CSS and Tables: The craze and fads

The origins of tables

Before tables, the Internet was a rather dull place. The use of tables for page layout created new opportunities for visually “designing” a page. It could be argued that table-based layout contributed to the rise of the Internet and web design as a discipline.

Even worse, table-based layout has been severely criticized and widely demonized in recent years. Web purists argue that tables were never intended for layout, so they should not be used for this purpose. Rapidly advancing excitement seems to permeate the atmosphere everywhere.

The truth behind the rumor

Even though pioneers have been discussing web standards for a long time, the majority of websites are still developed using tables and code that is not standards compliant.
History is replete with examples of technologies that were initially developed for one purpose but ultimately found more practical applications as something else. And it seems appropriate in the case of tables. The Web was never intended to be a medium for edutainment, marketing, or information, but rather for the dissemination of research data.

Utilizing tables is a pragmatic, if not preferred method.

Recognizing that designers will continue to use tables for layout, the W3C Web Accessibility Guidelines include information on how tables can be implemented in the most accessible manner. Designers will not immediately stop using tables for layout, primarily because 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 successfully implement.

In addition, Professionals continue to defend the use of tables for the layout of Web pages, despite the fact that this is contrary to current standards. They argue that it is a pragmatic approach, if not one of their top choices.

Let’s bust some myths: CSS versus Tables

Most web designers do not feel compelled to switch over to HTML5.

The majority of websites continue to be built using tables and non-standards compliant code. User agents will be required to support table-based layouts for many years to come. This effectively undermines one of the most persuasive arguments for web standards. pertaining to forward compatibility In light of this, the majority of web designers do not feel an urgent need to begin developing sites with CSS-based layouts and standards-compliant code.

CSS development has a significantly higher entry barrier than table-based design.

Comparing table-based design to CSS-based design, the syntax of CSS appears to be relatively simple. Nobody in their right mind would argue that learning CSS requires you to be a rocket scientist. However, some of the concepts can be difficult to comprehend.

Continuing in the same vein, it is true that there are so many bugs that even “experts” spend an excessive amount of time fixing them. This must be extremely frustrating for a novice. Not knowing whether the issue is due to your CSS misunderstanding or an obscure browser bug.

Perhaps this is why many people view web standards as a “Ivory Tower” and why many web standards advocates appear to have a superiority complex and a zealous attitude toward web design.

Tables make certain tasks remarkably simple.

People frequently find themselves writing fairly complex CSS to accomplish something that could be easily accomplished with tables. Consider form formatting as an example. Using tables, it is possible to format even the most complex forms in a matter of minutes. You can achieve comparable results by floating elements with CSS, but it requires a great deal more work. If you are an expert in CSS, this is all part of the fun. However, if you are a commoner, it can be extremely frustrating.

Another example are page footers. Using tables simplifies the process. When even simple elements are rendered using only CSS, it is hardly surprising that web developers turn away from the language.

If you have the knowledge and patience, you can accomplish the majority of what you once did with tables using CSS. It may take longer, but you will succeed in the end (or die trying).

CSS benefits. But does it fulfill your requirements?

It is true that converting a large website to a CSS-based layout can save a substantial amount of bandwidth. However, for the majority of websites, this savings would be negligible or largely irrelevant.

People want pages that load quickly, and many proponents have suggested that CSS helps achieve this. For most websites, the “design” is uniformly distributed throughout the entire site. However, the “design” of CSS-based websites is typically stored in one or more external files. These files can be quite complex, and even for a simple website, they can become large or even quick.

Search engine friendliness: CSS vs Tables

It is true that search engines prefer pages with semantic content. It is also widely believed that search engines favor code that is concise. Developing a website with CSS and web standards can encourage the creation of search engine friendly websites. However, it is neither a silver bullet nor a panacea.

There are numerous table-based websites with excellent search engine rankings. It is also possible to create a CSS-based website with a poor search engine ranking. Not whether a website uses tables or CSS for layout is the most important factor in achieving a high search engine ranking.

Concerns regarding accessibility

Increasing numbers of individuals attempt to sell web standards and especially CSS-based design by exploiting clients’ accessibility concerns.

There is nothing intrinsically inaccessible about table-based layout. While it is true that your website must adhere to a recognized set of grammars in order to receive an AA accessibility rating, tableless design is not a requirement for the more stringent AAA rating.

The last word

Final Table-based design will persist for many years. However, it is not sufficient to merely assert that their use is improper. In certain situations, it may make more sense to use tables for layout than CSS.

Web standards and CSS-based design are without a doubt the future. In their haste to promote these “new” techniques, however, people end up exaggerating, and the reality falls short of expectations.

Unconcerned with what is fashionable or exaggerated, the need of the hour is a methodical approach to obtaining what one continues to seek.

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