The cool factor essentials

Next, I'll go through what I feel are the most popular tricks used in website design today. Most of these design techniques are easily incorporated into WordPress, as they're handled 100% via CSS. A few items will require you to think and plan ahead, as you'll need to make sure the WordPress template code accommodates the effect. The best thing is, if you can implement these techniques into a WordPress template, you can implement them into any website.

First off, this book's case study has already looked at several "cool factor" techniques that are very popular in web design today. Among these techniques is using the CSS float property to create a three-column layout. And we've also covered styling an unordered list vertically and using the CSS hover property for our SuckerFish drop-down menus, which could be applied to text or used with images for a rollover effect without the use (or with minimal use) of JavaScript.

If you want to be able to do whatever you want in a site's design, get your head around these top five techniques that we'll go over in detail:

• Backgrounds: If you haven't already realized this by now, about 98% of the CSS that makes your WordPress template look great is dependent on how creative you get with the CSS background properties of your XHTML objects, classes, and id rules.

• Lists: You need to know how to style them horizontally and vertically as well as using background images.

• Rounded corners: We'll cover a couple of ways to tackle this. Again, it all centers around knowing the background property.

• Text image replacement: And yet again, like the rounded corner technique, the more you understand about the background property, the better.

• Learn your image editor inside and out: This is not a specific "web technique", but it is what will set you apart. Photoshop, Fireworks, GIMP, Illustrator, or Inkscape, whichever your editor of choice is, once you have a handle on controlling your layout with XHTML and CSS, the real factor that will make your WordPress themes pop off the screen is how good you are at creating all those graphics that get loaded in via the background property.

Let's go over each of these techniques in detail:

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