Basic intro to cascading style sheets

What are Cascading Style Sheets or CSS?

A cascading style sheet is a document which is part of any modern website. As a normal user, you won’t see it directly as you browse the website, but you will definitely see its effects.
The style sheet gives design direction to the website elements, telling it what colours, fonts and sizes to use, where to put various elements, and hundreds of other visual elements.

By using a style sheet to contain this information it means we don’t have to specify these things on each of the individual pages – which would lead to a lot of repeated code and a nightmare if we ever wanted to change – say – the background colour.

By swapping out one style sheet for another, you can completely change the look of a website so as to make it unrecognisable.
There are various ‘standard’ tags you can use in style sheets which will work in any website at all, but if you find that too limiting you can also make up your own brand new ‘classes’ and ‘ids’ which you can apply willy-nilly wherever you like.

Because you may have elements nested within each other, they may end up with multiple styles applying to the same item – for example, a paragraph of text. This is where the ‘cascading’ bit comes in. CSS sheets have priority and the closer to the element, or alternatively, the lower down the sheet, the high priority it will be.
Cascading Style Sheets will make even the most basic website easier to work with and more elegant and at the top end of the scale they can be used to make smart, responsive websites that do all kinds of clever things.

If you want to learn more about cascading style sheets and have a more detailed and at the same time straightforward explanation of exactly the role they play and why they’re so awesome go and read the full article on cascading style sheets.

If you’ve found this article useful you might want to check out our resource bank, which includes articles about why you shouldn’to utsource your web design to India, whether you should put music on yoursite (No! A thousand times no!), all about web hosting – and, you’ve guessed it – much more.

Why I won't consider advertising in a magazine - online or hard copy

Recently a sneaky media salesman managed to get past my call screening by pretending to be a customer looking for an ecommerce website. Of course, as soon as he had me on the phone, I was subjected to a drawn out sales pitch, with prices being slashed before I could even say 'I'm not interested'.

The experience inspired me to write an article explaining why I don't consider this kind of advertising anymore.

They are often scams

Now, of course not all traditional media advertising is a scam, and I don't mean to cast aspersions on those who run a genuine business. But I've been caught out too many times by con artists posing as genuine industry magazines and selling advertising space. When you receive your copy of the magazine, it's immediately obvious that it's simply pages and pages of adverts, with no actual content - and is nothing anybody would ever read. They are also indifferent to getting the adverts right, with badly colour logo, incorrectly placed images and embarrasingly shoddy work.

It's just so ineffecient

Particularly with printed newspapers which are delivered to people's homes whether they like it or not, the large 'distribution' figures that media sales people quote become meaningless very quickly. Just because you've shoved something in someone's door, doesn't mean they are going to look at it. Furthermore, how many of the people who do read it will actually be your target market? Probably very few - unless you're selling bread or milk.

It's so expensive

Even small adverts start in the hundreds of pounds, and they only last a few weeks, if that. You can get a full blown website and a decent SEO campaign for the cost of a single page advert in most publications - and the website will last forever(ish) - as well as being better targeted to customers who are actually looking for your services (see efficiency comments above).

Of course it's possible I just don't know how to use magazine advertising properly, and I'm sure it myst work for some companies. But you know what I do know? Web design and SEO. So, I'll concentrate on what I'm good at, and that's where I can guarantee I'll get fresh leads on a regular basis.

Will PayPerClick make money for your business?

Like most things, there's no clear and straightforward answer to this question - it depends on a lot of factors.

For those of you that aren't sure what PayPerClick (PPC) is, it's basically where you pay Google for particular positions in the listings. These are kept separate from the (sacred) natural listings, which you can't buy a position in, no way, no how. For a more detailed explanation of what PPC is and how it works, read our article.

In fact, you don't actually pay to be displayed in the position, you only pay when someone clicks the link and goes to have a look at your site. Just hanging out there (or getting the 'impression' to give it its technical term) is free. So you pay for each click. Pay per click. Get it?

We've found PPC to be one of the most effective forms of marketing we've undertaken - the others being newspaper adverts, radio adverts, flyers mailouts and highly targeted mailshots. Having said that we're not professional marketers, so it may be that we just didn't carry out the other campaigns as well as we could.

The reason it's so effective is because you really are only paying for people who are interested in your products (unlike the newspaper, where there are all kinds of people who will see your adverts, most of whom aren't your target market).

Whether it's going to make money for your business or not depends on how competitive your target key phrases are, how niche your products and services are and how well you design your campaigns. However, it's fairly easy to test the water, so it's probably worth a try.

If you'd like to learn more about having an effective website and how to improve your search engine optimisation, visit our site.

Sentiva is a web design company serving Leeds and Reading.

Using Colour in Web Design

Choice of colour is very important in web design and will strongly effect how your website comes across, including everything from how professional it looks to the kind of personality the visitors project onto your company.

Please note that this is a shorter version of the full article on colour in web design, which you can read here.

Human beings are designed to have strong emotional responses to colour, this helps us identify things that are safe and dangerous, as well as a range of other more subtle aspects. The problem is that different colours have different representations and associations in different countries, for example white means pure in the West, but death in China. See a list of common colours and associations here.
If you use too many colours, then the website will come across as busy and tiring to look at, so it's a good idea to stick to a small range of colours that match your brand and the impression you want to give.

Contrast is an important factor. If contrast is too strong than it will give a garish impression, however, if contrast is not strong enough then it will make it difficult to read and will affect accessibility.

Colour can also be used very effectively in calls to action. You can make buttons leap out from the page and draw the eye, encouraging clicking and further desired behaviour from your visitor.

You can read loads more articles about good and bad web design in our web design and SEO resource bank.

Or, if you're looking for web design in and around Leeds, find out more about our web design services.

The web design process

There are probably lots of different ways to get from idea to finished website, but here is a brief guide to the process we follow when building a new website. Or see a nifty infographic of the web design process here.

In this article we're thinking about a small business website, of between four to ten pages. The process would be different for an ecommerce or database driven website.


We would start by researching the business and industry. That would include talking to the business owner and relevant staff and looking into the competitors and target market. The depth of research would depend on the budget and therefore time available to be dedicated to the project.


Once we've got all the ideas bubbling around in our heads, we'll start on the concept design. We wouldn't start coding that this stage - but we'd start to pin down colourschemes, layouts, where the call to action buttons will be and what sort of imagery will be used.


When the concept is perfect and reflects accurately the vision of the client, then we would start coding the site. This involves making a master page and the sub pages in a development area. Using modern html, css and .NET coding techniques and master pages make the website leaner, and it's much easier to make changes.


Now we have a skeleton which is ready to have some flesh put on it - i.e. content. Unless they have requested content generation services, content is usually supplied by the client. Photos are either supplied by the client or we use stock photo banks.


The client is able to view the website in a development area with all the content in place, and they can log in to make changes and get the hang of how everything works. Once they agree that everything is perfect and they give us the nod, we will complete the finalisation of the site. This includes adding the meta-data and on page SEO and checking all domain names, email addresses and related configuration is set up.


Usually the most exciting part for the client! The website takes its first steps in the real world. It's a busy time for us and we go through our launch procedure, including submission to search engines, hooking up to Google analytics, testing emails and web forms and much more.


When the website goes live we monitor it regularly, and make tweaks where we think it will improve the performance. We will also carry out basic SEO work as standard, including submission to directories.

If you want to find out more about Sentiva web design Leeds, click here.