CSS_and_Tables__The_hype_and_the_trends by georgetitan


CSS and Tables: The hype and the trends

Word Count:

There are many table based sites that score very highly in the search
engines. It's equally possible to build a CSS based site that gets a
terrible search engine ranking.

css and tables

Article Body:
The History of tables

Before tables came along, the web was a pretty dull place. Using tables
for layout opened up new vistas of possibilities of visually “designing”
a page. It could well be argued that table based layout was responsible
for the popularity of the web and the field of web design.

Worse still, over the last few years, table based layout has come under
severe criticism and was widely demonized. Web purists claim that tables
were never meant for layout so one shouldn't use them for such. A rapidly
progressive hype seems to be in the air all around.

Reality behind the hype

Despite the fact that pioneers have been talking about web standards for
a long time, the majority of web sites are still developed using tables
and non standards compliant code .
History has shown many examples of technologies that started out life
with one purpose, only to end up finding more practical applications as
something else. And it sounds very apt in case of tables. The web itself
was never intended to be a channel for edutainment, marketing and
information but for sharing research data.

Using tables is a pragmatic approach, if not preferred

The W3c Web Accessibility Guidelines recognize that designers will
continue to use table for layout - and so include information about how
they can be implemented in the most accessible way. Designers are not
going to immediately stop using tables for layout; mainly owning to the
reason that this is the default behavior of most WYSWYG (what you see is
what you get) Web design packages and; CSS for layout is so difficult to
implement successfully.

Moreover, Professionals still argue the use of tables for the layout of
pages on the Web, despite the fact that this goes against current
standards. They argue it to be a pragmatic approach – if not their
preferred options.
Let's explode the myths: CSS vs Tables

Most web designers don't simply feel the need to switch over

The majority of web sites are still developed using tables and non
standards compliant code. Because of this, user agents will be forced to
handle table based layouts for many years to come. This effectively
negates one of the biggest selling points for web standards. That of
forward compatibility. That's why, most web designers really don't feel
there is an overwhelming need to start developing sites using CSS based
layouts and standards compliant code.

CSS development has a much higher barrier to entry than table based

While comparing table based design to CSS based design, the syntax of
CSS, for sure, turns out to be is pretty easy. Nobody in their right mind
would argue that you need too be a rocket scientist to learn CSS.
Nevertheless, some of the concepts can be quite tricky to assimilate.

Continuing in the same spirit it is true that there are so many bugs,
even the “experts” find themselves spending an inordinate amount of time
bug fixing. For a novice this must be extremely frustrating. Not knowing
if the problem is down to your misunderstanding of CSS or some obscure
browser bug.

Perhaps this is why many people see web standards as “Ivory Tower” and
why many web standards advocates come across as having a sense of
superiority and a zealous attitude towards web design.

Some things are just easy-to-do with tables

People often find themselves writing fairly complicated CSS to do
something that would be trivial using tables. Take form styling for an
instance. It's possible to lay out even very tricky forms using tables in
just a few minutes. You can achieve similar results by floating elements
with CSS, but it's a lot more involved. If you're a CSS guru it's all
part of the fun. However if you're a regular mortal, it can be incredibly

Another such thing is page footers. It's pretty easy to do using tables.
Whilst doing this using CSS alone, it would hardly be any wonder why web
developers turn their back on CSS when even simple things are rendered so

If you have the knowledge and patience, you can do most things using CSS
that you used to do using tables. Sure it may take you longer, but you'll
get there in the end (or die trying).

CSS benefits. But does it provide you what you need?
It's true that switching a large site to a CSS based layout can save a
huge amount of bandwidth. However, for most sites, this saving would be
insignificant or mostly irrevelent.

People want fast loading pages and many advocates have suggested that CSS
helps accomplish this. For most sites, the “design” is spread evenly
across the whole site. However with CSS based sites, the “design” is
usually held in one or more external files. These files can be fairly
complicated, and even for a simple site, can get big, or even fast.

Search engine friendliness: CSS vs Tables

It's true that the search engines like semantic pages. It's also a widely
held notion that search engines like lean code. Building a site using CSS
and web standards can defiantly encourage the development of search
engine friendly sites. However it's neither magic bullet, nor a panacea

There are many table based sites that score very highly in the search
engines. It's equally possible to build a CSS based site that gets a
terrible search engine ranking. The most important thing for high ranking
is content and inbound links, not whether a site uses tables or CSS for

Issues pertaining to accessibility

There is quite increasing number of people who try to sell web standards
and especially CSS based design by playing on client's accessibility

There isn't anything inherently inaccessible about table based design.
While it's true that your site needs to be published to a recognised set
of grammars to get an AA accessibility rating, tableless design is only a
recommendation, not a requirement for the more stringent AAA rating.

The final word

Final Table based design will be around for a long time. However, it is
not good enough just to say that it is wrong to use them . In certain
circumstances using tables for layout can make much more sense than CSS.

Web standards and CSS based design are defiantly the way forward. However
in the rush to advocate these “new” techniques, people end up being
hyperbolic and the reality falls short of expectations.

A sensible approach to get what you continue to seek is the need of the
hour regardless of what is in vogue, or blown out of proportions.

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