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What’s so bad about tables?

  • While learning and fiddling with CSS I’ve notices people seem to much prefer CSS to tables.

    However myself I would MUCH rather use tables but with CSS classes. It seems using soley CSS divs etc. causes alot of compatibility issues between browsers and really isn’t worth the trouble. Also tables allow for somewhat more complex layouts much much easier.

    So my question is what’s the big deal about tables, why shouldn’t I use them if they don’t cause compatibility problems and they’re easier to make? I don’t want to just avoid using them because CSS is ‘the’ thing to do.

Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 82 total)
  • At the risk of watching this thread elevate to the argumentative state others of it’s kind have – I have something to say.

    “Unless you have a site competing with a gazillion of others of the same content, that’s absolutely all you need to do to reach frontpage Google rank on your keywords.” – this is largely false unless your keywords are so specific that there is virtually NO competition. And to make a blanket statement like this one shows nothing but ignorance to the fact that search engines are consistently changing their algorithms, and that simply “good content” and “regular updates” is NOT enough. You might’ve been lucky, lhk, in a few instances, but trust me, if what you were saying is true, I’d be out of a job, and so would many other organic SEO experts I know.

    Back to the original question regarding tables vs. CSS – it’s been concluded before that designing for your target audience is most essential. Not for YOUR ease, not for YOUR comfort – but for that of your target audience, regarding browsers, connection speeds, and so on. Fortunately for me, my target audiences typically have higher speed connections and when I design, I work on designing for IE and Firefox, using CSS (which does benefit ME as well as those of my site visitors) so that over the natural course of progression in browser standards and capabilities, I won’t have to go back to a site I made 5 years ago and redo it.

    I can honestly say that on any given day of general “surfing”, I run across at least a dozen sites that look borked in my browser of choice. That, I feel, is the saddest situation these days. And 99 times out of 100, it’s on a site that’s been created with table based layouts…

    “Personally, I feel that if we keep relying on old, outdated methods then it just makes that progression to an easier base for ALL of us that much more difficult.”

    Exceptionally stated, doodlebee… 🙂

    I thought I would add a few real world observations.

    I spend a lot of time coding sites for dialup users. I live in a rural community. By following modern standards, and pushing all style into a css page, I can make websites that load and display much faster. The files *are* smaller. I converted several of my older sites that used tables into identically displaying version that instead relied on css, and the resulting code was 1/5th the size, and did not rely on ‘tricks’ to get table cells display at the right size.

    When I want to change the layout of the site, I only have to change a single .css file. I might be unusual, but I have found it faster to change one .css file, than to change 40 html files. Yeah, I know, I must be weird. 😉 Even with dynamically generated sites using php, it’s much faster to redefine a couple of css values than to move a bunch of code around and rebuild new tables.

    In the end, css is also much more powerful and flexible. Radical changes in display can result from changes just a few characters in a css file. For a demonstration of what is possible with css, I generally recommend people visit http://csszengarden.com, where they can view hundreds (ok, 5 more and it’s 200) of completely different websites that each have one thing in common. They all have *identical* html. Not a single change was made to the html data for each of those very cool designs. Some of those designs are *impossible* with tables.

    Hi again,

    @ladydelaluna: It’s experience I speak of, not assumption. I’ve designed and put to the web more than – counting all of them now – 400 individual websites these past couple of years – and ALL OF THEM reached page 1 or upper page 2 on keyword rank on Google and Yahoo. A high percentage (some 10-15%) by now are “standard of their topic” or primary link, quite a few I funnily found as standard info links in Wikipedia e.g..

    NONE of them used any tricks or other methods than

    – a good domain name
    – good content
    – regular updating (as in at least 3 times a week)
    – select backlinking by similar high-quality sites
    – a sitemap
    – no ads

    Nothing more, no SEO-optimized URLs, no special coding, in most cases no CSS-driven sites, quite a few framed sites, often enough not even META-tags. And most certainly I never asked a client to buy into a search engine, the most I ever did in this respect was ask someone to buy a domainname I fancied to be the best for the topic.

