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JanBenes
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Hi,
I don't want this to become a flame, I myself have always tried to adhere to non-tabular design and CSS ever since I learned of their existence (simply because I was told by much more skilled people to do so). But a few thoughts have been bothering me for some time. I'm by far not an expert in the field. So:

1) Thesis: tabular design is not that bad. Argument: Coming from a C/C++ background, I've always solved problems using the best (read: most optimal by means of effort and functionality) technique available. Techniques are developed for a purpose, but there's no reason they can't serve other purposes if deemed fit. Tabular design is, imho, much better suited for designing layouts than CSS ever was. I could do most designs in 1/10th of the time (again, imho). The drawbacks that I know of: not intended for design (not really an argument), slower loading (I believe that might have been a valid argument a few years ago, not sure how valid it is now).

2) Thesis: CSS is not well designed and it is more or less useless. Argument: no variables, no anchoring, no docking, no clean way to do same height multi-column designs without using pre-made backgrounds. Achieving anything a little more complex is quite a pain in CSS. If it was designed with the idea of more complex designs, the something has probably gone wrong (not that I don't appreciate the effort of the people who work on it) It might be just those gaps that could allow Silverlight and co. to find it's place. On the other side, it's a free standard and it might have been designed with the idea of a less complicated web in mind.

3) Thesis: Accessibility and browser compatibility is overrated: Argument: I have very little idea about how accessibility works, but optimizing each and every site for keyboard accessibility and speech-reader accessibility seems like an overkill. I'd say it reasonable to keep an eye on good contrast and text legibility (text resizing), but a lot of sites are inherently of very little use to blind people for example. Don't get me wrong, I think it's right to care for the less fortunate, but I think the whole accessibility thing is blown way out of proportion, with every other webdesigner stressing how important it is. I hope this doesn't come out as cruel, I certainly don't mean it that way (in fact, this is probably not a valid argument in the end, just a thought).

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JanBenes wrote:I could do

JanBenes wrote:
I could do most designs in 1/10th of the time

Well my experience is the reverse.

JanBenes wrote:
CSS is not well designed and it is more or less useless.

Sounds like the same problem as point 1: you don't know CSS well enough.

I'm not going to bother with point 3.

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Thesis: your theses are all

Thesis: your theses are all nonsense and contradicted by the facts.

Diagnosis: I think it highly likely that you are still "thinking table" and not working with semantic and valid html. So of course CSS doesn't work right for you.

No, you can't design with CSS as if you were working with tables. That's not a problem, that's a feature.

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Well, I'm (sincerly) sorry I

Well, I'm (sincerly) sorry I irritated you. I might be still in fact be "thinking table", but haven't done more than 1 or 2 table designs in my whole (rather short) life. To reiterate I'm not an expert, I do web coding only occasionally, but I've always tried to have both my CSS and XHTML valid. And about it being a feature, that was what I was trying to discuss (which would be kind of hard if I said "CSS is great and there's no problem with it whatsoever").

thyssen

Quote:
Well my experience is the reverse.

can argue with that

Quote:
Sounds like the same problem as point 1

so you really think there are no major things missing from CSS (let's say the specification, not the implementations) or there's nothing that could have been done easier? I, for one, could imagine having floats expand their container as an option to be a good missing feature, to name a few others, user can't resize columns (divs) in realtime (which I believe would be a perfectly good feature too, something you could have done with frames for example I believe), you can't even use predefined constants or variables. I also have no way of telling how large a paragraph would render, which one could use to say how much text should go into a perex. I believe all of these belong into the layout engine, rather than some client/server side scripting, because they are fairly basic things.

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I'm not going to bother with point 3.

hm..

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JanBenes wrote:Quote:Well my

JanBenes wrote:
Quote:
Well my experience is the reverse.

can argue with that

You're going to argue that my experience is the reverse? How are you going to do that? Actually, don't answer that; I don't really care. Same as for this argument. If you don't like CSS, don't use it. If you want to change it, make your noises in the appropriate places like the W3C mailing lists.

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CSS vs Tables?

Fascinating to see someone effective walk in to the dragons den and shout "I don't like dragons" completely unarmed.

I must confess, there are times even now that I have to force myself not to revert to tables because it's true, often visually I could get the same effect in a 10th of the time if I just drew out a table layout and filled it, but it's not about that.

Here's the biggest thing you're forgetting. You've got a site with a thousand pages... It's all been marked up with the appropriate tags and divs (menu is in a menu div, header in a header div etc). Now you want to redesign the entire site.

If it takes you a day to rewrite the CSS thus rendering the entire site differently, it would take you 1000 times longer to make the same changes if you'd used tables. I love CSS now and have fully grasped its power, but possibly the thing I like most is its scalability.

But yeah, there are things that can be improved. I look forward to the height thing being resolved for example, but that can be blamed on certain browsers rather then the CSS technology.

Anyway, those are my two pennies worth. Cheers,

J

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Quote:You're going to argue

Quote:
You're going to argue that my experience is the reverse

A typo, should have been "can't argue with that"

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Hi, I'm glad after a lot of

Hi,
I'm glad after a lot of confusion, someone has reacted reasonably (I believe the communication problems have been on my side more than on yours (thyssen, ed)).

