Sunday, January 20, 2008

Use invalid CSS in a W3C standards compliant XHTML Document

This is a technique I've decided to offer in the Joomla Extensions I've developed for the Joomla community, in an effort to allow users of the extension to use invalid CSS on their pages, yet still have the page validate with the W3C CSS Validator.

Why use invalid CSS markup?

Now why would you want to use invalid CSS in the first place? The reason is that not all browsers support the W3C recommended CSS2 and CSS3 properties. (Ahem.. Microsoft.. Ahem...). Now with IE7 our CSS is diverging even more. So the use of invalid CSS is quite inevitable.

An Example Maybe?

Lets say you want to make an image transparent. Something that should be quite simple. So you use the W3C recommended CSS property which is opacity:

img {
Amazingly, this piece of CSS does not validate. Try copy and pasting it to the CSS validator.

Not only does it not validate, it doesn't work for a couple of browsers. So, in order to have image transparency across the largest number of browsers, you need:

img {  
Now this 4 property definitions will create exactly 4 errors in the CSS validator. Hahaha.

How do I use invalid CSS markup that validates?

Now the fun part. In our server logs, around 99% of actual users have JavaScript enabled on their browser. So why not use JavaScript to serve your CSS. If you're familiar with JavaScript Remoting, this is exactly the technique applied to a different problem. In JavaScript remoting, JavaScript files are loaded dynamically after the page has fully loaded. With this technique, CSS is loaded dynamically after the page has loaded.

window.onload = function() {
   if (document && document.getElementsByTagName) {
 var head = document.getElementsByTagName('head')[0];
 var link = document.createElement('link');
 link.type = 'text/css';
 link.rel = 'stylesheet';
 link.href = 'invalid_styles.css';

What we have is a piece of JavaScript that will load the CSS file, invalid_styles.css, after the HTML Document has loaded. So all you need to do is place your invalid CSS in invalid_styles.css. The W3C validator does not render JavaScript generated Elements on the page, thus the page will pass validation, while 99% of your users will enjoy your funky non-W3C CSS styles.

Fallback to valid CSS

What about the other 1%? They will only view your valid CSS since they do not have JavaScript enabled. So they have everything except your fancy styles. The actual layout of your page should be made with valid CSS.

This is not a new concept, it is used a lot for dynamic switching of CSS styles. However, the proposed application is for loading of non-W3C CSS content for extra formating in non-W3C compliant CSS browsers, while keeping all CSS layout styles in valid CSS for users without JavaScript.

1 comment:

Ben said...

Great little snipped, thanks it was just what I was looking for. It's about time IE supported the CSS3 opacity: and about time it validated too.