CSS Limitations and Advantages

Limitations of the current capabilities of CSS include:

Selectors are unable to ascend
CSS offers no way to select a parent or ancestor of an element that satisfies certain criteria, until CSS Selectors Level 4, which is still in Working Draft status. A more advanced selector scheme (such as XPath) would enable more sophisticated style sheets. However, the major reasons for the CSS Working Group previously rejecting proposals for parent selectors are related to browser performance and incremental rendering issues.

Vertical control limitations
While horizontal placement of elements is generally easy to control, vertical placement is frequently unintuitive, convoluted, or outright impossible. Simple tasks, such as centering an element vertically or getting a footer to be placed no higher than bottom of viewport, either require complicated and unintuitive style rules, or simple but widely unsupported rules.

Absence of expressions
here is currently no ability to specify property values as simple expressions (such as margin-left: 10% – 3em + 4px;). This would be useful in a variety of cases, such as calculating the size of columns subject to a constraint on the sum of all columns. However, a working draft with a calc() value to address this limitation has been published by the CSS WG. Internet Explorer versions 5 to 7 support a proprietary expression() statement, with similar functionality. This proprietary expression() statement is no longer supported from Internet Explorer 8 onwards, except in compatibility modes. This decision was taken for “standards compliance, browser performance, and security reasons”.

Lack of column declaration
While possible in current CSS 3 (using the column-count module), layouts with multiple columns can be complex to implement in CSS 2.1. With CSS 2.1, the process is often done using floating elements, which are often rendered differently by different browsers, different computer screen shapes, and different screen ratios set on standard monitors.

Cannot explicitly declare new scope independently of position
Scoping rules for properties such as z-index look for the closest parent element with a position:absolute or position:relative attribute. This odd coupling has undesired effects. For example, it is impossible to avoid declaring a new scope when one is forced to adjust an element’s position, preventing one from using the desired scope of a parent element.

Pseudo-class dynamic behavior not controllable
CSS implements pseudo-classes that allow a degree of user feedback by conditional application of alternate styles. One CSS pseudo-class, “:hover”, is dynamic (equivalent of JavaScript “onmouseover”) and has potential for abuse (e.g., implementing cursor-proximity popups), but CSS has no ability for a client to disable it (no “disable”-like property) or limit its effects (no “nochange”-like values for each property).

Cannot name rules
There is no way to name a CSS rule, which would allow (for example) client-side scripts to refer to the rule even if its selector changes.

Cannot include styles from a rule into another rule
CSS styles often must be duplicated in several rules to achieve a desired effect, causing additional maintenance and requiring more thorough testing.

Cannot target specific text without altering markup
Besides the :first-letter pseudo-element, one cannot target specific ranges of text without needing to utilize place-holder elements.

Some Advantages of using CSS

Separation of content from presentation
CSS facilitates publication of content in multiple presentation formats based on nominal parameters. Nominal parameters include explicit user preferences, different web browsers, the type of device being used to view the content (a desktop computer or mobile Internet device), the geographic location of the user and many other variables.

Site-wide consistency
When CSS is used effectively, in terms of inheritance and “cascading,” a global style sheet can be used to affect and style elements site-wide. If the situation arises that the styling of the elements should need to be changed or adjusted, these changes can be made by editing rules in the global style sheet. Before CSS, this sort of maintenance was more difficult, expensive and time-consuming.

Bandwidth
A stylesheet, internal or external, will specify the style once for a range of HTML elements selected by class, type or relationship to others. This is much more efficient than repeating style information inline for each occurrence of the element. An external stylesheet is usually stored in the browser cache, and can therefore be used on multiple pages without being reloaded, further reducing data transfer over a network.

Page reformatting
With a simple change of one line, a different style sheet can be used for the same page. This has advantages for accessibility, as well as providing the ability to tailor a page or site to different target devices. Furthermore, devices not able to understand the styling still display the content.

Accessibility
Without CSS, web designers must typically lay out their pages with techniques that hinder accessibility for vision-impaired users, like HTML tables.