Design—Cascading Style Sheets

My understanding of the concept of HTML is that the page should contain the content and textual structure of a document but not force the visual appearance. This was very clear in the design of HTML up to version two but it lost its way in later versions allowing the author to specify how the page should look. This has been misused by many web designers making pages that are superficially pretty—so long as you use the correct browser, have good eyesight and can tolerate moving images. It has been used by other designers to create pages that are unreadable by anyone, but that is their problem.

This direction has been somewhat redressed in HTML 4.0 and beyond where the emphasis has been put into transferring such visual information to the style sheet, reverting the HTML to its original role of content and structure. This site has been designed with that philosophy in mind. A style has been set in the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) provided, but this can be over-ridden at the viewer’s (or listener’s) choice using the facilities provided by their browser. So, for instance, if you have a reasonably modern browser, you will see this page in a creamy yellow with navy blue and dark red headings. You are at liberty to change this using whatever override facilities are available in your browser, but even if you use the oldest browser you can find, it will still make perfect sense. I have imposed this philosophy on myself and do not presume to impose it on anyone else against their will, but trust that it will meet the approval of visitors to the site.

The language that has been used is strict XHTML V1.0 (Ref: [Off Site]World Wide Web Consortium) with a couple of relaxations. That is HTML V4.0 with a few syntax changes to make it XML conformant. The style sheets are all written in CSS, mostly level 1. As not all browsers recognise the full fount of type which is in common use in book setting. e.g. em and en dashes & accents, numeric entities have been used (&#nnnn;). These are hard to understand from the source but more universally recognised by machine. I would also like to put certain commonly used images and their corresponding “alt=” into the style sheet, but the standard does not yet allow it. These would be used for layout features such as logos, headers and footers which belong with the visual style rather than the document content. I suppose what I would like is a macro language, perhaps XML will provide this<Grin> Thanks to [Off Site]Alan Flavell, this is now possible for rules.

Some of the design rules which I have imposed on myself are as follows…

Not STRICT items are some features of the Header to break users out of frames imposed by other sites.

Any Browser

There is an intention to make the pages independent of the particular browser, and to achieve this I used to check them against many different browsers—not to ensure that they look the same regardless of the browser used, that would be contrary to the philosophy, but that they are understandable and usable from any browser, regardless of how old, simple or unsophisticated. I must admit that, now the structure of the pages does not change a lot, they are not tested all that often. The browsers tested include…


I have tried to make the pages accessible to those using alternative forms of browsing and limited vision etc. I used to use a program called Bobby but this has now gone commercial and is out of my budget.

In particular you will note that…

I have also taken into account the needs of Seniors (after all, I will be one eventually) and there is a very good [Off Site]article on this subject by Jacob Nielsen. I was pleased to discover that I have been following his guide-lines for years.


I have come to the conclusion that this task is never ending—there is always just one more thing that can be done to make your pages more accessible, browser friendly, search engine pro-active… For example, I have not yet used many of the “<LINK…” structures that are available (but not well documented) which are supposed to assist printing. I have not used alternate style sheets for audio, hand held, character only or other specialised browsers. There is a print only style sheet which attempts to save a few trees but I don't know how well it really works.

The list goes on. (My daughter designed the waving flag below—this is the only animation that you will find on this site.)

Fancy waving Cornish flag designed by Debbie (the only reason I would have an animated gif!)