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It Was 5 Years Ago Today …

By Ian Lloyd | June 7th, 2006 | Filed in CSS, Web Standards (general)

It’s been just over five years since the publication of a couple of articles about using CSS for layout were published, but where are we now?

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Well, it was actually 5 years ago this week, but I had The Beatles’ Sgt Pepper in my head and decided to go with that instead. So sue me.

Anyway, it was 5 years ago this week that (WaSP member) Drew McLellan documented his own Eureka moment of seeing the benefit of CSS-based layouts over tables in Turning the Tables (or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Web Standards) and it was five years ago in February that Jeffrey Zeldman wrote about the transition from tables to CSS for A List Apart.

Can you believe it? Five whole years, count ‘em. Some of the designers knocking out sexy CSS sites now were still in school wearing short trousers back then. Actually, scratch that – some of them still are.

In that time, I believe that most of the audience for this site and for A List Apart will have left table-based designs a long way behind and probably baulk at the thought of doing it this way. Ever again. But despite all our individual efforts, and the net effect that our efforts have on anyone that we also manage to inspire to do the same, there are still a lot of large corporations and small web design shops out there that continue to pump out table-based designs (something that even appears to get approval according to the current WCAG 2.0 draft). Sure, we’ve come a long way (baby), but just who are the sinners who still continue to peddle such techniques? Who would you most like to see drinking from the CSS Kool Aid and getting their act together? And did I really just write ‘Kool Aid’?

Your Replies

#1 On June 7th, 2006 8:00 am Dan Champion replied:

Oh well, I can’t resist another opportunity to showcase the DTI’s new website, launched May 2006 (yes, 2006!). You too can now enjoy e-government in all its glory.

#2 On June 7th, 2006 8:17 am WaSP Member lloydi replied:

Wow, that really is tableicicous!

#3 On June 7th, 2006 8:44 am Jesse Skinner replied:

Teachers. Now, I haven’t experienced this personally, but from what I understand, there are still teachers teaching table layouts, spacer images, and probably every bad practice out there.

It can be expected. Teachers typically learn their stuff before they start teaching, and only the most dedicated teachers keep their skills up to the cutting edge. But I think there is a lot of room for improvement to ensure schools, colleges and universities teach only the best practices.

The last thing we need is a new generation of web professionals still doing things the wrong way.

#4 On June 7th, 2006 9:16 am Patrick replied:

I know several teachers still teaching tables-based design. The template for my university’s “official” pages is based on tables. The amount of force required to overcome this inertia is often depressing.

At the Refresh Austin meeting last night, someone showed a page that was comprised entirely of graphics. The text was all images!

Can I get the Kool Aid dispensed through a 2-inch high pressure hose?

#5 On June 7th, 2006 9:25 am RAMsey Web Design, CSS, Technology snippets » Blog Archive » Five Years of CSS-based layouts replied:

[...] Ian Lloyd reminds us that five years ago, Drew McLellan nailed his stylesheets to the web design cathedral door and declared to us all, tables-based layouts are bad! Technorati Tags: CSS, drew mclellan, ian lloyd, web standards project [...]

#6 On June 7th, 2006 11:47 am Derek Andrews replied:

One of the reasons I have not yet adopted CSS for layout is the problem of dealing with non-standard browsers. Every tutorial or book I look at has fixes for problems in certain browsers, and until I can be assured that I won’t run into this type of headache, on the balance for me CSS is not yet worth the hassle.

#7 On June 7th, 2006 12:23 pm Tanny O'Haley replied:

Hey Derek,

Check out Layout Gala. Works even on strange browsers and looks good on handheld devices. Use Faux Columns to get full height columns without a lot of extra divs and you’re set. Smaller code, easier to change, better search and if you do it right accessible to those with disabilities. To quote a popular commercial, “just do it”.

#8 On June 7th, 2006 1:11 pm Joe Clark replied:

Derek, howcum other people manage to get it to work?

#9 On June 7th, 2006 1:12 pm Small Paul replied:

It’s still harder to do some stuff in CSS than it should be.

But it does feel like, with IE7, we’re finally firmly on the road to grown-up client side web development.

#10 On June 7th, 2006 2:38 pm Derek Andrews replied:

Joe, probably they have the time and resources to do it. I’m sure I could, but at present I just see hurdles that are too big for me to jump.

#11 On June 7th, 2006 2:51 pm Andrea replied:

CMS, e-learning, and other major vendors could really use some CSS Kool Aid. They are holding a lot of institutions back from embracing standards– even if the developers have good intentions and the necessary knowledge, their tools don’t allow them to make good on them.