Quote:
shout "I don't like dragons" completely unarmed.

When I wrote it, I was hoping for a discussion, your thoughts about what could be done better, what are the pitfalls. I wasn't afraid, I probably would think twice about it now (as well as about asking for more help, as I really offer nothing in return and I think I'm not really welcome after what has been said; I know most of the communication problems were on my side (I didn't express myself right) and for that, I'm sorry, and especially for the can't/can typo, which got things all wrong and offended tyssen, I didn't mean that).

Quote:
Here's the biggest thing you're forgetting. You've got a site with a thousand pages...

oh, didn't realize that would be such a problem with tables, you're right. Never redesigned a site, so I was lacking that experience.

Quote:
height thing being resolved

you mean the "how high is a paragraph of text" thing? If so, I was quite sure there is no way the standard deals with that.

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Hmmm...

Nah, I was referring to one of the issues that commonly gets resolved with faux columns. If one wants two divs the same height I mean, so that they site next to each other. It's just not as easy as one might hope.

It would be nice if one could say "I want the navigation column to be this height, and can I have the content column the same height please", and for the CSS to then draw it to your specification, but whilst this is possible, it's not as easy as it could be in my opinion.

But I do understand why it can't offer variables and real-time updating code. If it did anything more then simply display a web page, people would either abuse it or be sceptical of it and next thing you know, you would have a lot more people 'disabling CSS'. It would become the next JavaScript and we would be trying to use it as little as possible. With it purely being a means to control the appearence of a page, it is harmless and thus widely accepted, yet still quite powerful at what it does Smile

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Quote:It would become the

Quote:
It would become the next JavaScript and we would be trying to use it as little as possible. With it purely being a means to control the appearence

I'm not sure about this. You could make switches specific to this, ie group divs together (by name for example) and selecting some kind of behaviour they should follow (all to the same height). And there are not that many options, those could be enumerated and computed when the page gets loaded (as well as div height might be determined by the amount of text it contains). Imagine a set of divs (html) and their stylying (css) and to that styling, add a grid and position of each of the divs in the grid (ie you could switch div position within the table effortlessly). You could then design the layout seperately from the data (where, as you explained, tables fail). For example WPF/Silverlight is doing something similar (including data/styling separation), and it might well become something quite widespread (incl. non-windows platforms, WPF/E), which I'd rather not have happen (because we know how MS goes around it's business).

Yes, it shouldn't get as flexible as JS (because people would start to disable it), but I believe at least some of those things can be solved by simply updating the layout engine, not neccessarily making it into some sort of client side scripting. Smile

PS: variables: more along the lines of left: button_size * 5, ie constants, or "neighbour_height / 2", ie constants precalculated from the layout (probably not a good diea, as divs could cross reference themselves)

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Use PhP with CSS?

But there are relative measurements aren't there? I mean you can base your widths, heights and font-sizes on pre-existing font-sizes which you can manually define, with ems?

And yet you raise some interesting ideas. Tyssen said: "If you want to change it, make your noises in the appropriate places like the W3C mailing lists.", and he's right, there are people over that way that would be interested in listening to what you have to say and who would probably understand you better then I do.

At the moment though, have you thought about using something really friendly like PhP combined with CSS to achieve some of these things you mention? PhP can assess a lot from data in a page, and you can always say "If you meet this criteria, come across this word or this condition is met then use this div/class/style etc...".

For an example, I always wanted to use PhP to get the time and then apply an appropriate style sheet. "If it's between 5am and 9.30am, print the following line" then print a link to a dawn.css file and the whole site changes to morning colours/themes. Of course, that's an extreme example, but I like that the functionality is held exclusively in PhP and the CSS file is purely graphical. It would be overly complicated to incorporate any of that in to CSS then have to deal with the both of them.

But that's just what I think Smile

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Funny

Funny how the discussion developed. Reminds me of christian missionary, with the difference that JanBenes came to the dragons, as burlster mentioned. Anyway, I have to agree with the CSS pro front.

I believe you really haven't decided to go for CSS and get a deeper insight. It is like everything else, if you stand in the middle of two ways to go for, and you haven't decided for one of them, you will never do one thing right. I tried table design several years ago - not knowing about CSS - didn't work, and gave up. When I restarted this year, I came across CSS soon, read about pros and cons, and there was no more question about the way I would go about creating sites.

Acessibility, usability, browser compatibility, SEO, whatever, overrated or not, dedicated to CSS and using clean markup, everything is accomplished in the process without an extra effort. And what made me wanting to learn more about CSS was, since I am coming from business development, its efficiency. As burlster said, have a website with 100 pages and try to change its appearance. Not knowing much about tables, but I would say you are better off starting all over, with CSS you change 1 stylesheet and that's it.

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How about this: use tables

How about this: use tables and you will lose business. Once a customer finds out, bye bye repeat business. Most companies want "web-standards" used for their redesigns, just like "x" competitors are using. So, sit around and think about how easy it is to make your equal column heights, and try to use that on your next sales pitch.

Equal column height is a design issue, not a css issue.