    The topics to name a few of the most common were: languages, books, psychology, animal breeds, food, wine, photography, light, online studies, author sites, fansites, dieting, writing, dance, discussion groups, etc. etc..

    None of this is in any way “exclusive”. The worst ranking I ever raked in was a third page, which I managed to push to end of front page once I convinced the client to regularly update and provide better and continuous content.

    Whatever the search engines change, it obviously doesn’t affect what I do – and as explained, I do little which is in any way special.

    @doodlebee: Font sizes can be set with the browser, and this more often than not works with html pages, whereas at least half of the CSS styled pages I encountered deliberately set size to a set size (pardon the pun, that was intended).

    Whether or not someone maintaining a private site wants to cater to the elderly or blind is his beer.

    Those elderly people I know over here who browse the web (at all) usually are savvy enough to change their browser settings. And my ex-boss (now getting on 60) sees no problem in adjusting his screen resolution to what fits his sight. Much more problematic than font sizes are – by the way – inverted color schemes.

    Same goes for screen readers for the blind. But I explained that in a post above already.

    I’ve yet to see site stats with less than 80-75% IE users, most are up somewhere around 95%. This won’t change unless companies and shops cease to sell their computers with Windows pre-installed.

    And CSS files with all the “fixes” and “ways around this and that bug” are anything but clean, so sorry, but I regularly happen onto veritable monsters there.

    Some of our different experiences may by the way stem from design itself. It has been a longstanding issue for me that most CSS-driven-with-a-vengeance sites I have so far seen are technics-happy, overstuffed with gimmicks, literally non-designed (emulating and plagiarizing instead), way above their actual level in a mighty negative way and absolutely NOT designed simply and cleanly. And I do include most of the CSS themes here on WP in this, so sorry. I have yet to see many cleanly designed CSS-sites in a row to root for CSS as being “naturally clean”.

    OF COURSE such an overstuffed site will be heavier when you do all that using plain ole html. But I never design a site in such a manner. I’m a firm believer in “stark, simple and elegant” and this you can easily have with html and be way leaner than anything nowadays usually CSS driven.

    By the way, what I don’t believe in are standards. But that’s a totally different discussion 😉

    @manstraw: when I want to change the look of a table driven CMS I also change only one file. I know Zengarden allright, and there are indeed a couple of nice designs to be found there. But there are also quite a few designs which you can’t write in CSS and many more which will never look the same in all browsers.

    And again… if you did your homework correctly and made a good simple, lean design, you can just as well change 200 html pages in a split-second simply by altering a few files, and I’m not talking about CSS files. I’m talking here about foresight and site-structure. 🙂

    Be it as it is, I currently compared a Websitebaker-driven site (tabular templates) with a WP-driven site of nearly identical setup. Funnily Netmechanics quite neutrally concluded that the Websitebaker-site was faster and leaner. And that even though the basic design was practically 100% identical. Curious, que no?

    I have never found a site that could be layed out using tables that could not also be done with css. I would be interested in seeing an example of a site you can lay out using tables, but that can’t done with css.

    Did you not read the part where I said I specialize in designing sites for dialup users? I only do “good simple, lean design”. I am not saying that css makes up for bad design, as in poor site structure and lack of foresight. Those considerations are beside the point. When comparing the specific tasks of layout in css versus tables, and also changing the layout in the future, css wins.

    Again, I ask for an example of a site you can lay out with tables that I can’t layout using css.

    Can you provide a link to the following assertion:

    Be it as it is, I currently compared a Websitebaker-driven site (tabular templates) with a WP-driven site of nearly identical setup. Funnily Netmechanics quite neutrally concluded that the Websitebaker-site was faster and leaner. And that even though the basic design was practically 100% identical. Curious, que no?

    On the surface, comparing two different content engines seems biased when evaluating render speed.

    “I’ve yet to see site stats with less than 80-75% IE users, most are up somewhere around 95%.”