#12 On June 8th, 2006 2:21 am Pramod Biligiri replied:

Who would you most like to see drinking from the CSS Kool Aid

Most people will agree that GMail, Google Personalized Homepage, Google News are well designed UI’s.
All of them use tables liberally. And they don’t even have a DOCTYPE!

Can any one here or from Google explain why it is so?

#13 On June 8th, 2006 2:50 am Abdelrahman Osama replied:

I can’t believe how people know about web standards benefits and still don’t use it, I thank all who fought this war and saved the web.

#14 On June 8th, 2006 3:11 am giz404 replied:

About teachers…
When I was studying, we “learned” HTML and CSS with a rather old-school teacher.

CSS is used to hide the underline on the links

he told us.

Well, that’s it.We are supposed to be become web specialist, and that’s what we learned…

(sorry for my poor english, I’m French)

#15 On June 8th, 2006 3:54 am WaSP Member chrisk replied:

@Derek: Tables work differently in different browsers as well. It’s just that people have spent enough years doing table-based development that hacking around them that it’s second-nature. If you’re waiting to use CSS until you magically know all the workarounds as though they were second-nature without having to scale the same learning curve we had with tables, you’ll be waiting a very long time.

@Small Paul: Yup, most definitely. Vertical centering is one of my favourite examples. Real columns are another. Proportionally sized elements which adjust to fill a set width à la table cells (e.g. for a top nav bar) is a third. And don’t get me started about the impoverished wasteland that is fonts on the web. But again, the same is true for table-based layout.

#16 On June 8th, 2006 10:55 am Elaine Nelson replied:

“CMS, e-learning, and other major vendors could really use some CSS Kool Aid.” — To follow what Andrea said in more specificity: Blackboard. (Oh, wow. Their corporate site has gone all div-tastic since I last looked…but the actual product: frames (!) & tables a-gogo.)

#17 On June 11th, 2006 4:12 am momen replied:


#18 On June 11th, 2006 4:15 am momen replied:

مؤمن منكن اتعرف عليكي

#19 On June 13th, 2006 8:11 am WaSP Member faruk replied:

I would love to see educators, professors and the like drink the CSS Kool Aid. That is, those that haven’t already, and I’m glad to see more and more of them do so these days.

Google. Another vote for seeing Google stop being such a jerk and get their act together. They don’t have to magically convert to valid markup and CSS or anything, but some basic semantics and the like would go a long way already.

The WAI. Yes, they know all about CSS and semantics and such already, but seriously, WCAG 2.0 is a horrid mess and it’s counter-productive to the entire Web Standards movement.

#20 On June 14th, 2006 7:15 am Robert Wellock replied:

It’s also probably around 5-years ago I went completely CSS-P for layouts.

#21 On June 22nd, 2006 11:01 pm Paul replied:

I’d love to see the designers of this site drink the Kool Aid of pleasure that is CSS-based layouts:

The site looks *great*, but under the hood – bleeeeech!

#22 On September 19th, 2006 1:13 pm Mark replied:

I think that the majority of designers / developers would like to be taught correctly. Creating a site that is based upon W3C Standards using XHTML and CSS is the only way to go ahead.

Sadly as you have written there are lots of people out there that are still using tables, frames etc. to create said sites. These are the people that should take a long look at what they are doing and then go back to school and start learning the new way.

It is very hard to get people to re-think their methods as they have been creating sites for many years and they work. So why the change? An easy simplified answer is Accessibility, Usability and a general clean-up.

#23 On September 22nd, 2006 11:59 am Cone Tanriverdio replied:

By using CSS I can separate the elements that define how the page is styled from those that define the content. It is these standards that have enabled me to build my Web site using CSS for all the layout.

#24 On October 4th, 2006 11:11 pm darin replied:

well, everything goes faster right know. and “old” webdesigner that already comfortable with table layout design still use it and do not want to change their design with something new (and ofcourse better..) like CSS, even CSS have lot of benefit. but do not worry, by the time, “old” webdesigner who still use table based layout will lesser, and maybe they gone by ten years later :))

#25 On October 27th, 2006 6:58 am Max replied:

Wow, that really is tableicicous!

#26 On December 1st, 2006 6:49 am sj replied:

Just learning XHTML and CSS so am going in the right direction now after having taken a distance learning course using Microsofts Frontpage.

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