[thelist] Are you designing with CSS and web standards?

Juha Suni juha.suni at ilmiantajat.fi
Mon Mar 14 03:44:06 CST 2005

Sarah Sweeney wrote:
> The main difference, in my eyes, is that (with properly semantic HTML
> in place) the CSS hacks you employ appear only once - in your CSS.
> When you use tables for layout, the tables appear on every single
> page in your site. Say you want to make a small change to the layout
> of the entire site: if you've used semantic HTML and properly
> separated your content and presentation, you only need to make a
> change to your CSS, instead of having to change the markup of tables
> throughout your entire site. This is where the major ROI of
> table-less design and development comes into effect.

This would hold true if html and css were the only techniques used. I work
on designing and developing both web apps and pages for our clients full
time, and have not needed to make a single page in 2 years where I could not
use more advanced server-side techniques (PHP/ASP, templating engines,
databases or the sort). No matter what way coding for the layout I use, I
only need to edit the base template to change the structure. It still is
true, that usually the pages end up a bit heavier (on filesize) than their
CSS-counterparts (although even this is not true as often as some people
seem to think). The effect it has on the average user, however, is often
marginal, and there are far superior ways to lighten the load that could
first be optimized (mainly the proper optimization of images and multimedia,
if present, using gzip if appropriate and so on).

I completely agree with Ian. Pure CSS is a noble cause, and CSS has already
had a huge impact on the accessibility and visual appearance of the web
during the last few years. It is, however, far from perfect, and the overly
fanatic push to move straight to pure 100% CSS-layouts is not a realistic
option these days. It might work on your own projects and pages, but usually
not that well in a commercial environment where the client is paying the
bills. It all, of course, depends on the project and customer at hand, and I
do agree that all web designers should know their CSS well. Currently,
however, the most cost-effective and nerve-soothing option is usually
through a combination of old proven methods (read: tables) and as much
hack-free CSS as possible.

The ideas behind semantic web and pure CSS layouts are excellent. Their
implementation, however, is still difficult, takes a lot of work, and simply
put can not or will not be done in large scale until the standards and their
wide-range support increases. The web is evolving and has evolved with
amazing speed the last years. I have no reason to believe that it would not
continue to do so, and it is good that the zealots are trying to make sure
that the evolution goes to the right direction. It just is not going to
happen overnight, and we need to stay realistic. CSS needs to get better,
like many other things, before we have a this huge, always accessible, easy
to develop and maintain network of information.


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