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  1. #1
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    TABLES vs. DIV Debate (again)

    I recently asked some people on a forum whether they link one of my new templates or not, and the first response I got (again) was that tables are supposed to be used for tabular layout and nothing more. This has been said to me time and time again, so I wrote the following response.

    I feel that the response contains enough valid information to post it at other forums. So her it is. I want the world to know what I think of the TABLE vs. DIV debate.



    Re: Template http://www.aesap.com/main/template.php

    I understand that tables were originally designed to. I am fully capable if writing DIV or TABLE type HTML and XHTML, equally as well. I know the code pretty much off by heart and have several + (extensive, ie: daily) years experience - One and a half as a web developer for a software /SEO company. I understand that there are benefits to writing code that does not use tables. I do prefer to use DIV's when writing a website, if at all possible, because they are very easy to use. It is quite simple to make a page full of DIV's, give them some classes or ID's, and with CSS positioning, the sky is the limit. Basically the CSS that works with DIV's, for the most part, works absolutely identically as for with tables, in that if you replace a DIV with a single celled TABLE (or vice versa) and use the same class or ID name, the CSS will do the same thing in each case. So in many cases it only make sense to us a DIV, because it can cut down on non textual code, which can help with page loading speed and gives SEO benefits too.

    However, keep in mind that all browsers understand how to render tables these days, and pretty much equally as well. It took programmers tens of thousands of coding hours to achieve this functionality. I don't consider the use of tables a dead practice. Tables will be around for quite a while yet, and they will be supported by browsers. It is often stated online that tables were not originally meant to be used for any reason other to present information in a tabular format. This sounds good, and knowledgeable. But in reality the statement presents no real significance or basis for argument.

    The cart was originally designed to transport people and heavy or bulk quantities of items. At first they were pulled or pushed by hand. Then we tied them to horses. But these days we put engines in the and the possibilities are almost boundless. So although the cart was originally designed to perform a simple function, their use and development has exceeded those functions exponentially. It's the same thing with tables. They were originally designed to fulfil a simple purpose, but that was in the past. Tables are more now. Tables are no longer limited to that simple function, and they are probably the most widely accepted and supported function of web development online today. Browser developers have taken considerable time and effort and gone to extraordinary lengths to bring the functionalities to tables, as they exist today, to increase their function, making them far more useful than for merely presenting tabular information.

    If I could see any real benefit to not using tables, I'd be the first person to throw my hands up. But the simple matter of the fact is that they work. They work very well. They're widely supported, understood and accepted. In many cases, they outperform the usefulness if a typical DIV layout, not necessarily in terms of using less code or rendering speed, but because the integrated functionality of a table, especially multi-celled tables can become a gruesome process in a DIV layout, even for the most advanced web developer. And I'll give you an example of that after the next paragraph.

    Now, in my case, the reason I am using tables, is because the benefits of using them far, far outweigh the possibilities and advantages on using a DIV type layout. As a matter of fact, with the coding knowledge I have (and I must say that I so have at least some after 6 years of writing code every day), I find it hard to agree that there are many real benefits to using a DIV laying at all. At best, all a DIV layout really achieves is to be a friend with CSS. But we don't design web pages around CSS. We design CSS around the web page. CSS is used to compliment a web pages layout. A web page will function without CSS (especially one that has tables), but CSS cannot fulfil a duty, or any purpose at all without a web page. Therefore, in my mind a DIV layout is a friend of CSS. A DIV layout compliments CSS. But what developers need from CSS is fellowship - not dictation. A DIV layout can be totally crippled without its CSS compatriot.

    Now, to this point, I haven't included the main reason why I am using tables in my design. So far I have only offered my opinion on the DIV vs. TABLE argument, to give a lead up towards what I will begin to explain now. In the template that this thread concerns, I have used a table layout for many, many reason. All of these reasons have been included into my design with careful consideration. I build a lot of websites, and I really don't have the time to code each one from scratch, every single time. So what I have set about to do is to create a generic template system for myself, that can be expanded, stretched, altered and modified in as many ways as possible, without the need to edit any HTML or XHTML. What I need is to be able to contort the web page in basically every possible way that I can think of. And with the design that I have presented above, I can mimic pretty much any other website design online, merely by altering the CSS via a config.php file.

    The template in concern has Top Bar, Top Menu, Header, Header Advertising area, Location Bar, Content Area, Left and Right menu's as well as a footer. Also, within each table cell, I have certain DIV's which will allow me to add further sections within the template, such as a header left and a header right. Footer 1, 2 and 3, for three sets of links or includes in the footer. I can turn all or any of it off with the CSS.

    Apart from all that, I also have several stylesheets. I can adjust the template in a php.config file, which tells the page what stylesheet to use, or I can point an individual page to a different stylesheet. I can turn any section of the website on or of at will, with one change, and no matter what I do it will always render and function perfectly in all browsers. Apart from that, I also have a single setting to change whether I want the page to stretch to fit the browser screen, or to be say: 770px wide and centred. The template wraps to the browser height as well, for pages that do not have much content. There's nothing that I haven't thought of. There's absolutely nothing I cannot do with this template.

    These are things that I need that a DIV layout simply cannot provide. I don't care who reads this article, from any part of the world, with any amount of coding experience. The functionality that I have built into the website above cannot be done with a DIV layout. It is absolutely, completely and utterly impossible.

