Crazy Web Standards Guy

I just have to share this. So, my cryptic and stupid post about me being a pirate was all about this little group I helped start (with Kimberly and a couple other people who I don’t think have blogs). I’ve been writing a bunch of articles for this new site we’ve put up, and I just had to share the opening of this one that tries to dispel the myth that tables are bad. I think I’ve gone crazy…

One of the mantras of those of us who love web standards is “don’t use tables!!!”, which may confuse people who hear us mid-diatribe. I’m here to clue you in on what those three words mean to us standards cultists. We don’t hate tables. In fact, we love tables. We accept them as part of the HTML and XHTML standards, and glory in their accurate and meaningful execution (not “bang you’re dead” execution either).

Now that I’ve confused you further, let me clarify. We like tables when they’re used to display tabular data (you know, spreadsheet stuff). The problem we have with tables is that people abuse tables and use them for layout. We feel this is abuse of our little misunderstood friend and think it should stop right now.

You’re shocked now, aren’t you? I thought you might be. Some of you are gasping for breath and asking yourself, “What? No tables for layout?! That’s insane!!” You’re right, or at least you were right a couple years ago. I won’t go into it, because it’s painful, but there was a time when the only way to get websites to look the same across the stone tablets we called web browsers was to use complex table soup for layout. This was OK because it was really the only way to do it. There was no other option. We were handcuffed by the poor standards support in those early browsers (Netscape 4.x and IE 3, the Statler and Waldorf of the web). Now that Moses has come down from the mountain, smashed those stone tablets and brought us a whole new set (IE 6, Mozilla, Safari, Opera, etc), we no longer need to use tables for layout!!! (and there was much rejoicing)

Now that we have decent (or at least with bugs we know about and can work about… ::cough:: IE 6 ::cough::) standards support in these modern browsers, and 99% of the web is using some flavor of modern browser, we can get away from the old ways and move to the wonderful world of standards-based design.

If you want to read up on why you should move to standards-based design, and its benefits, we addressed that in this FAQ article and this one too. The how is a little more difficult. We addressed some of that in … OK, we haven’t addressed that yet. We’ll get there, really. It’s the next item on my list, I swear on a stack of Jeffrey Zeldman‘s hats.