    From some stats from a few of my sites:

    Top 5 (June)…
    Browser—–%
    1.MSIE 6.0—–59%
    2.Firefox 1.5.0.4—–21%
    3.AOL 9.0—–7%
    4.Firefox 1.0.7—–3%
    5.Firefox 1.5—–3%

    and another site:

    Top 5 (June)…
    Browser—–%
    1.MSIE 6.0—–66%
    2.Firefox 1.5.0.4—–14%
    3.AOL 9.0—–3%
    4.Firefox 1.0.7—–2%
    5.MSIE 7.0—–2%

    and yet, another… you’ll love this one!

    Top 5 (June)
    Browser—–%
    1.MSIE 6.0—–40%
    2.Firefox 1.5.0.4—–40%
    3.Firefox 1.0.4—–4%
    4.Firefox 1.5.0.3—–4%
    5.Konqueror 3.4—–4%

    one more, for good measure…

    Top 5 (June)
    Browser—–%
    1.MSIE 6.0—–53%
    2.Firefox 1.5.0.4—–31%
    3.Firefox 1.5.0.1—–3%
    4.Firefox 1.5.0.3—–2%
    5.Firefox 1.0.3—–2%

    Once again, I think we can roll this all up into desiging for your visitors. I’m quite sure that your stats look VERY different, lhk.

    Also, regarding your comment about buying into SE’s – I distinctly remember using the phrase “organic SEO” – which does not, in fact, involve buying into SE’s.

    Regarding the “what you have done to get the results” thing – You’ve added a few things there that were lacking in your first statement. “select backlinking by similar high-quality sites – a sitemap – no ads” – and you know what? there’s even more that can be done! all organically, without paying a dime extra… like i said, you’ve been fortunate, and by not going against what the search engines require, you’ve succeeded in not getting your sites banned. i’m not saying you’re lucky to get the listings – i’m saying that you’re lucky someone else hasn’t consciously worked on beating you out… and trust me, that does happen, and all the “good content” in the world isn’t going to help when that happens… sorry.

    “and ALL OF THEM reached page 1 or upper page 2 on keyword rank on Google and Yahoo”

    okay, but how long did they stay there, and are they still there? can you provide me with keyword examples and URLs where i can go do a manual search and find your sites there? it takes more than good content and updating to KEEP a site in the SE’s good graces… hell, at one point all it took was keyword stuffed meta tags and 1000 links from an FFA… things CHANGE – CHANGE is GOOD.

    Hi manstraw,

    I can come up with a couple of designs which would need looping back through itself when written in CSS, especially when written in browser-compatible CSS, whereas all it takes tabled are a few meagre lines of code.

    I recently had to write such a one in CSS for a client (oh, I of course DO write CSS sites, as anyone else, no one please misunderstand me), the resulting CSS file was horridly convoluted. And I *know* that these bugfixes won’t hold for much longer than a year or so. Well, I told the client and he’s going to have to pay me for the re-design in a while.

    Actually what by now amuses me is that there never were the sort of knowledge bases for tables as they now exist for CSS. And dontcha tell me that’s because no one was interested formerly, it’s exclusively because they are needed today. You never needed all this browser-specific stuff with tables 😉 They would look slightly different with different browsers, but they would still basically do the trick all right. If CSS fucks up with a browser it usually does so magnificently 😉

    As to the “layout of the future”, I’m sorry, but then every CSS guru has it wrong.

    What is currently being done is comparable to VideoBETA-format users forcing the whole VHS-world to change to their format.

    When close to 90% of all users use a browser which demands a certain way to deal with things, then any attempt at finding a standard has to go into THAT direction. This is NOT what’s happening with W3C standards. Quite on the contrary. And so sorry, to me that’s just plain nonsense.

    It’s not IE which has it wrong, it’s the rest. Whether or not that is good or bad is of no value, it’s sheer majority which counts there.

    But I digress: I like crisp lines and edges, small files and very, very simple design. I never went for overly nested tables, usually the pure code for the layout does not exceed 700-800 bytes, 1KB at most, and this positions everything, for all browsers. I’ve never achieved such a small size with CSS positioning, not even with the leanest possible CSS code.

