[thelist] arguments pro css & xhtml / con tables

Ian Anderson ian at zstudio.co.uk
Fri Jun 9 05:16:50 CDT 2006

Christian Heilmann wrote:

> Interesting. What do you base this on? 

Several years working in accessibility, doing user testing and research 
into best practice for corporate clients.

You might have noticed the weasel words _generally_ and _significant_ in 
my remarks: "There are generally no significant accessibility problems"

I'd say there are three minor, real-world things to worry about with 
layout tables

1. General content order
2. Local specific content order problems
3. User agent or screen reader issues with excessive nesting

With regard to CSS, content order is usually no better than with layout 
tables unless the designer has some pretty good accessibility knowledge 
and has made the effort to prioritise this.

There are many other problems found in CSS layout pages, like excessive 
numbers of links on a page, which are a much greater problem than 
content order anyway.

Local problems (mis-association of related items) tend to be avoided in 
CSS layouts but to be honest in years of testing corporate sites for 
accessibility, I have found relatively few instances of actual problems 
here in any event.

Excessive nesting; some old or obscure user agents may have problems 
with old-style nested table pages. This is of no great interest. No one 
is suggesting amending the millions of existing web pages out there, so 
if someone is using a user agent that barfs on them, they're stuffed 

Here's my central argument: Anyone using the web today (or tomorrow) is 
using a user agent that can cope with today's web, which is still 
largely layout-table based. They may be having a horrible time, but that 
is for other reasons.

So my judgement is, don't worry about layout tables and accessibility; 
it isn't an issue. In my opinion, people should do CSS layout for the 
other well-known and very valid reasons, and do something about the 
accessibility issues that really *DO* cause problems for people.



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- http://zStudio.co.uk
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