I have read book titled CSS Cookbook which was published in 2006. Even though it is not the neweset book on web technology it is still a very valuable resource. After reading the book I realized that CSS is simple but powerful technology.
Many HTML elements have properties associated with them, for example color, font size, alignment, etc. And so what? It turns out that changing the default values of these properties in a creative fashion allows one to achieve amazing results.
The book is not just a list of those properties but also a degisnerтАЩs guide. For example, when describing lists the book explains how to build HTML menus using them. It is possible to use the list in a horizontal orientation, not just vertical. You can see this menu on top of this page. I realized that it is possible to make your web site beautiful with recepies from this book and that it is very simple.
There are many advanved technologies that professional web designers are using, for example Flash. You need to spend lots of time and buy software if you want to develop with Flash. However, I think that CSS can also give interesting results but you can use it just in a text editor. Therefore, CSS gives you better ROI for the time you spend learning this technology.
I was always trying to answer the following question: is it worth spending your time on adding style to your website or plain HTML is just fine? In other words, does improved look and feel attract additional visitors to your web site or please you in any other way? Why do we need to spend time decorating tables and lists when we can spend time in other ways, for example improving search visibility of your web site?
Once I saw a TV program when a menu of a dinner in an exclusive club of 19th century was compared to those dinners in modern exclusive clubs. The results were that a couple of centuries ago people had many more dishes and the dinner was decorated in many other ways. Nowdays peolpe just want to have a quick lunch even at the most exclusive clubs.
Therefore, I think that adding style to your website is like going to gorgeous 19th century when people were spending lots of time on decorating their buildings, their cloths, etc. It is obvious that nowdays people tend to build similar houses all over the planet, whereas earlier each house was a piece of art.
Another comparison is possible. In earlier days Internet was quite an empty place. But the beautiful technology such as CSS is like renaissance in art. We are still admiring its unmatched legacy тАУ the works of Leonardo da Vinci and other great painters.