The internet provides bottomless entertainment—who hasn’t looked up from their screen only to see three hours have slipped by? But without CSS, the internet would be a pretty boring place.
Cascading Style Sheets (or CSS) is the stylist language of the web. This markup language gives websites their layout, coloring, and design—all the reasons why your eyes want to keep scrolling.
To jumpstart a web coding education, all students should learn this essential language. For coding newcomers, we’ll break down exactly what CSS is used for and why every web developer should learn it.
What is CSS?
In short, CSS simplifies and quickens the process of coding a webpage’s appearance. With CSS, you can set webpage qualities like:
- Text color
- Paragraph spacing
- Columns and tables design
- Background images
- Content layout
- Screen size adaptation
- Other design effects
Take your design coding to CSS, and you can visually enhance your website while saving time.
Why Do We Use CSS?
Technically, a web designer could just use HTML to code a page’s content and appearance. But CSS exists for a reason—it’s simply a better design tool.
Let’s explore the differences between these two coding languages, and why CSS holds a design advantage over HTML.
CSS vs HTML
HTML and CSS are both markup web coding languages—i.e., they set a webpage’s information or appearances. However, there are a few differences between the two.2
What is the purpose of HTML? HTML is a structural language that provides a page’s content (text, images, etc). On the other hand, CSS is a design language that forms a page’s appearance (font, image size, etc). Web browsers process both to display a cohesive webpage.
To visualize this, imagine a website as a house. HTML would be the foundational parts (walls, ceilings, floors), while CSS would be the decorative elements (paint color, rugs, furniture, etc). Without decor, your home appears quite dull, and the same goes for a webpage without CSS.
Before CSS, coders had to manually enter design commands into HTML—a big waste of time and effort. With greater style options and efficacy, CSS is a more creative, simple language for webpage design.
Benefits of CSS
CSS doesn’t only provide a wider color palette than HTML—it also accelerates the entire webpage coding process.
By separating style from structure, coding web design with CSS has a number of benefits:3
- Reusability & standardization – Want the same paragraph layout on every website page? Easy enough with CSS. You can apply the same sheet of CSS code to multiple HTML pages. No need to retype all of your color and font choices for every new page.
- Easy editing – If you want to change all paragraphs from red to blue text, save yourself from manually editing every paragraph’s code. If you reference multiple HTML pages to a single CSS style sheet, you can adjust a style attribute across an entire website with one edit.
- Saved time – As a web developer, unnecessary manual work is a time waste. The holistic structure of CSS means faster code writing and editing—and more time for you to get creative.
- Better design options – HTML code allows for basic styling. But to really create an eye-popping website, CSS has a much wider variety of design tools and attributes. It’ll take your webpage from the 1990s to the 2020s.
- Speedier downloads – Using only HTML to design a page’s layout often requires more code than CSS. The less code, the faster a webpage’s download time.
- Multi-device optimization – Today, people surf the web on their phone as much as their laptop. CSS best optimizes a webpage for different devices, so that content never looks jumbled or misplaced.
It’s important to note CSS could not exist on its own—it must work alongside or within HTML code. Depending on your desired website look, CSS code can apply to HTML pages in three ways:4
- External – To apply uniform style across multiple pages on a website, you’ll need an external CSS file (marked as “.css”). Enter the sheet’s link into each HTML page’s header, and every linked page will follow that external file’s coded style rules.
- Internal – To customize a single page on a website, use internal CSS. Written directly into the page header, internal CSS is nestled into an HTML document’s “<style>” element or section, adjusting the entire page’s appearance.
- Inline – The most manual and specific method, inline CSS adjusts a single HTML page element, or individual section. Elements can include body paragraphs, headlines, images, or other content pieces.
In general, external CSS is the most efficient CSS style. By linking multiple pages to one external style sheet, you save hours in manual coding work.
Disney Codeillusion—Learn CSS, The Simple Style Solution
HTML gives you the bricks to build your website. But CSS gives you the mortar and spatula to lay those bricks correctly in neat formation. It’s the tool that makes a website organized, stylish, and personal—in other words, it’s the reason why anyone would want to stay online.
Discover the magic of coding today. Pretty soon, you’ll have the tools to build an extraordinary website of your own.
- MDN Web Docs. How CSS is Structured. https://developer.mozilla.org/en-US/docs/Learn/CSS/First_steps/How_CSS_is_structured
- Morris, Scott. Tech 101: The Ultimate Guide to CSS. https://skillcrush.com/blog/css/
- Sweeney, Austin. Infographic: What’s the Difference between HTML vs CSS? https://www.codingdojo.com/blog/html-vs-css-inforgraphic
- TutorialsPoint. What is CSS? https://www.tutorialspoint.com/css/what_is_css.htm