7 January 2009

Using CSS3

Despite ones personal feelings about it, I am really keen to start using CSS3. There are a number of browsers with support for some of the interesting parts of CSS3 and I think there is a new opportunity to use our skills of progressive enhancement to create some really exciting new effects.

If we wisely apply the appropriate properties, we can enhance the user experience for some users - and an increasing number of users - whilst offering a more than acceptable experience for the remainder of our users.

There may be a useful side effect here as well. When people see a site enhanced by the latest web browsers, we may get more users switching from older and less standards compliant browsers to the more modern and better newer browsers.

We may have to use vendor specific prefixes to get some effects to work, but I think that is a small price to pay to help push forwards the use of the good parts of CSS3.

The best part of all this is that as new browsers are released and used, our websites will look better and a good level of support is on the horizon. Safari 3 already has a good level of support, IE8 will have some and Firefox 3.1 will have a good level of support. With Safari having decent support for CSS3, it means all modern Webkit browsers should as well - read Chrome and the iPhone browser in particular!

So which properties might be able to be used in this way? Here are a few select ones that I think could be useful:

box-shadow
With this effect, we can create drop shadows around boxes. When this property is not understood, there is no detrimental effect and when it is recognised, a nice enhancement can be achieved.

border-radius
This effect allows us to create rounded corners using only CSS. I think this is useful as its simpler than any other technique and support can be achieved for IE by using conditional comments to include other stylesheets. Firefox 3 and Safari 3 already have support for this property - definitely one of the most useful to start implementing.

text-shadow
Similar to box-shadow, this effect will create a drop shadow effect around text. Another nice enhancement. Not strictly a new addition in CSS3, but support seems to be coming with CSS3 support.

There are other interesting effects coming, but I think these are the most potentially useful when applied using the principles of progressive enhancement. There are also a couple of useful new selectors coming, but its hard to see how one could use them with the principles of progressive enhancement.

I am excited about some of the new features of CSS3 and its great to be able to start using some. Indeed, the new JSquared website will feature some new CSS3 effects applied in this way.

What we do need to be cautious of though is creating a complete maintenance headache. Lets start using new features, but sparingly at first. We dont want to make development even harder with yet another class of browser to support.

3 comments:

joolss said...

My personal fav is border-image. I hope it gets some decent browser support soon. It would really speed up work when making graphics-heavy websites.

Also, I think the CSS3 addittions ti the display property is much needed. display:table doesn't feel like a sustainable solution for grid layouts.

willhowat said...

I've been playing with just this recently and so far it's working reasonably well.

One thing to look out for though is that Chrome's webkit-ish-ness runs into a bit of a problem when you combine box-shadow and border-radius, instead of the two working together as you see in Safari what you get is a nasty black block under the rounded corner.... something like PNGs in IE6.

James Norton said...

Thanks for the feedback Will.

I believe that is becuase Chrome uses an older build of Webkit than Safari.

They need to merge a later build into the Chrome codebase!