What is CSS? Understanding the coding language that styles a webpage beyond plain text and photos

coworkers coding on computer together
CSS is important website coding that improves the user interface and experience.

  • CSS is a programming language that lets you customize the color, font, and layout of an HTML-coded website.
  • CSS adds vibrancy to the online experience because without it, websites would look like identical bland lines of text and images.
  • There are three distinct CSS styles that you can use when designing your website.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Even if you’re unfamiliar with the term itself, CSS is a website coding component that any internet user has experienced.

While you may not know exactly what CSS is, it’s something to embrace – CSS immeasurably enriches the online ecosystem.

Here’s everything you should know about how CSS works, its advantages, and why it’s important.

What is CSS?

CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, is a coding language used to add colors, layouts, and fonts to a website.

If you were a user in the early stages of the internet, your initial impression of website design may have been quite underwhelming. That’s because CSS wasn’t being used by browsers until 1996.

CSS isn’t the content of a website, but its visual presentation. Think of it this way: CSS is the style, and HTML is the substance.

1_ _What_is_CSS
CSS adds the design elements to a webpage.

HTML serves as a site’s foundation by coding all the content you’re there to consume, but without CSS, the website would be only a bare-bones jumble of words and images.

Insider homepage without CSS
Without CSS, the Insider homepage appears without much stylistic flow.

You may also be familiar with JavaScript, the sort of third pillar of website development. Java is a language which – unlike the static style elements added by CSS – allows you to code in complex, interactive content. As far as web design goes though, CSS is the most crucial web development element.

Types of CSS styles

  • Internal CSS: Also known as the “embedded” style, Internal CSS requires coding the CSS < style > tag in the < head > section of each page you’re coding – the style won’t be applied to an entire website. There are advantages though, as you’ll also be creating a self-contained, easily previewable template for sharing.
  • External CSS: This is often considered the easiest method for long-term website maintenance. All your CSS coding is done in a separate CSS file, then applied to any page you want. Site loading times might also benefit from the external style.
  • Inline CSS: This style is slightly more intensive for coders, requiring each individual HTML tag to be styled. This can also be handy for minor changes and quick previews of modifications.

Benefits of CSS

  • The coding language of CSS is straightforward, but customizable to an enormous degree.
  • Formatting via CSS makes websites easier to navigate by placing buttons in logical places that make them more likely to get clicks.
  • CSS can also eliminate having to use as many lines of code, which allows faster page loading.
  • The responsive design elements of CSS make the language suitable for presentation on any size screen, from a mobile phone to a desktop.

Why CSS is important

CSS created a unified standard for designing web pages that makes the process more accessible.

It’s probably best known for its user-friendliness – a coding language that no one has to be intimidated by.

With CSS, an impeccable-looking website can be achieved without hiring an expert coder.

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Donald Trump’s new blog crashed after he posted an unverified claim about election fraud in Arizona

donald trump
Former president Trump gives a speech before boarding Air Force One for his last time as president.

  • Former President Donald Trump’s blog crashed on Saturday after he posted about an Arizona recount.
  • His post alleged massive fraud in the form of “broken seals on boxes, ballots missing, and worse.”
  • Trump launched the “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” blog earlier this month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Former President Donald Trump’s “From the Desk of…” blog crashed on Saturday. Users were greeted with an error message, saying “something has gone wrong and this URL cannot be processed at this time.”

The hourlong outage came after Trump posted a message about the ongoing election recount in Maricopa County, Arizona, according to the Gateway Pundit.

The message included unverified statements about election fraud in Arizona, saying “seals were broken on the boxes that hold the votes, ballots are missing, and worse.”

Trump launched the blog in early May as a way to talk directly to his followers and the media. He was previously removed from both Twitter and Facebook, his most-used social media networks.

The Twitter ban for @RealDonaldTrump was said to be permanent. Facebook has been wrestling with letting the former president back onto its platform. The company said earlier this month that it plans to revisit the decision in six months.

