[thelist] RE: Advice on using Tableless CSS layout for large eCommerce sites?

Andy Budd andy at message.uk.com
Wed Sep 17 12:02:28 CDT 2003

CSS based tableless design and web standards are actually 2 different 
things but are often chunked in together. It's perfectly possible and 
acceptable to create standards compliant sites that use tables for 
layout. The move is to deprecate and eventually faze out the use of 
tables for layout but as long as browsers support tables and the 
standards say it's OK there is no real problem with using simple table 
based layouts.

However tabeless design is undoubtedly the future of the web so it 
makes sense for people to start working towards that goal and 
upskilling themselves. There have recently been a number of high 
profile tableless sites launched and this is going to only increase in 
frequency. Using CSS for layout has some wonderful benefits like 
improved search engine friendliness, better site accessibility and 
potential bandwidth savings.

By separating the style from the content, it actually makes life easier 
for the developer. They no longer have to worry about breaking a sites 
design because they never have to go near it. No more having to add 
font tags all over the place and escape lots of tag attributes and 
standards like xhtml simplify and standardize the code.  If they are 
involved in any presentation work it's usually a s simple as adding a 
couple of classes to their code but more often than not, the programmer 
won't have to touch any CSS at all.

Fundamentally the argument shouldn't be to use tableless design or not. 
The argument should be to adopt web standards, and design to a 
standard, not a browser version. Then, when it comes to designing the 
site, make a considered decision about the general design layout. If 
you think you can do it using CSS (i.e. it's a simple layout and you've 
got the in-house skills) then go for it. However it's just as valid to 
use tables to control the basic layout (doing your best to cut out 
complicated nested tables) and use CSS to control everything else.

This is the way vendors such as Macromedia are moving. DWMX2004 now 
uses styles by default (rather than display specific html tags), so 
very soon this is the way people will be working by default.

So don't worry about the big tables vs CSS arguments. As long as were 
all traveling in the right direction, some people will always be 
further down the path than others, and some people will always have an 
opinion about how far you should be as well.



Steven Loe wrote:

> <snip 1>
> I've found if I can move most of the presentation into
> the CSS and leave behind only a few layout-by-table
> html structures to memorize (or cut and paste), I can
> create an exquisitely maintainable UI layer.
> </snip 1>
> <snip 2>
> I'm not just playing devil's advocate here.
> Table-less, page layout CSS is not simple. For neatly
> encapsulated page components it can be a beautiful
> thing, but applied to page and content layout IMHO it
> breaks the KISS rule.
> <snip 2>
> I see the validity of the arguments above.
> What would you think about about an approach where the
> overall page structure is a table but, sub elements
> are styled DIV's? [Obviously it makes sense to present
> tabular data like result sets in a table]. Is this
> what you meant by "move most of the presentation into
> the CSS and leave behind only a few layout-by-table
> html structures"?
> ->Steven Loe

Andy Budd


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