…so what’s wrong with tables, again?
From the late 1990s through the early 2000s, HTML tables ruled in laying out web pages. Simple, high-level layout with two or three columns quickly led to more complex layout requiring nested tables and nested tables inside of nested table. Transparent GIF graphics were used to force tables to provide proper gutters or spacing between columns of content. It soon became clear that while using tables for layout was fairly easy, this sloppy ease came with a hefty price tag:
- Intertwine of Structural Code and Content: Placing the structural and presentational HTML code in the midst of all the textual content created an inflexible, unmanageable and inaccessible page & site.
- Code Bloat: Table-based pages required a lot of table-related code for the structure of the site. Many times, empty table cells would be used simply to create space. Below is a typical page layout with no content (left) and the code behind this layout, again, with no content (practically a blank page with no value (right).
- Maintenance Nightmare: If trying to find content embedded within all that code isn’t enough, try a redesign, which takes anywhere from six to eighteen months. This is the reason why most redesigns would actually be redoing the site from scratch.
- Content Order: Content hosted within a table is always accessed in a top down, left to right order. This means a three column table would be access in the order it was represented on the screen. This is not optimal for text-based browsers, screen readers (for the visually handicapped) and search engine crawlers.
- Inflexible for non-web platforms: Try to print a table-based layout or view one on a mobile device and you’ll quickly experience the inflexible nature of table-based layouts,.
Ok, you now know why table-based layouts are not the way to go. So why migrate to a tableless CSS layout for your web design?
- Less Code: Lighter pages with less code and all presentation in an external stylesheet allow pages to load faster, search engine robots to more easily digest your content and are easier to maintain and redesign in the future.
- More Flexible Content Delivery: Want a site that ranks better in the search engines? Is easier for text browsers or assistive devices? Organically adapts to delivery on mobile devices? Go tableless.
Now that we know why we’re headed toward a tableless layout direction, let’s take a look at the different type of layouts. Continue reading