His blog had about 212,0000 engagements during its first week online, notably fewer than some of his most popular tweets.

Earlier this month, Peter Loge, an associate professor at George Washington University, told Insider’s Thomas Colson that “Trump is just shouting into the void.”

Loge added: “He isn’t letting anyone shout back. Shouting at people is a less effective way to maintain celebrity status and keep selling new merchandise than finding ways to create the illusion of interaction is.”

Trump’s blog states that it’s paid for by Save America, a joint fundraising committee paid for by political action committees Save America and Make America Great Again.

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How to buy a domain name for your business or personal website, and 5 things to watch out for

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Purchasing a unique domain name is the first step to building a website for your business or brand.

  • You can buy a domain name from a domain registrar if you’re thinking of launching a business or personal website.
  • Most domains should only cost a few dollars, though you need to renew it annually.
  • Here’s an overview of everything you need to know about buying a domain.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

If you’re starting a business, launching a website, or publishing a blog, you might be in need of your own domain, like www.your-domain-name.com.

Having your own domain makes it easier for people to find you and makes you seem more professional and credible. It also affords you the opportunity to have an email address that’s built on your custom domain rather than having a free Gmail account.

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A guide to 403 errors, and how to troubleshoot the ‘forbidden’ webpage

403 error
You can try a few different troubleshooting tricks to get around a 403 error on a website.

  • A 403 error occurs when a server won’t allow you to access a webpage.
  • You can’t always fix a 403 error on your own, but simple tricks like refreshing your page or clearing your cache could help.
  • If visitors to your webpage are getting 403 errors, you may have to reconfigure it.
  • Visit Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

A 403 “forbidden” error sounds more threatening than it is.

This type of error happens when a web server doesn’t allow you to access a webpage. You can’t always fix these sorts of errors, but if you can, the solutions are pretty simple.

Here’s everything you need to know about why these errors happen and what to do if you encounter one.

The most common causes for 403 errors

403 errors occur for a single reason: You’re trying to access a webpage that you don’t have permission to see. Consider it a sister to the 404 error, which means the page simply doesn’t exist.

This isn’t any sort of grand conspiracy. Every website has pages that aren’t open to the public – these are usually spots for the site owners to test new features, or edit other parts of the site.

Dell XPS 15 2019
403 errors aren’t rare, especially if you enter URLs manually.

For example, Insider has pages that are used to edit the text and pictures in a story. People who don’t work at Insider don’t have access to these pages, because if they did, anyone could edit or erase any story at any time.

In most cases, if you’ve hit a 403 error, the solution is to just move on. But if you’re seeing 403 errors on pages that you know you should have permission to see, there’s a deeper issue.

How to troubleshoot a 403 error

Not all 403 errors can be fixed, and not all errors can be fixed by yourself – you might need help from the site’s administrator.

But before you give up, try some of these fixes.

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What is web scraping? Here’s what you need to know about the process of collecting automated data from websites, and its uses

software developer analyzing data on laptop tablet desktop
Web scraping, the process of extracting data en masse from websites, has a variety of practical uses.

  • Web scraping is the process of using automated software, like bots, to extract structured data from websites. 
  • There are many applications for web scraping, including monitoring product retail prices, lead generation, and analyzing sentiment about products and companies on social media. 
  • Here’s a brief overview of web scraping, its applications, and how it works. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Web scraping is the name given to the process of extracting structured data from third-party websites. In other words, it’s a way to capture specific information from one or more websites without also copying unwanted or unrelated information. It’s a common practice that has a lot of potential applications and a murky legal profile. 

What to know about web scraping

Web scraping is usually an automated process, but it doesn’t have to be; data can be scraped from websites manually, by humans, though that’s slow and inefficient. More commonly, scraping is performed by software designed specifically for this application, generally in two main components. A crawler is a program that browses the internet and indexes the content of interest, and it passes this information onto the scraper.

The scraper is designed to locate the relevant structured information using markers called data locators. These locators indicate the presence of the data, which the scraper then extracts and stores offline in a spreadsheet or database for processing or analysis.

