Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, is a method of website design that allows for the separation of content and design. By incorporating CSS into the design of your small business website, you can increase the ability of search engines to spider your website, reduce your small business website page load time, make your site more user-friendly, and easily edit the appearance of your web site.
CSS and Search Engine Friendly Design
CSS and Reduced Page Load Time
Since the CSS file can be linked to an external file, the browser can “cache” or store this file in memory. The file can then be accessed without having to reload the data. In a tables-based design, the table structure must be reloaded with every page, resulting in longer page download times for your small business website. Since website visitors have increasingly less patience with download times, the quicker your server can display the page, the better the chance site visitors will stick around and read your content.
CSS and the User Experience
Cascading Style Sheets also allow you to serve a different page layout based on the browser or device used to view the page. The number of internet users browsing the web through handheld devices such as PDAs and cellular phones in increasing quickly. The ability to display a page layout compatible with the small screens of these devices is an easy task for CSS.
CSS also allows you to control the page structure based on the resolution of the user’s screen. For example, If your small business website is optimally viewed at 1024×768 resolution with a 3-column layout, you can create a separate CSS file designed for 800×600 resolution with only two columns. This allows your small business to maximize the user experience and tailor your content delivery to their personal settings.
CSS also gives you the ability to let the user control the font size of the document viewed. A simple click of the user’s mouse can increase or decrease the font size as long as the controlling CSS code is not set to a fixed pixel size. When printing a page, CSS can control the page content and layout to eliminate specific parts of the page, such as banner ads or navigation, so the user can print just the relevant content.
Using Cascading Style Sheets to control your small business website layout is an excellent way to increase search engine traffic, decrease page load times to keep the user focused on your site, and custom-tailor the user’s experience based on their preferences. If you design your own small business website, there is a slight learning curve to mastering CSS, but once you take the time to understand the flexibility and enormous potential of CSS, you won’t ever go back to a table-based layout.
If hand-coding CSS is not your cup of tea, I highly recomment WebAssist extensions to save you time when coding in Dreamweaver. Their CSS Sculptor and CSS Menu Writer extensions are well worth the money for creating standards-compliant CSS layouts and navigation.