    😉

    I would appreciate some links to show me examples of what you’re asserting. I’m curious about what you mean by “looping back through itself when written in CSS”. I would appreciate you coming up with those “couple of designs”.

    And I would still like a link to the websitebaker assertion.

    I personally don’t believe that majority decides efficiency, power, and compatibility. VHS was inferior to Betamax. I don’t know where you get that Beta users were trying to force the whole world to change to their standard. Beta format was developed first. VHS was a quality reduced version of the Beta format created to increase the amount of time the same length of tape would record. Standards are developed to improve compatibility, not undermine it. Why am I letting myself get side tracked?

    I would appreciate the links. Thanks.

    Hi Ladydelaluna,

    err… this: “i’m saying that you’re lucky someone else hasn’t consciously worked on beating you out… ” is exactly what doesn’t apply to what I do, or rather not do.

    To me it’s not a game, it’s not even rivalry, it’s pure logic, and this usually wins with all search engines. I can understand that you, if you sell SEO, can’t but differ, but quite honestly, I only think of a good name, good, updated content and proper backlinking. The last of which by the way usually isn’t something I do, it’s something those other webmasters do on their own.

    I already a couple of times said, that I don’t give away clients’ sites here or anywhere else publicly. But to give you an example, if you do this search:

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=frank+sinatra

    (more than 14,800,000 sites)

    and this search

    http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=&q=sinatra

    (more than 21,100,000 sites!)

    a couple of sites will come up in both and both times on the first page. I’m not saying I designed one of them, but if I searched for one of my sites, the results would duplicate this sort of thing.

    More is not necessary, que no?

    As to duration, most sites are still online, the majority still rank among the first two pages. A decent number (some 15+%) have been tops of the first page since they were uploaded, for in some cases now 6-7 years at a stretch.

    And really, there is absolutely no trick, no gimmick, no magic to it.

    I have to concede one point though, I rarely do down and out commerce-only sites. Even for commercial clients I try to find that specific are of interest which can be exploited to provide top ranking content. To give an example: I built the selling site of a cattle breeder a while ago. While I talked to him he totally ran me over with his encyclopedic knowledge about cattle in general and his breed specifically. I talked him into writing a huge history, background knowledge, ancestry etc etc content part for the site, which nowadays is *the* one address online to look up this breed. He has lots of fun with this, he updates practically daily, he unearths paintings and photos some 100-200 years old and incorporates them, he has droves of regular visitors, all big large animal sites link to him, most online encyclopedias and vet sites link to him (no one asked them all to do that!), he has created an online community with lots of discussions, and somewhere – as an aside – there is that small part of his site, which shows his breed animals, those he sells, and the semen he sells. He is always booked clean out.

    No trick – all content.

    As to your stats – the only ones I have which are under 75% for IE are (computer/software) technical sites, in and out of Europe.

    links? I would like the links I’ve asked for. Surely you can provide the link to the websitebaker assertion in the very least.

    I agree that good content drives good search engine placement. I don’t think css versus tables means squat in that argument. Does painting my car red make it go faster? Good clean code is good clean code, no matter what standards you follow. This thread was started with the question of whether or not css has an advantage in layout versus tables. I interpret that to mean correct display, render speed, and code efficiency. I wonder if we could keep our discussion with those parameters?

    Hi manstraw,

    you misunderstood me.

    I didn’t say that Betamax users did that. I said that what currently happens between W3C and IE when it comes to webstandards, is as if W3C (Betamax) forced IE(VHS) to marry their system.

    You can try it out yourself, write a 2 by 3 column table, marry a few cells and hit save. Then have a look at the size of that file. Then write the same positioning in CSS (cross-browser-fast), add to the size of that file the size of an empty html file and compare. CSS will lose out.

    Checking that is as easy as that.

    I still would like the links I’ve asked for.

    I agree with manstraw – I’d like to see a link to a table-based site that *cannot* be done in CSS. I’ve yet to see one done, myself (in fact, I just redid a site where the original designer made the exact same assertion – and I proved him wrong in less than 2 hours.)

