Inspired from the print world, people from Adobe and Microsoft are coming with new features that might (or might not) be embedded into future CSS specs. These new features – CSS Regions and CSS Exclusions – will allow text to flow into webpages pretty much like they do in newspapers and magazines.
You remember that the idea of text flowing into columns is another CSS3 proposal, CSS Multi-column Layout Module and web layouts imitating magazine layouts is CSS3 Paged Media Module
Let’s see some examples that Adobe implemented:
Content threads and shapes using CSS regions
Text could easily flow from one region to the other and we can also choose to imbricate regions or give them different widths, heights and positions in the layout (see picture below)
If you can set rectangular regions, why not come up with weird custom shapes?
Text will also flow from one region (shape in this case) to another.
The idea is super-cool and we waited for it for a while now, but I do wonder about its usability if we think about the way people are reading web content versus printed text (that might change the bottom-top L shaped reading order observed with eye tracking methods).
The opposite idea is to exclude text from a certain region or regions. (rectangular or custom shape)
Possible real world implementations
Adobe came up with more complex examples (they work in their own version of WebKit based browser only since these features are still a draft and highly experimental).
Text can flow into custom shape areas and that will allow us create CSS accessible pie charts and complex layouts involving images and text that will behave well on devices with different screen sizes and resolutions.
Update: Stephen Hay talking about these features at Fronteers 2011
Stephen Hay | Go with the flow | Fronteers 2011 from Fronteers on Vimeo.
In this session, Stephen will introduce, discuss and give examples of CSS3 Regions.
Browsers have begun to introduce actual layout mechanisms like Flexible Box Layout and Grid/Template Layout. For this, we kneel humbly and are thankful. But while we’re at it, why settle for rudimentary layout tools when we can add content flow to the mix? CSS Regions attempts to bring the power of content flow from print to the Web. Think of Regions as Multi-column layout on adrenaline. Regions can be extremely powerful and useful on their own. When combined with other CSS3 modules they will give web designers and developers creative freedom which rivals that of printed media.