• 200712 Oct

    The announcement of the formation of the CSS Eleven has caused quite a stir in the web development community, with a few questions raised over the self-appointed nature of the group and the way the announcement has been presented. One thing that everyone agrees on, however, is that there’s a clear and obvious need for their existence.

    We spoke to Andy Clarke, respected designer and author, who announced the group’s formation (and explained it further here), and asked him a few questions about what we can expect from the CSS Eleven.

    1. Please could you sum up very briefly for anyone who hasn’t read your introduction what the CSS Eleven is, and what you aim to do.

      One of the biggest challenges that the CSS Working Group faces is engineering solutions that meet the expectations of visual designers and developers. Leaving aside for a moment their other difficult tasks such as internationalization, understanding what designers need is a tough job; particularly as CSS gets more complex in the areas of layout, typography and other design related areas. The members of the working group, largely technical people, need help. They need practical help to understand what designers need, and in detail. This help cannot come simply from reading emails that are sent to them with suggestions. So far, the channels of communication between creative people and the CSS Working Group have been difficult and many people that I speak to feel that a new way needs to be found to get the designer’s voice heard and their needs understood.

      CSS Eleven is an informal group of visual designers and developers who have agreed to give up a little of their time to helping the CSS Working Group to understand what we need from CSS in the future. We will help by making suggestions, but more importantly by providing clear, real-world, visual, graphical examples of the results of the CSS that we need and helping with making test suites; two areas that have proven very time consuming in the past.

      Are we the only group that the Working Group will listen to? I hope not. We’re simply the first of what I hope will many ways that visual designers and developers get together to help make sure that CSS3 is what designers deserve it to be.

    2. How will you arrive at the decisions as to which modules are most keenly needed?

      The decision to look at CSS Multi-Columns was purely mine as it is a mature draft with some features already available to test in some browsers. In the future I’m sure that efforts will be focussed on the modules that matter most to us as visual designers (personally, I’m particularly looking forward to seeing what happens with Advanced Layout). I’m sure that we’ll get lots of feedback and suggestions from the industry at large too.

    3. Won’t it be hard to make judgements about implementation when there are no browsers available to test the more advanced features on?

      Of course implementation is important, and we would hope that the browser makers on the CSS Working Group will help us all they can by continuing to implement new features. For me as a visual designer, describing the features that I need from CSS visually is one of the most important jobs that I can do to help the development of CSS. We need clear, real-world visual examples from people who also understand CSS from an everyday working perspective. I’m sure that with so many great people volunteering, there will be plenty to work on.

    4. What kind of timescale are you looking at for releasing the first batch of recommendations?

      I would think that we will two months working collaboratively on CSS Multi-Columns, after which I expect that we will open the wiki (or some similar facility) to a wider audience for a month before wrapping things up and handing it to the CSS Working group. Of course everybody involved is volunteering some of their valuable time, so time-scales may change.

    5. Which aspect of CSS 3 are you personally most looking forward to?

      Grid Positioning and Advanced Layout will help to solve many of the problems that designers face every day using CSS. There has been a little confusion about the role of Grid Positioning and its relationship to Advanced Layout, but both are exciting developments that I am looking forward to seeing.

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