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Hm, integrity. I have done

Hm, integrity. I have done about 5 pages that ever went online. only one of them was tabular, and it was the first one and I was maybe 16 (that's 6 years ago). As I never could consider myself an expert, I always tried to follow the advice of those who are more experienced (as I also have been in the more experienced position). But as time went by, I started to think that maybe I got far enough to make my own judgements, which I presented above. The "tabular" one was proven invalid by Burlster, as I never got into such large projects as to consider that. I still think CSS has it's flaws, but motivated by the discussion, I've borrowed a CSS book from the library to get some facts behind my thoughts (although apparently the newest generation at the time it was written was the IE6 generation). I guess I passed the test of integrity, at least before myself, but the question doesn't stand "Am I a bad person (web coder) because I don't follow standards", it stood "why should I blindly follow those standards, why are they valid, why are they the way they are". It might be a little bit of a long shot, and I don't want to offend anyone, but it's almost like believing in God/Allah/non-existence of god blindly, without asking. I could do that for some time, but as my knowledge grows, those thought appear. I didn't post to say "tabular is better", I posted why I think it is, because without expressing my line of thinking, you couldn't say where I'm wrong and why (or where I'm right and why). I think some of the people were mistaken (as there were so many of them, I probably haven't expressed myself well enough) that I'm trying to slash CSS.

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Quote:use tables and you

Quote:
use tables and you will lose business

Certainly true (I was also referring to this a little bit in the accessibility thought, as I think it's blown out of proportion, exactly for those reasons).

Quote:
Equal column height is a design issue, not a css issue.

Could you clarify that a little bit further please? As far as I understand it, you're trying to say that equal column height is a matter of bad design (possible since one knows css doesn't support it), not a css failure. If that's the case, I'd say CSS should be a tool to accomplish the design, and since I also think that from a let's say "graphics" point of view, there's nothing wrong with equal height columns (as usually is with for example text overflowing out of some div for example), I also think it's a matter of css not being able to "accomplish" the design. (I've always been surprised to what lengths TeX (a typesetting system) goes to allow people to do what they have done while typesetting books long before TeX and computers existed)

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Quote:. since I am coming

Quote:
. since I am coming from business development, its efficiency

You are probably right. I guess I'm at fault for not being experienced enough and not being able to deal with the bugs effectively, but I always thought "god, if this was a table, I wouldn't have all this trouble". I always seem to do my design, it works in FF, it works in Opera, bam, IE6 and countless hours of trying to get it to work. But true, that's not CSS's fault and I need to work on my efficiency, possibly by trying to avoid the bugs I know in the first place.

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JanBenes wrote:Quote:Equal

JanBenes wrote:
Quote:
Equal column height is a design issue, not a css issue.

Could you clarify that a little bit further please? As far as I understand it, you're trying to say that equal column height is a matter of bad design (possible since one knows css doesn't support it), not a css failure.

I think he just means it is a design choice. Whether it is a good or bad design choice is a matter of how it works with the particular content.

Quote:
If that's the case, I'd say CSS should be a tool to accomplish the design, and since I also think that from a let's say "graphics" point of view, there's nothing wrong with equal height columns (as usually is with for example text overflowing out of some div for example), I also think it's a matter of css not being able to "accomplish" the design. (I've always been surprised to what lengths TeX (a typesetting system) goes to allow people to do what they have done while typesetting books long before TeX and computers existed)

It is perfectly easy to do an equal height column layout with standard CSS, no tables. It's only when you insist that both columns have contrasting colors that there's a problem.

But most columnar layouts, in my experience, are just mistaken attempts to make a site look "newspapery" and for no very good reason. Now that screens are becoming wider perhaps columns make text more readible, but the resolution and contrast of even the best screen is still way below the resolution and contrast of even the cheapest newsprint. I think columns are mostly a bad design decision on the web and really proliferate for fashion reasons rather than rational ones. Give it 10 years and maybe it will become good design.

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Quote:base your widths,

Quote:
base your widths, heights and font-sizes on pre-existing font-sizes which you can manually define, with ems

True, but you still have to manually count the ems, like if you have 5 buttons, each 10ems wide, and need the width of the whole menu, thats 50em; If you then decide to change the width of your button, you have to find the 50em thing again and change it. If instead you had button_width = 10 and instead of 50 you had button_width * 5 (or even better, if you could actually count the buttons, like nr_of_elements_with_class("")), you could write much better CSS, and none of that is anything dynamic, it could be determined at "compile time" (ie before you load the page)

Quote:
make your noises in the appropriate places like the W3C mailing lists

YOu mean that? I'm not sure I can see deeper into the problems than the people who design it... I'm still not sure you meant it, but I'll give it a thought, maybe I'll at least make an attempt to change something for once.

Quote:
PhP combined with CSS to achieve some of these things you mention

Could be, but I believe they belong into CSS, as they handle layout/graphics/design. And php is server side, can't tell you what font got used in the end, how much fit into the perex. But it could tell you other things, like the resolution (I believe, in the HTTP request header)

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Quote:Now that screens are

Quote:
Now that screens are becoming wider perhaps columns make text more readible

Do you mean columns as in organizing text into columns ("newspapery") or do you mean columns as the menu in one columns, content in another ("contrasting colors")?

