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Structuring HTML correctly

From: CSS: Core Concepts

Video: Structuring HTML correctly

One of the biggest mistakes I see new web designers make is focusing a lot of effort into learning CSS without focusing on writing clean, semantic, consistent HTML. HTML defines the structure of your page and without a logical consistent structure, writing efficient CSS would be impossible. Before we get too far into how to use selectors to target page content, I want to take a moment to discuss a few best practices when authoring HTML. First, focus on the semantics. Make sure that the tag that you're using is appropriate for the content inside of it and that there isn't another element that expresses the content in a more meaningful way.

Structuring HTML correctly

One of the biggest mistakes I see new web designers make is focusing a lot of effort into learning CSS without focusing on writing clean, semantic, consistent HTML. HTML defines the structure of your page and without a logical consistent structure, writing efficient CSS would be impossible. Before we get too far into how to use selectors to target page content, I want to take a moment to discuss a few best practices when authoring HTML. First, focus on the semantics. Make sure that the tag that you're using is appropriate for the content inside of it and that there isn't another element that expresses the content in a more meaningful way.

For example, if you're coding an author in a book review, use the blockquote element, not the paragraph. By using the correct element, your content will be easier for user agents to understand and easier for you to style. Second, be consistent with how you structure your content throughout your site. Let's say that you have sections of content that promotes specific products that will appear on several pages within your sites. In this example, you can see that the content region is structured in three different ways on each of the pages that it occurs on.

While it may look the same in the browser, and you can certainly style each one of these to look exactly the same, you wouldn't be able to style it as efficiently. Creating standards for how content should be structured and sticking with those standards throughout your site creates content they can be better understood by user agents and can be styled consistently with fewer styles. Finally, simplify your code where you can. Now I'm not about using non-semantic code for styling purposes from time to time, but avoid adding any unnecessary markup to your pages, especially just for styling purposes.

Too often I've seen elements wrapped in multiple div tags just to achieve a desired visual effect that could have been achieved without the added structure. I usually approach coding my sites with just the structure and content in mind. While that might give passing consideration to the visual design of the page, I'm more concerned with properly structuring my code and representing the content than I am with how the content is going to look. Now I've found that this allows me to create lean, standards-compliant pages without extraneous markup. Now at first glance it may seem that this approach limits what you can do visually, but I've found in fact it to be just the opposite.

When you have a lean page structure, it's much easier to write efficient styles that still style the page the way you want to. Now as I mentioned, you might occasionally need to tweak the code for your design, but the more I use this approach, the less tweaking I find that I need to do. Just keep in mind when coding your HTML that there is a direct relationship between the structure of your page and the structure of your CSS. Without clean, consistent HTML, it's very hard to create efficient styles to control your sites' presentation.

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This video is part of

Image for CSS: Core Concepts
CSS: Core Concepts

81 video lessons · 40296 viewers

James Williamson
Author

 
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  1. 4m 57s
    1. Welcome
      55s
    2. Using the exercise files
      4m 2s
  2. 1h 7m
    1. Exploring default styling
      4m 56s
    2. CSS authoring tools
      2m 29s
    3. CSS syntax
      4m 45s
    4. Writing a selector
      4m 10s
    5. Setting properties
      8m 40s
    6. Common units of measurement
      7m 47s
    7. Inline styles
      5m 1s
    8. Embedded styles
      5m 19s
    9. Using external style sheets
      10m 34s
    10. Checking for browser support
      8m 48s
    11. Dealing with browser inconsistencies
      5m 30s
  3. 2h 15m
    1. Structuring HTML correctly
      2m 51s
    2. Element selectors
      4m 52s
    3. Class selectors
      6m 4s
    4. ID selectors
      3m 27s
    5. Using classes and IDs
      10m 7s
    6. Element-specific selectors
      4m 35s
    7. The universal selector
      5m 42s
    8. Grouping selectors
      4m 49s
    9. Descendent selectors
      7m 32s
    10. Child selectors
      5m 7s
    11. Adjacent selectors
      5m 30s
    12. Attribute selectors
      12m 43s
    13. Pseudo-class selectors
      3m 54s
    14. Dynamic pseudo-class selectors
      8m 29s
    15. Structural pseudo-class selectors
      6m 45s
    16. Nth-child selectors
      13m 10s
    17. Pseudo-element selectors
      12m 40s
    18. Targeting page content: Lab
      8m 56s
    19. Targeting page content: Solution
      7m 59s
  4. 42m 39s
    1. What happens when styles conflict?
      4m 0s
    2. Understanding the cascade
      5m 47s
    3. Using inheritance
      6m 11s
    4. Selector specificity
      6m 55s
    5. The !important declaration
      4m 5s
    6. Reducing conflicts through planning
      3m 33s
    7. Resolving conflicts: Lab
      6m 45s
    8. Resolving conflicts: Solution
      5m 23s
  5. 1h 47m
    1. Setting a font family
      7m 10s
    2. Using @font-face
      9m 18s
    3. Setting font size
      7m 35s
    4. Font style and font weight
      6m 52s
    5. Transforming text
      3m 58s
    6. Using text variants
      2m 49s
    7. Text decoration options
      4m 26s
    8. Setting text color
      3m 2s
    9. Writing font shorthand notation
      8m 49s
    10. Controlling text alignment
      6m 33s
    11. Letter and word spacing
      9m 11s
    12. Indenting text
      4m 30s
    13. Adjusting paragraph line height
      10m 30s
    14. Controlling the space between elements
      6m 41s
    15. Basic text formatting: Lab
      8m 45s
    16. Basic text formatting: Solution
      7m 14s
  6. 2h 1m
    1. Understanding the box model
      16m 53s
    2. Controlling element spacing
      14m 29s
    3. Controlling interior spacing
      10m 49s
    4. Margin and padding shorthand notation
      6m 27s
    5. Adding borders
      8m 57s
    6. Defining element size
      10m 7s
    7. Creating rounded corners
      6m 58s
    8. Background properties
      2m 51s
    9. Using background images
      5m 10s
    10. Controlling image positioning
      10m 25s
    11. Using multiple backgrounds
      7m 5s
    12. Background shorthand notation
      5m 25s
    13. Styling container elements: Lab
      7m 55s
    14. Styling container elements: Solution
      8m 17s
  7. 47m 51s
    1. Color keyword definitions
      5m 4s
    2. Understanding hexadecimal notation
      6m 5s
    3. Using RGB values
      4m 58s
    4. Using HSL values
      5m 17s
    5. Working with opacity
      2m 23s
    6. Using RGBa and HSLa
      3m 8s
    7. Styling drop shadows
      5m 38s
    8. CSS gradients
      6m 32s
    9. Working with color: Lab
      4m 26s
    10. Working with color: Solution
      4m 20s
  8. 1m 58s
    1. Additional resources
      1m 58s

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