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B&B Website Should Use CSS

When a B&B website is being created, the designer has a choice of putting formatting information like fonts, sizes, colors, spacing, etc on each page of the site, or on a single page. From a design point of view, you want to make sure your site (if you are given a choice) is built so that all the formatting information goes on one page and is used by every page on your site. This is called an external Cascading Style Sheet (external CSS). There are plenty of reasons to make sure your site is built using an external CSS and no good reason why it shouldn't be.

Reasons to use CSS on a B&B Website

Consistency of Appearance
If each page specified its own font size and format, then it is very likely that some pages will be inconsistent and look out of place when compared to other pages. This kind of thing gives an unprofessional appearance to site visitors. If all the formatting of your site is controlled by one page, then there is no way for any page to look out of place (unless someone really works hard at making that happen).
Ease of Changes & Updates
If every page controlled its own background and font colors and you decided you wanted to change your background color, then it would have to be changed on every single page of your site. (And if you pay a webmaster to do it, they will charge you for the time it takes to change every single page.) This is time consuming and likely to be expensive. However, if your background and font colors are controlled by an external CSS then one change can instantly affect the entire site. If one of the ways you want to keep your website "fresh" is to change the appearance every 4 months, it would be easy if your site uses an external CSS.
Separates the Content, from the Formatting
This is the whole purpose of using an external CSS. Your pages contain the content, and the style sheet controls the appearance. If you want to change what something says, you edit the page. If you want to change how it appears, you change the stylesheet, which as already mentioned, updates the entire site.
Faster Download
When you view a page that has all the formatting information mixed in with all the content on the page, then a lot of what is being downloaded is formatting information, and it downloads that information every time a page is viewed. Web browsers treat style sheets differently though. When you visit a site using an external style sheet, your computer downloads the style sheet only once, but uses it for every page viewed on your site. So this means the formatting information does not have to be repeatedly downloaded with each page. This actually makes each of your pages quite a bit smaller memory-wise so it means they download faster. This is important, because people don't like to wait for websites.
More Affordable Website Makeovers
As someone who is often called upon to do makeovers of outdated or less effective websites, I often run into pages that are littered with font coding to control how things look on a page. The coding is done on a page by page basis which is a time consuming mess to try to sort out. If it is bad enough, it would cost more to try to fix it than to just start over from scratch with a brand new site. The problem is the innkeeper then ends up paying for a brand new site. Whereas an innkeeper coming to me with a site that is built well, using an external CSS wisely (yes there are plenty of un-wise ways to use them too) it takes me much less time to makeover a site, which translates directly to less cost. If the external CSS is paired with a good templating system, complete site makeovers become much easier. Of course this also depends on the level of makeover that is needed.
Future Ready
As new types of website opportunities unfold themselves to innkeepers, it is important to think beyond the computer. Cell phones are gaining the ability to surf the internet in a variety of ways. However the small screens present problems to sites that have been laid out using tables to control where things appear. An external CSS can control placement of information in ways that are friendly to cell phones and PDA's and still meet the needs of someone browsing the internet with a traditional computer. When CSS is combined with a B&B Content Management System, it is even possible to provide the same content to both the pages of traditional .com site and the newer more regulated .mobi websites which are designed solely for cell phones. This means you don't have to update two sites separately. Change your rates in one place and both websites update. This would simply not be possible with a site that did not separate content from formatting.

Advice for B&B Website Design

  1. New Site: If you are having a new site built, make sure your designer knows they must use an external CSS for all formatting and preferably all layout (positioning). If they won't or can't, find another designer. If they say it will cost more, find another designer as anyone who knows CSS can build a site faster using it, than not using it. The fact that someone would charge you more for it, means they are willing to charge you extra for something that makes their life easier, or it means they don't really know how to do it, so they are charging you to pay for their "learning time."
  2. Existing Site: If you have an existing site that uses on-page formatting, consider having it converted to CSS the next time you do a makeover. It is not worth doing it just for the sake of doing it. Coordinate it with your next big upgrade. It may be a bit more costly to do it, but it will add value in the long run.
  3. Designer Search: If you are looking for a new designer, when you look at sites they have built recently (I say recently because designers are likely to have older sites that have not yet been updated to use CSS) be sure to view the source code for the page (pull down "View" to "source" or "source code"). It may look like alphabet soup, but just scan for something that looks like "<font" if you see more than a couple of these, it means they aren't using external CSS or that they aren't using it effectively. Keep looking for another designer.

If you are your own designer, and you accept the risks of doing it yourself, here are some resources for learning to use CSS.

I hope this helps. -Steve Wirt

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