Quote:
I think columns are mostly a bad design decision on the web and really proliferate for fashion reasons rather than rational ones.

depends on how you meant it, but it's a good point in both cases (that the reason as to why multiple column design was chosen needs to be look at carefully)

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ifohdesigns wrote:Once a

ifohdesigns wrote:
Once a customer finds out, bye bye repeat business. Most companies want "web-standards" used for their redesigns, just like "x" competitors are using.

Maybe where you are but in my experience, 90% of clients don't care.

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JanBenes wrote: Do you mean

JanBenes wrote:

Do you mean columns as in organizing text into columns ("newspapery") or do you mean columns as the menu in one columns, content in another ("contrasting colors")?

I meant mostly the first, but while it makes sense often to have your navigation to one side of the page and all the text on the other and not wrapping under your navigation, it doesn't seem to me that there's necessarily any reason to disguise it as a "column". Why can't the navigation element stand on it's own?

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JanBenes wrote:... I guess I

JanBenes wrote:
... I guess I passed the test of integrity, at least before myself, but the question doesn't stand "Am I a bad person (web coder) because I don't follow standards", it stood "why should I blindly follow those standards, why are they valid, why are they the way they are". ...

Do you consider using a named entity for it's intended purpose blindly following?

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Quote:Do you consider using

Quote:
Do you consider using a named entity for it's intended purpose blindly following?

the general case : yes for all cases I can quickly think of, entity = CSS, still yes. I believe one needs to understand why he does the things someone tells him are good to do. Why do they tell you to do so, is it the only way, is it the best way, do their reasons apply for you, at what price does it come. Then you might draw conclusions. Or you might "blindly follow", which imho is more appropriate when you have a smaller need to understand or are not interested or not ready to draw conclusions yet. Ie, yes, imho there is no reason not to question using CSS for design purposes, and imho there's a reason to question it. The conclusions one makes are a different matter (now that I think of it, you're a bit right, because standards by definition mean one should adhere to them, but there might be more standards, more ways, and you still need to consider).

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JanBenes wrote:the general

JanBenes wrote:
the general case : yes for all cases I can quickly think of, entity = CSS, still yes. ...

If an entity does not have logically divided columns that can be defined by a column heading then it is not a table. In this example entity = <table>. A layout is not a table.

My thought is that if someone is improperly using a spreadsheet to design a layout just because someone showed them to do it that way then they are the blind follower.

Really, we didn't come here just to look at the scenery. Every regular here is here because they believe that web standards, CSS based layouts and semantic markup are the correct thing to do.

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Quote:My thought is that if

Quote:
My thought is that if someone is improperly using a spreadsheet to design a layout just because someone showed them to do it that way then they are the blind follower.

if it's "just because someone showed them", then yes, but what if they arrive at it as described above?

Quote:
CSS based layouts and semantic markup are the correct thing to do.

I think I've said a few times already I've always tried to adhere to CSS/HTML, and Burlster showed me why my argument about tables being usable is wrong (talking about 1 of the 3 points). I don't think I should be bashed for arguing. If you feel bothered (rightfully, as you've said, it's a CSS territory, but then again, I don't feel like non-CSS, I stated I'm sorry for the miscommunication, but I was proposing thoughts/questions rather than stating the ultimate truth), then just say something I can't disprove or reasonably argue about, say you think the discussion is exhausted and should be stopped, or don't reply (as I obviously only react to replies).

Yes, you're right, it's a CSS territory, yes, I'm sorry to be wasting your time, yes, what I said at the beginnig didn't obviously come out right, but I don't think I shouldn't be allowed to question the principles just because everybody else believes them. If math was taught (and you're not obliged to teach me I must say) that way, everybody would believe and nobody would understand. Some things, I can figure out myself, but I can only figure out that much with my level of experience. I'm not attacking (questioning) your principles "for the look at the scenery", but because I thought there might be a reasons to.

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I think you are perceiving

I think you are perceiving animosity that just isn't there.

Quote:
then just say something I can't disprove or reasonably argue about

Concerning Point 1: Layouts are not tabular data.

Concerning Point 2: Once you understand the cascade and specificity you'll see how well designed it is. Please explain why you need a variable in a layout. I don't really know what you mean by "no anchoring, no docking".

Concerning Point 3: Accessibility isn't necessary until you need it. If you had a special need you'd see how unfair the world really is.

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To summarize, there is one

To summarize, there is one big problem with current CSS/HTML - its a struggle to prepare equal height column layouts. There are ways around this problem, but they aren't obvious or intuitive. It doesn't take much skill to be able to overcome the equal height column problem. It doesn't take much knowledge to make designs which don't rely on it.

Eventually CSS will move forward and we'll get something along the lines of the CSS 3 layout module.

Being a programmer, you'll appreciate that good code design is to separate different functions and layers within your code. Just like monolithic code is poor, mononlithic web pages are poor. It makes much more sense to try to keep presentation separate from content from behaviour (which was Burlster's point). If content, presentation and behaviour are properly separate its easy to adjust one without affecting the others. Just like if your DB access layer is separate from your business logic you can easily switch DB Engine by recoding the DB access layer with no affect on the rest of the application. CSS/HTML/JS is just applying those same principles.

