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From Ugo Cei <>
Subject [OT] Design Rant (was Re: Forrest (a.k.a. 2.0))
Date Wed, 19 Dec 2001 08:53:40 GMT
giacomo wrote:

> I know :) but many sites only use *one* table to achieve the above which
> (at least for older browsers) result in a need to have the hole page
> downloaded prior to have it displayed in the browser. This above layout
> can display the header as soon as it is available in the browser. This
> way you don't have to wait in front of a blank screen too long.

Many (well not that many, but they are starting to appear, see for example, or 
my own [C2 based]) sites use NO tables to achieve 
layout, but instead rely completely on *standard* CSS positioning 
properties to achieve layout.

Let's face it: HTML <table>'s were never designed for laying out pages, 
but for laying out tabular data. Unfortunately, since the support for 
CSS was until recently very poor both in the browsers and in the design 
tools, 99.9% of current web pages use tables for layout. This is IMHO an 
ugly hack and we, as a community that strives to adhere to open 
standards and to the concept of separation of style from content, should 
avoid it like the plague. BTW, CSS-1 was published in 1996, so it's been 
out for more than FIVE years, it's time that people start using it for 
what it was meant for.

Using a CSS-based layout also means that people using 4th generation 
browsers (NS 4, IE 4, etc.) must be "protected" from such a stylesheet 
or they will see utter garbage. Hiding the CSS from them means that they 
won't be able to appreciate the layout, but will nonetheless be able to 
read the full *content*, just not very well styled. But come on, this is 
a site devoted to *developers* developing for the Web. Can you imagine a 
web developer today using ONLY NS4 or IE4?

Incidentally, adopting a pure-CSS based solution for both layout AND 
styling means that people using:

- text browsers
- screen readers for the sight impaired
- mobile devices
- anything you cannot conceive now but that will be make web
   access available from your washing machine or whatever :)

will be able to access the site contents without their "screen" or 
reader being cluttered with spurious markup that is not in any way 
related to the content they need.

Before you start mentioning Cocoon's ability to select a different 
stylesheet based on the User-Agent request parameter, keep in mind that:

- we are talking about pregenerating a static version of the site
   for performance reasons
- as I wrote above, you cannot foresee what user agents will browse your
   site in the near future.

In other words, what I am proposing is that we stop worrying about being 
bacward compatible in order to accomodate old, buggy and non-compliant 
user agents, but instead start to be FORWARD compatible in order to 
accomodate FUTURE standard-compliant user agents.

Let me know what you think about it and sorry for being slightly OT.


Ugo Cei - Consorzio di Bioingegneria e Informatica Medica
P.le Volontari del Sangue, 2 - 27100 Pavia - Italy
Phone: +39.0382.525100 - E-mail:

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