CSS Toolshed: A CMS Zen Garden

The CSS Toolshed is a CSS Zen Garden-like site. What makes it different from the original CSS Zen Garden is that instead of just a single, static page it consists of several pages filled with different kinds of content, simulating a CMS-based site and reflecting more of a real-world scenario.

Chris Heilmann created The CSS Toolshed to convince high level CMS vendors that CSS works well on sites that are based on different templates and have wildly varying content. He is now looking for design submissions: Who is up for a CSS challenge?. If you’re up for it, here’s a chance of showing off your design and CSS skills.

Posted on November 13, 2005 in CSS, Content Management, Quicklinks


  1. “What makes it different from the original CSS Zen Garden is that instead of just a single, static page it consists of several pages”

    I don’t know…at the time of writing, it looks a lot like a single, static page to me…

  2. November 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    paul: Ah, right. The site isn’t quite “live” yet because Chris is looking for design submissions. Check out Generico, his own entry (and currently the only one), to see the site that needs to be styled.

  3. Um … yeah - It REALLY needs some styling! ;o)

  4. “The CSS Tolshed is a CSS Zen Garden-like site. What makes it different…”

    What’s a Tolshed? ;-)

    It’s an interesting concept - but this might seem like overkill - isn’t there enough proof of css brilliance already on sites by people with MT, WP, and TXP? It will be intriguing to see which direction this will go.

  5. November 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Matt: Oops. Thanks for catching that ;-).

    Is the CSS Toolshed overkill? I don’t know. There is proof of CSS brilliance in other places but it isn’t getting through to corporate-level CMS vendors.

  6. As part of WaSP Roger - I suspect you’re really seeing fully, first-hand how those vendors are not getting the point about CSS. You’re right: they certainly need something to get their attention. I’m curious to see if ‘CSS Toolshed’ is the way to do it though….(10 out of 10 to Chris for his efforts!!)

  7. November 13, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Matt: I’m not a WaSP member ;-).

    My dayjob as a web developer is enough to let me see first-hand how little major CMS vendors care about CSS and web standards. And in many cases, their claims about validity and accessibility are nothing more than lip service.

  8. Roger: You’re not? Huh - bizarre - I thought you were! (Well that’s an accidental compliment slipped out there!) Noted about the web developer bit.

  9. I think that this a great area for some hands-on demonstration of the practical, scalable benefits of CSS. I’ve recently had to look at a CMS solution for a department here at the University of Glamorgan, and was amazed how klunky some of the products we considered were.

  10. True. The CMS effort has been rather lacklustre. Finding one that not only claims to produce the goods but actually does seems to have eluded me as yet. There must be a couple out there. The more influence put in the CMS direction the better for sure.

    Thanks for pointing this site out, bookmarked.

  11. Um … yeah - It REALLY needs some styling! ;o)

    Mani, then don’t boast and do a better design. Or next time, just do the rest of the work and I concentrate on my own entry :-)

  12. As for the CMS effort: It is true, that personal publication systems like WP, TXP and MT do allow for great CSS layouts, but what about the enterprise level CMS like Vignette, Tridion, Documentum, Red Dot and Immediacy? Furthermore, what about cheap solutions like Contribute - ever tried negative margins in that one? Immediacy allows you to create proper layouts, but the example ones out of the box use tables.

    It was not solely the idea to show how CMS systems work with CSS, I just wanted to prove that you can create very flexible CSS, and I want CSS Designers to get a glimpse of what the upper market and the B2B world looks like.

    Far too many CSS tutorials out there rely on HTML created exactly for the purpose of styling it with CSS (IDs on each link for example) and this is a luxury you just don’t have in a site maintained by the client.

    Could we please comment on my blog rather than here? It would be much better to have all comments in one location.

  13. November 14, 2005 by daniel

    i like the idea, but why did’nt he use txp, wp, typo or sth people really use? that way the designs would also be a nice contribution to the public domain…

  14. November 14, 2005 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Please post any comments or questions that are better answered by Chris over at his blog entry about the CSS Toolshed: Who is up for a CSS challenge?.

  15. “There is proof of CSS brilliance in other places but it isn’t getting through to corporate-level CMS vendors.”

    CSS brilliance is usually achieved using top notch source code too, so while it may not be getting through, we can only hope that the search engines keep rewarding true diligence and putting those sites on the top. Nothing fuels change faster than when your ranking drops.

  16. Daniel,

    the CSS Table Gallery has about 20000 hits / day, I guess that the Toolshed will get a lot more and I am on a virtual host. I am not sure the DB would cope with this amount of traffic and built the tool to be as hit-safe as possible. If you sponsor me a high traffic server with all bells + whistles, I think about using Wordpress.

    However, WP already has a lot of good templates, consider the Shed a simulator of a maintenance task. Many project these days mean you need to change an existing web site, and boy are the in house developers protective when it comes to their templates. Never change a running system and all that.

    If I had chosen any blogging system then designers who wanted to participate would have had to install one of them on their own to test their designs, now all they need to do is download 4 templates and they don’t even need a localhost running. Would you have liked to answer all the emails coming in about how to install WP/TXP?

    Why do I have to answer 132132 emails about why I haven’t done this or that? You can use the time spent for that to actually create some flexible CSS. So far there is not a single entry submitted…

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