Fwiw, your point about accessibility, etc as being not worthwhile. Googlebot, Yahoo Slurp and other search engine spiders are essentially visually impaired browsers which pay no attention to javascript fanciness. One of the main criteria for any one purchasing website design/building services is good search engine results. A site built properly with semantic html (and almost all those sites will use CSS) will not only be better for SE but will be over half-way there for accessibility.

Also, in several countries (e.g. U.S.), its quite likely that if you are building a site for a government organisation or one that receives funds from government, the site will be required to meet a certain level of accessibility criteria. You want that gravy, you need to be on that train.

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To clarify what I was

To clarify what I was saying, adding to ed's response to my comment:

Having 2 columns appear the same height is well within your artistic freedom, and CSS does allow for this, faux columns is a very simple, light weight solution to this. The real problem is not CSS, it is browser support for CSS.

People get all bent out of shape when you tell them about having to use 1 damn image to make a column, yet they are the same people that use "spacer" gifs all over their inline styled pages and then have the audacity to point the finger and say "AH HAH! SEE!!!". One image separate from the markup is well worth it in my opinion.

So far that seems to be the only argument table users have to offer, and they immediately declare victory because an image is used. Not "pure" enough.

Suppose you have a 3 column table based layout, and you want to re-arrange the order of them. How might you do this again without css and floats?

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ifohdesigns wrote:... People

ifohdesigns wrote:
... People get all bent out of shape when you tell them about having to use 1 damn image to make a column, yet they are the same people that use "spacer" gifs all over their inline styled pages and then have the audacity to point the finger and say "AH HAH! SEE!!!". ...

LOLZ! So true. Smile

I don't really see using an image as being a downfall anyway because who wants single color blocks in their layout? I'd much rather have blended or rounded edges and I'd use an image for a single column if I had the choice.

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Hi Jan, This is an

Hi Jan,

This is an interesting thread, coming as it does, not from an advocate of the bad old methods (can you tell which way I'm leaning? Smile), but from someone with the legitimate questions a relative neophyte would have.

Rather than address the specifics all that much, I'll go more the route that Chris took, examining the reasons behind using well structured, semantic and well formed html with css.

JanBenes wrote:
<snip>

1) Thesis: tabular design is not that bad. Argument: Coming from a C/C++ background, I've always solved problems using the best (read: most optimal by means of effort and functionality) technique available. Techniques are developed for a purpose, but there's no reason they can't serve other purposes if deemed fit. Tabular design is, imho, much better suited for designing layouts than CSS ever was. I could do most designs in 1/10th of the time (again, imho). The drawbacks that I know of: not intended for design (not really an argument), slower loading (I believe that might have been a valid argument a few years ago, not sure how valid it is now).
The first things to understand are that

  1. html is not a programming language, it's a structural language. It describes the structure of a document. Nothing more. The fact is that any non-trivial table based layout cannot be well structured or semantic. At its core, an html document should be machine readable—not just human readable via the browser.
  2. css is not a programming language. (Picking up a trend here?) It is a declarative presentation language. Its purpose is to declare how a selected element is to be displayed. All of today's browsers have default stylesheets, or have a simulated stylesheet built in, and that includes pure text browsers such as Lynx. Go to wherever Firefox lives on your machine, and open the 'res' directory. You will find two or three style sheets there that provide the base styles for Firefox.
Consider the advantages. By restricting the html to structural and semantic tags, markup is quick and easy to do. There is no worrying about how things will look or how deeply nested you are into the umpteenth table level. The css is likewise fairly orthogonal to the html. You need only indicate how things are to be presented, without doing so inside the markup, every time it appears in the markup.

Quote:
2) Thesis: CSS is not well designed and it is more or less useless. Argument: no variables, no anchoring, no docking, no clean way to do same height multi-column designs without using pre-made backgrounds. Achieving anything a little more complex is quite a pain in CSS. If it was designed with the idea of more complex designs, the something has probably gone wrong (not that I don't appreciate the effort of the people who work on it) It might be just those gaps that could allow Silverlight and co. to find it's place. On the other side, it's a free standard and it might have been designed with the idea of a less complicated web in mind.

CSS, even without the advances in css3, is quite powerful. The vast majority of the problems lies at the doorstep of a single vendor. As has been said, there's nothing wrong with using images so that columns appear the same length. But, css provides for equal length columns right out of the box. Only modern browsers properly support the display property. IE is not a modern browser. See two column layout for modern browsers.

A serious issue in comprehending the presentation issues on the web arises due to designers being print oriented, and programmers expecting a fixed canvas. The web is totally out of the developer's control. The user can override every little thing you agonized over. CSS had to be designed with that that very complex requisite in mind.

Just because html and css are not programming languages does not mean they're not programmable. You are free to use a server side language, eg. PHP, to generate either or both documents, in any way you wish. On the client side, you can use javascript to do what you will with the DOM.

Quote:
3) Thesis: Accessibility and browser compatibility is overrated: Argument: I have very little idea about how accessibility works, but optimizing each and every site for keyboard accessibility and speech-reader accessibility seems like an overkill. I'd say it reasonable to keep an eye on good contrast and text legibility (text resizing), but a lot of sites are inherently of very little use to blind people for example. Don't get me wrong, I think it's right to care for the less fortunate, but I think the whole accessibility thing is blown way out of proportion, with every other webdesigner stressing how important it is. I hope this doesn't come out as cruel, I certainly don't mean it that way (in fact, this is probably not a valid argument in the end, just a thought).