One simple example of web scraping: Consider a website that aggregates pricing information for retail products so shoppers can see which retailers have the best prices. A scraper can be programmed to index the product pages at every major retailer, with the scraper then visiting each page and using data locators to zero in just on the price field and ignore all the other data on the page – product description, reviews, and so on. The scraper can be run daily to update the webpage with the latest pricing information from around the web. 

How web scraping is used

Because there is an enormous variety of data online, there is a wide variety of applications for web scraping. Here are some of the most common uses:

  • Price intelligence: Like the example above, many web scrapers are designed to monitor prices from retail sites. Retailers might use this to monitor prices at competitor sites, or the data might be used for competitive analysis, monitoring trends, or as a service to other users.
  • Real estate: Similarly, web scrapers commonly target real estate sites to monitor rental and sale prices, appraise property values in a given region, and conduct market analysis.
  • Lead generation: Marketers commonly use web scraping to generate leads by scraping structured data from websites like LinkedIn.
  • Sentiment analysis: Brands even use web scraping to understand how their products and services are being talked about online. Companies can collect data that mentions their name from social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. 

The legality of web scraping

There’s no easy answer to the question of web scraping’s legality. This technology has had a number of legal challenges dating back to 2000, when online auction site eBay filed an injunction (which was granted by the court) against a site called Bidder’s Edge for scraping its auction data

In the years since, there have been a number of additional challenges to web scraping, but in 2017 LinkedIn lost a suit against a business that was scraping its content. With some precedent in the courts both for and against web scraping, it’s currently a common practice across the internet. 

Related coverage from Tech Reference:

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What is Carrd? Everything you need to know about the simple website-building platform

young creative entrepreneur making website selling online
Carrd can be used for business websites, personal portfolios, product landing pages, and more.

  • Carrd is a site-building platform, like SquareSpace or WordPress, that’s been getting increasingly popular within the past year.
  • Carrd sets itself apart from other sites by specializing in building one-page websites.
  • Nearly all of its features are free to use, and it has many possible uses. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s Tech Reference library for more stories.

Lately, you may have heard about a new platform called Carrd. Simply put, Carrd is a website-building platform, much like Squarespace or WordPress. The big difference between Carrd and other sites, though, is that Carrd is optimized to create simple, one-page websites, which makes it much easier to use.

People often use Carrd to display their portfolio, or promote a cause that’s important to them. 

What you need to know about Carrd

There are myriad uses for small websites. Carrd suggests a handful of website types, which are helpfully arranged in different layout templates. They include: 

  • Profile – Good for making a personal information page to tell others about yourself, likely to market yourself to employers or collaborators. 
  • Landing – For things like products, services, apps, and the like. Landing pages make it easy to explain what something is, how it works, and where to get it.
  • Forms – Good for businesses interacting with current or potential customers. Forms can do things like collect emails, conduct surveys, etc.
  • Portfolio – Sort of like a profile, but specifically for visual artists, as it’s meant to show off art and graphics.
  • Sectioned – These Carrds are different from the other categories. They’re like a halfway point between a one-page website and a site with multiple pages. They’re still one page, but they’re sectioned off into different categories – perfect for people looking to disseminate information on a topic, especially a complex one.

On top of these uses, many people have been using Carrd for other things. For example, some writers use it to help outline their stories, using the Sectioned format to help them keep track of characters, world-building elements, plot points, and more. 

One popular use of the Sectioned layout is for online activists to raise awareness and spread information about causes, such as the Carrd site for Black Lives Matter. These sites often include donation buttons or links to organizations that help these causes. 

The best part is that most of the site’s features are free to use. There are a few that you can only access by upgrading to a paid version, like the ability to use forms or third-party widgets, but these extras are mostly aimed at business using Carrd as a homebase – most users can get along without these.

The possible uses of Carrd are limited only by the imagination, and the site is very easy to use. If you’re interested in creating a Carrd yourself, and want to find out more, check out our article on how to make a Carrd

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