    As for “browser-specific” stuff and “hacks that will cease to function”… again, I note that the *only* one I use is <b>set forth my Microsoft themselves</b> – the conditional comment – which is not a hack. I’ve never had to use another one – save an occassional one for IE5.2 on a Mac (which supports CSS better than IE6 on PC!). People who write bad CSS or convoluted code simply don’t yet understand the power of it, and don’t know how to manipulate it correctly. And again, even Microsoft sees the importance of standards – why do you think they’re trying so hard to conform to them with the upcoming release of IE7?

    Yes, I agree that the majority of users are with IE (as I said – just as you did – because it comes with the PC), but that number *is* changing (by the way, my own stats are along the lines of ladydeluna’s – I have nowhere *near* 90% of my users coming in with IE browsers) – so again, it’s a simple matter of designing for your own audience.

    But I simply do not agree that CSS is going the way of BetaMax – especially when IE is even now conforming to standards – it’s too powerful an option to use in design. However, time will tell, I suppose. 🙂

    But still, yeah – I’d like to see those links to sites that “can’t be done in CSS”…I honestly have never seen one that can’t.

    “As to your stats – the only ones I have which are under 75% for IE are (computer/software) technical sites, in and out of Europe.”

    Sorry, but not a single one of the sites I gave you stats for are “technical” – one’s for a volunteer fire department, one’s for a muscle car enthusiast, one’s my business site (SEO and web design – people seeking my services are typically NOT seeking “technical” sites – but rather are quite disoriented when it comes to browsers and resolutions for the most part) and one’s my own personal site about plus size modeling and weight loss. Nothing “techie” about any of those sites.

    Again – I’ll repeat it – I see no reason for such a huge debate on this issue if people would just rely on their stats programs, demographics, et al. when choosing their design processes. To sit here and argue with such fervor about which is better has never done anything but rile people up. It’s all about opinions, and we all know what they say about opinions… 😉

    To be progressive in the world of design, in my opinion, would be to avoid holding ourselves back by refusing to use “new” technology. CSS is NOT all that “new” when you think about the fact that the internet (as it resembles itself today) has only REALLY been around a little over 11 years, and CSS has been here for more than half of that. It’s not going anywhere, it’s not going to disappear because people who choose not to use it argue about why.

    Think about what happened to people who refused to install telephones in their homes when they were invented… if everyone in the world didn’t take up this invention, we’d all still be writing letters that took 2 months to get to where they’re meant to go. Think about technology in GENERAL over the last 100 years – the first ever computer took up an entire room, and now we have handheld PDAs that can do just about anything. If no one challenged the way the first computer was built, we’d never have what we do today.

    Not for nothing, but a refusal to change out of “just not wanting to” or “not seeing a need to” sounds like nothing more than a lack of acceptance for growth and change, and the “debates” that go on, sound more like just a temper tantrum in relation to that lack of acceptance.

    Well, I’m not about to value judge someone’s opinion. I’m just interested in examples.

    I thought I would add that I just checked my non techie sites. IE is averaging 77% for a high, and dips to around 55% for a low. Firefox takes second, and then there are a sprinkling of other browsers. Safari is showing itself some in my stats, which surprises me, as I don’t have anything that leans to the mac (although I use Macs, but not safari).

    And in case anyone is interested, I’ve taken a different approach to complying with IE6’s incorrect implementation of the box model and other non compliance issues. Instead of a css hack, I install http://ie7.sf.net on the site. It rewrites the DOM, fixing display errors in IE6, and bringing it into compliance. I even choose to do this for business sites. Each of my customers have accepted the fact that the page takes slightly longer to display on IE6, and that it requires javascript. I wouldn’t recommend people do it for a business site generally, but I’ve found that virtually everyone has javascript on, and it hasn’t been an issue. Because I feel it’s Microsoft’s fault for taking so long in updating their browser, I am choosing to penalize them with slower render. Firefox and other *modern* browsers enjoy the faster rendering. I now freely use position: fixed and other such css elements that we can’t normally use because of IE6.

Viewing 15 replies - 16 through 30 (of 82 total)
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