The really cool thing about html is that it is accessible by nature. Any web aware UA can render html in whatever manner its nature provides. Our job is to write pages that don't add barriers, or don't replace html with scripted , or plugin content[1]. We do have to figure out what things cause difficulties and make sure they don't affect the usability for those who don't want/need/support our bells and whistles.

cheers,

gary

[1] You can have those things, but they must be layered over the html so that if unsupported, the html is still there.

If your web page is as clever as you can make it, it's probably too clever for you to debug or maintain.

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Quote:I think you are

Quote:
I think you are perceiving animosity that just isn't there.

on the other hand, I get a lot of "you don't understand CSS and/or separation of layout from content". That wasn't what I was complaing about though. But I'll keep your remark in mind.

Quote:
Layouts are not tabular data.

Some designs are, sometimes it's the easier way (I just thought about maybe designing a lot of forms or similar on an intranet page, each page different, very little common styling across the pages, maybe that could get close, although it's an mischievous example). But after reading some more today, I saw something I didnĀ§t see before, namely the possibility to use divs without making them into as much hierarchy as I've so far and styling them more separately, which confirms (along with what burlster said) I wasn't as right as I thought. Unless you want to make some comment about specific (and special) cases (like the example I made up above), I withdraw (hope that's the right word) what I've (all) said about tabular design.

Quote:
Please explain why you need a variable in a layout.

I'll try to be more specific. A const. That is, something I could define the value of and then use it throughout the CSS. It's like writing PI instead of 3.14, because if you then realize you wanted it to be 4.2, it's much less trouble. Also, since measurements could be results of expressions, you could much more easily see how they were constructed, instead od 10 you'd have div_width + picture_width or something (and I reiterate that this can all be done before anything gets drawn, nothing's dynamic. I said in a previous comment that the idea of having widths of various blocks as variables or similar is probably not a good one.

Quote:
Accessibility isn't necessary until you need it. If you had a special need you'd see how unfair the world really is

I've been waiting for this argument to come. I've said I don't want to be "cruel", but one needs to be more specific. I've read today you can write specific styles for aural, braille, embossed (ie printed braille if I got it right), TVs.... Do you optimize for TVs? I believe some people might optimize for print. I know you get a lot of this for free (how much difference is there between a braille line reader and a TTY? not much, and if there is, how do I optimize for braille. I can't read braille. If you're making an art portfolio, there's not much you can do for the blind. I never said don't do it, I said it seems so hyped up and overestimated. I mean, you have to use your brain, for the specific project, is the optimization worthy?

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Quote:It doesn't take much

Quote:
It doesn't take much knowledge to make designs which don't rely on it.

as you state later, sometimes you have to. Your design tools shouldn't restrict you, although they always do in some way. Otherwise I agree.

Quote:
Just like monolithic code is poor, mononlithic web pages are poor.

Not arguing that separation is bad, it's good (wanted to say that making the layout using a table doesn't have to be that bad, if you moved the table from content (where it inherently has to be now) to CSS/layout, would that make a difference? AFAIK with tables, the content/styling separations is not as easy (for some extreme inputs, you need to style them differently, ie long text that couldn't fit in a cell, etc.). And while I certainly agree monolithic code is usually to be avoided, there are some examples of when it is used for reasons that don't apply to CSS (like speed)

Quote:
You want that gravy, you need to be on that train.

Agreed, need that if you want the job. On a different note, have you noticed how we all switch from "you should do it because it's right" to "you need to do it because it's necessary for business"? How sometimes arguments are from the heart (integrity, we're not here for the scenery), sometimes we resort business (they want what all the other companies offer, you need to be on that train, too little handicapped people (my argument)). Just a (self)observation, nothing implied.

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I agree with most, I'll only

I agree with most, I'll only comment where I'm not clear

Quote:
css is not a programming language. (Picking up a trend here?)

yes Smile but that by itself doesn't imply I can use other techniques if they seem more appropriate, although they are frowned upon. Was there some implication hidden in this part other than the layout/content separation that I possibly could have missed (why did you explicitly state it's a declarative language)

Quote:
PHP, to generate either or both documents

Isn't that itself a breach of the ideals? How far should I go before I go from a well designed site with dynamic, say, CSS, to a site that just uses CSS without using any of it's features (still the perex idea, where you only have a small area on the page to display text, comes to mind. I can do all sorts of checks in PHP (browser, resolution, OS (=> possible font interpretations)), calculate how much text would get thru and hope it's okay... I'd still use CSS, but only to pass some basic attributes, all the power would be lost (and it would be quite an effort and the success rate, well). Someone was talking about layers, I think here you might see the dividing lines between layers again. PHP is not dynamic CSS, it's reasonable to determine say text color based on whether the news is urgent or not (changes semantics of the contents based on the DB), but is it supposted to take care of the design (calculations of sizes etc)? Again, not your usual cases, but how much would people use those if they had an easy way to. Is the limitation coming from the fact it's not readily supported.

Quote:
See two column layout for modern browsers.

