[thelist] to use or not use tables?

Ben Henick persist1 at io.com
Fri Jun 28 15:41:01 CDT 2002

On Fri, 28 Jun 2002, ted serbinski wrote:

> Hi everyone.
> I'm designing a new site that will be used by the open public when it dawned
> on me... do I need to use tables anymore?

<snip potential justification>

It depends more on the site you're building than anything else.  You need
to get a good snapshot of their recent request logs to really be sure.
Barring that, you need to look at the demographics of the client's

Note further that a decision to use tableless techniques brings Murphy's
Law into play, bigtime.  The moment you make that decision, you'll rapidly
notice that a lot of your prospects' contacts aren't using IE5 (probably
because they are too busy to notice or care that they're still using a
dated client).

My experience leads to the following points:

1.  Degradability is key.  If necessary, set the site up in such a way
    that the absence of JavaScript &/or CSS will 1995-ify the site but
    keep it accessible.

2.  Learn JSSS support and syntax.  Netscape 4 tends not to choke as often
    on specified styles if they're written in JavaScript.  It's worth the
    increased hassle.

3.  Treat Opera as if JavaScript doesn't exist.  Ditto for OmniWeb, iCab
    and Galeon.  Less so with Konqueror, but if you've got Linux users,
    make damned sure to test stuff in Konqueror if you're doing any DHTML.

4.  Nested block-level elements are evil when used in profusion.  Try it
    if you don't believe me.

5.  There are things you can only do with tables; likewise, there are
    things you can only do with CSS.

6.  Accept the possibility (and more importantly, get your client to
    accept the possibility) that the site may not look the same on a
    cross-browser or even cross-platform basis.  The patchwork of support
    may well require you to let certain art direction issues adapt to
    browser limitations, in order to get everything working with a
    tableless design.

7.  Respect markup source order when doing production.  If you use
    absolute positioning, it's easy to throw your source order out of
    whack, but that's an outcome to be avoided whenever possible.

Ben Henick
Web Author At-Large              Managing Editor
http://www.io.com/persist1/      http://www.digital-web.com/
persist1 at io.com                  bmh at digital-web.com
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?"
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"We will disguise ourselves as a cow."
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