CSS Class and Id

CSS Class and Id with div and span
class and id work together with div and span to help you make the most of your CSS

This section on CSS actually focuses on the use of HTML attributes 'class' and 'id' and the HTML elements <div> and <span>. These are very important if you are to use CSS effectively as they hold the key to giving you complete control over every aspect of your website.


Sometimes you want to apply a special style to a particular element or a particular group of elements and yet not every single element of that type! Confused? Don't be. Let's say that we have two lists of links to different grapes used for white wine and red wine. The HTML code could look like this:

What if we want the white wine links to be yellow, the red wine links to be red and the rest of the existing links on the webpage to stay blue? To achieve this, we first need to divide the links into two categories using the HTML attribute 'class'.

So we assign a class to each link using the HTML attribute class. We use class instead of id as class is used for multiple or group effects while id is used for single or individual effects. Let us try to specify some HTML classes from the example above:

We can then define special properties for links belonging to white wine and red wine, respectively by using .classname after the element it was used on (in this case 'a') in the style sheet of the document.

The above CSS code combined with the HTML shown earlier will result in the following...

This is a normal link

Grapes for white wine:

Grapes for white wine:


In addition to grouping elements with class, you might need to identify one unique element. This is done by using the attribute id. What is special about the attribute id is that there cannot be two elements in the same document with the same id. Each id has to be unique. Now, let us take a look at an example of a possible usage of id:

The above could be headings of any document split into chapters or paragraphs. It would be natural to assign an id to each chapter as follows:

Let us say that the headline for chapter 1.1 must be in red. As shown in the example below you must define the properties in a specific element by using #id in the stylesheet of the document.

The above CSS combined with the previous HTML would result in something like the following...

Chapter 1

Chapter 1.1

Chapter 2

Chapter 2.1

Div and Span

The HTML elements <span> and <div> are used to group and structure a document and are usually used together with the attributes class and id. The difference between div and span is that <span> is used within an element (inline) while <div> is used to group one or more elements (block-level).


In My Honest Opinion, <span> is not the most useful of elements as it is only used inline so it is often easier to use basic HTML code to format the part of the element (usually text within a paragraph) that you want to edit. However, with my little rant over, let's look at an example of <span> in use. Let's take a famous Benjamin Franklin phrase.

Let's say we want what Mr Franklin sees as the benefits of not sleeping your day away emphasized in red. For that purpose, we can mark the benefits with <span>. Each span is then added a class, which we can define in our style sheet:

In order to make those tagged words red then the CSS code would simply be...

The result would be....

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

As mentioned earlier this is a bit long-winded for something that could have been done using the HTML <font color='red'>. Anyway not to worry, as you probably won't be using <span> too often. One element you definitely will be using though is <div>, so let's look at how it is used.


As mentioned earlier while <span> is used within a block-level element, <div> is used to group one or more block-level elements. Aside from this difference, the grouping with <div> works in the same way. Let us take a look at an example with two lists of relatively recent U.S. presidents divided into their political affiliations:

And in our style sheet, we can utilize the grouping in the exact same way as above:

The above CSS code combined with the previous HTML would result in something like this...

  • John F. Kennedy
  • Lyndon B. Johnson
  • Jimmy Carter
  • Bill Clinton
  • Barack Obama

  • Richard Nixon
  • Gerald Ford
  • Ronald Reagan
  • George Bush
  • George W. Bush

These examples for <div> and <span> are very basic and are only intended to show you how to link the HTML elements with the associated CSS code. We will now look at the 'box model' which, when used with <div> and <span> and class and id, will really open up your design and layout possibilities with CSS.

Next Up

In the next lesson we look at the CSS Box Model which explains the details of how each HTML element is structures.

CSS Class and Id CSS Class and Id Reviewed by Opus Web Design on March 22, 2016 Rating: 5

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