Whoa. If I got it right, he's displaying the divs as table cells to get the effect of a table, but since the display:table-cell is in the css, it means the "table" is in the css. On one side, I've come close to this with some of the suggestions (table in css), on the other side, seeing it's been there all the time, I finally understand why people were so mad at me for thinking about using tables for layout (as I can achieve, at least theoretically, the same thing, ie make it a table, but using CSS, thereby not "harassing" the content markup. Next time, please show me an example, I would never have understood from repeatedly hearing that what I do is wrong because the data are tabular and because it breaches the layout/content paradigm.

Quote:
make sure they don't affect the usability for those

Ok... how far would you go? This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know how far you all would go (have gone). Have you ever talked to someone who read your page in braille to see what their needs might be? What have they told you? (Just curious, not checking your moral integrity)

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JanBenes wrote:... I've been

JanBenes wrote:
... I've been waiting for this argument to come. I've said I don't want to be "cruel", but one needs to be more specific. I've read today you can write specific styles for aural, braille, embossed (ie printed braille if I got it right), TVs.... Do you optimize for TVs? I believe some people might optimize for print. ...
Well, with proper standards-based markup you don't have to optimize for different media. The option is there if you'd like different layout served to different media. For example, printing your web page you can opt to not allow ads to print to the page (you can't click them there anyway). So, to answer your question, yes, since my markup is correct my pages are "optimized" for TV.

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JanBenes wrote:I agree with

JanBenes wrote:
I agree with most, I'll only comment where I'm not clear

Quote:
css is not a programming language. (Picking up a trend here?)

yes Smile but that by itself doesn't imply I can use other techniques if they seem more appropriate, although they are frowned upon. Was there some implication hidden in this part other than the layout/content separation that I possibly could have missed (why did you explicitly state it's a declarative language)Think of css as a configuration file. A selector is declared to have this, that or the other rule applied. The cascade and specificity rules give css its power. Consider the global config file for an application. Now factor in that the user may further customize the app to his preferences by creating his own config file in his ~/ directory.

Quote:
Quote:
PHP, to generate either or both documents

Isn't that itself a breach of the ideals? …
Not at all. It is very common to have php generated pages. These pages are served to the client as static html. The program might, for example, look at the timestamp on a db entry, and if recent, make the item header of one class and if older, another.

You also mentioned having CONST equivalents. If you have php construct the css file, it would look something like this:<?php
header('Content-Type: text/css');

$pi = 3.14159;
?>

#sidebar {
width: <?php $pi . "em"?>;
}It is still delivered to the client as static css.

Quote:
Quote:
See two column layout for modern browsers.

Whoa. If I got it right, he's displaying the divs as table cells to get the effect of a table, but since the display:table-cell is in the css, it means the "table" is in the css. On one side, I've come close to this with some of the suggestions (table in css), on the other side, seeing it's been there all the time, I finally understand why people were so mad at me for thinking about using tables for layout (as I can achieve, at least theoretically, the same thing, ie make it a table, but using CSS, thereby not "harassing" the content markup. Next time, please show me an example, I would never have understood from repeatedly hearing that what I do is wrong because the data are tabular and because it breaches the layout/content paradigm.
I'm not sure I follow you here. I do see one possible area of misunderstanding. The table is not in the css. There is no table anywhere. A <table> is a structure for holding zero or one <caption> and one or more <tr>s. In css, the table display value says to act like a table element—shrink wrap its content, have a new block formatting context and other oddities. It says nothing about the structure. For a little experiment with obvious results: in a stylesheet, set p {display: list-item;}. That it will display like a <li> does not make it one.

Quote:
Quote:
make sure they don't affect the usability for those

Ok... how far would you go? This is not a rhetorical question. I want to know how far you all would go (have gone). Have you ever talked to someone who read your page in braille to see what their needs might be? What have they told you? (Just curious, not checking your moral integrity)
As a matter of fact, I have. His setup is that his standard out is a Braille pad. He says if Lynx renders the page usably, it's OK in Braille. My first priority for any page is that it makes sense in Lynx. I set font-size to the user's default and I avoid bad color combos. Beyond that, I wait for comments regarding problems.

cheers,

gary

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JanBenes wrote:Quote:It

JanBenes wrote:
Quote:
It doesn't take much knowledge to make designs which don't rely on it.

as you state later, sometimes you have to. Your design tools shouldn't restrict you, although they always do in some way. Otherwise I agree.

CSS isn't perfect. Gary mentioned the display:table-cell method of getting equal height columns. Its a method that works, however it doesn't allow true separation of content from presentation as source order in the content file constrains the relationship of the columns to each other. If presentation is truly separate it should be possible to overcome source ordering.

CSS3 proposes a layout module. If it or something similar eventually gets implemented it allows you to specify the structure of your layout in the css and also to assign elements to parts of that structure.

JaneBenes wrote:
Quote:
Just like monolithic code is poor, mononlithic web pages are poor.

Not arguing that separation is bad, it's good (wanted to say that making the layout using a table doesn't have to be that bad, if you moved the table from content (where it inherently has to be now) to CSS/layout, would that make a difference? AFAIK with tables, the content/styling separations is not as easy (for some extreme inputs, you need to style them differently, ie long text that couldn't fit in a cell, etc.). And while I certainly agree monolithic code is usually to be avoided, there are some examples of when it is used for reasons that don't apply to CSS (like speed)

Speed is a function of familiarity. For me, its far faster to prepare content as semantic HTML and style it with CSS than it is to get a table based layout.

JaneBenes wrote:
Quote:
You want that gravy, you need to be on that train.

Agreed, need that if you want the job. On a different note, have you noticed how we all switch from "you should do it because it's right" to "you need to do it because it's necessary for business"? How sometimes arguments are from the heart (integrity, we're not here for the scenery), sometimes we resort business (they want what all the other companies offer, you need to be on that train, too little handicapped people (my argument)). Just a (self)observation, nothing implied.

I work in the commercial web development industry, I need to prepare what my clients request. There is an additional cost in preparing an accessible site, not all clients are prepared to meet that cost. Is it "better" to have an accessible site? I believe, yes it is.

You argue that it isn't worth it. And quite possibly you are correct, that the numbers don't add up, however, in most modern western democracies we've decided that it is a price that we are able to pay to avoid marginalising people who are differently able. As such, there will come a time when it will be a legal requirement for publicly accessible site which provides a service to "all" to be accessible to all, just like it is now (in many countries) in building codes and employment practices.

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Chris..S wrote:There is an

Chris..S wrote:
There is an additional cost in preparing an accessible site, not all clients are prepared to meet that cost.

Unless your site contains media like video or audio that you need to provide alternatives for, I don't see creating accessible sites to be any more time intensive. Accessibility isn't something I charge extra for; it's built into the process of how I build sites which is all tied up with creating sites with semantic HTML.

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Good Zen

This has been really interesting. I have a site i would like to recommend you have a look at incase you haven't come across it yet. One which really shows of the power and flexibility of CSS.

The idea is there is a single HTML page, well marked up and unchangable. People can then however, upload their own CSS files to 'present' the content of the HTML file. When you look at this site, imagine you've got a site with a 1000 pages, and imagine quite HOW different you could make it look with just a single file...

I know this is the point I've been clinging too, but when I remembered this site, it made sense to share it with you. http://www.csszengarden.com/. Beautiful isn't it?

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Tyssen wrote:Chris..S

Tyssen wrote:
Chris..S wrote:
There is an additional cost in preparing an accessible site, not all clients are prepared to meet that cost.

Unless your site contains media like video or audio that you need to provide alternatives for, I don't see creating accessible sites to be any more time intensive. Accessibility isn't something I charge extra for; it's built into the process of how I build sites which is all tied up with creating sites with semantic HTML.

In general, I agree with you for basic accessibility - that is WCAG Priority 1, however I will normally only test a site in "common browsers", that is IE6, IE7, FF2, O9, Safari 3. If accessibility is required I will test the site to a higher standard (e.g. keyboard only navigation) and with more user agents (e.g. JAWS). This is kind of the same as if they want IE5 compatibility - I expect my sites to work in IE5, but I don't test in IE5 and IE5.5 or guarantee compatibility unless its specifically requested and then the client will need to pay for the extra time that testing requires.

Also, I don't do my own designs - I'm normally handed a design as part of a brief. When accessibility is required, I will most probably need to "fix" more than I would normally - so again more time is required to complete the site.

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burlster wrote:

burlster wrote:
http://www.csszengarden.com/. Beautiful isn't it?

No it isn't , well ok there used to be some decent examples of graphic artists work, years ago.

That site now just bugs the hell out of me for many reasons, not least of which is the disservice it's done to CSS/HTML

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Quote:For me, its far faster

Quote:
For me, its far faster to prepare content as semantic HTML and style it with CSS than it is to get a table based layout.

I actually meant stuff out of the web world, like OS kernels (no expert on that though, just first thing that came on my mind)

Quote:
we've decided that it is a price that we are able to pay to avoid marginalising people who are differently able.

Generally, I agree.

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CSS Zing

Hugo wrote:
No it isn't , well ok there used to be some decent examples of graphic artists work, years ago.

That site now just bugs the hell out of me for many reasons, not least of which is the disservice it's done to CSS/HTML

I'd seen the site linked to from this site numerous times and have used it to show people the power of CSS before. Could you please elaborate? I'm fascinated, and thought it was generally approved of in the web world?

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Early on yes, but towards

Early on yes, but towards the end not so much because what people would end up doing is producing huge graphics with all the text in the image and then simply turn off most of the HTML elements with display: none. As examples of graphic design, they were great, but as examples of best practice CSS design, they weren't.

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Too bad

Tyssen wrote:
...producing huge graphics with all the text in the image and then simply turn off most of the HTML elements with display: none...

CHEEKY! I hadn't even noticed, I suppose I should go back and have a good old look around. That's not web design, that's graphic design with HTML tags around it! (By the way, I only noticed yesterday that HTML tags at the beginning and end of a HTML document aren't needed any more, how slow am I)!

Still, there are some good examples up there, perhaps we could highlight a couple because it would be a shame that such an amazing site behind our point, get shunned because of lazy web designers.

I know it's probably a good example of a bad example, but I always quite liked this one, haha! http://www.csszengarden.com/?cssfile=202/202.css

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