    With this template, to build a new website, all I have to do is make a new theme folder, readjust the CSS and make some new images and I have a completely different website. Or, if I get tired of an old layout, I can make a new theme and simply change the look, feel, structure, positioning of the website with one config.php change. But I am not just limited to changing the look and feel. I can successfully add, remove parts of the template via CSS and the web page will compensate and render perfectly in all browsers, no matter what template section I turn on or off.

    Now, please forgive me for writing such a long response. But I have asked for reviews of websites that I have made using this template structure before. The first thing that people say to me is that tables are only to be used to present tabular information. I usually respond by saying something along the lines of" "granted, but for my purposes I have to use tables". I kind of expect people to just accept that and say: "ok" and then move on, but as soon as I try to defend using tables, I become a prime target for DIV enthusiasts, and I never ever get an actual review.

    My requests for reviews never get to the point where people are actually offering opinions on whether or not they simply like the look of the site or not. Which is all I ever asked. I never ask for coding comments, because I simply do not want them. Then I get told that am asking for suggestions and not accepting the responses, even when I try to explain that I do not want coding advice, but just to know whether people like the look of the site or not. I never get far. I have to go through this table drama every single time. I usually just give a brief response saying that I'd like comments not to do with the fact that I have used tables, but people wont go past it. My threads always turns into a lengthy DIV vs. TABLE debate. I get made out to be a total fool, because I say that "I know how to code and I know what I am doing". But all it takes is for one person to respond saying: "Haha, yeah and you're using tables - Yeah, a real professional.And there goes my thread. Most others will just follow what that person said.

    Recently I stated that the code I have used for a particular template was absolutely perfect - flawless even. I tell you what. I got crucified. No one looked further into the template, other than to simply view source, see tables, close the source, and come back to the thread to get stuck into me, because they know that they'll get plenty of DIV vs. TABLE's support.

    So, this time. I have explained myself. Hopefully you will reconsider your reply and just tell me whether you like the site or not - as a general viewer.

    Also, I want you to know that I do understand that you were just trying to give an honest and general response. I am not having a go at you personally. It's just that my requests for people to look at my website always start out with this first response. And that's it. The thread is dead - Not to be saved. I always get made a fool of, even though in my personal opinion, I can code better than most, if not all people replying.

    Also, one last note. At the time that I am writing this, the template in question isn't officially complete. As far as I can see, everything is fine, but I'm still looking. This template is about the fifth version of what a series of templates I started a year or so ago, when I created a project called the T-Project and got laughed at all over the net when I asked for people to help make templates. I've been bashed and beaten over this online. However, it would be nice to see what others come up with. They try to compare what I am doing with CSS Zen garden. The only difference is that my templates are more functional than the CSS Zen garden ones - just no one realises that yet. I know that the template could be designed better if it was just a "one site - one purpose" a template. But it's not. It's a cameleon template. And I'm willing to say that in my opinion, it's very close to flawless - for my needs. I don't believe anyone on earth could write [much] better code..

    I'm open for the competition though. Beats plain out insults time and time again.

    I will also take your accessibility comments into consideration and I'll see what I can do about adding accessibility before I start using this version for my other 14 websites. I need to make sure this version is the best I can make it.

    Much appreciated.

    Regards,

    Leonard Wass
    MrLeN

  2. #2
    SitePoint Wizard bronze trophy conradical's Avatar
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    Yes it's been argued. But if you have to bring it up, post it in it's appropriate forum.

  3. #3
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    I consider this a general topic. It's a rant.

    I have placed it in the correct location.

    MrLeN

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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    If this is your argument, then it's fundamentally flawed.

    1. You're still under the assumption that HTML = layout. That's not the case. HTML = structure. CSS = layout. The reason you're still on tables is because you don't seem to wrap your head around this concept.

    2. Industry best practices aren't about replacing every table with a div. Those that do this are no better off than those who use tables. It's about using markup that describes the content contained in it. Unless you're showing reports or something else that would otherwise be in an app like Excel, you probably don't need tables. Divs and spans are semantically neutral, so that's what should be used if another element doesn't work for what you need. Otherwise there are many other elements in HTML that you should be using instead, like headings, paragraphs, lists, citations, and more.

    3. You're also still under the assumption that only graphical browsers view your site. Try looking at your site in Lynx or a cellphone browser and you'll see that tables aren't as great for layout in every circumstance.

    4. There's nothing in your layout that can't also be done with a CSS layout and proper markup. PHP includes work whether you're using tables or not, and unlike with tables I can move content around to different places in the underlying HTML source code and in many cases it will stay in the same place in the rendered version because my CSS rules didn't change.

    5. Yes all browsers understand tables nowadays, but all browsers also understand every HTML element (except for IE with abbr and q, but there are workarounds for that and those generally aren't used to craft a site layout). Every browser from IE5/Win on up also understands enough CSS to make a good looking layout, so your argument here is pointless.

    Quote Originally Posted by MrLeN
    With this template, to build a new website, all I have to do is make a new theme folder, readjust the CSS and make some new images and I have a completely different website.
    Um, making a new folder and creating new CSS and images is how everyone makes new websites. You act like your template is this awesome revolutionary thing when it's not.

    I'm done here. You're probably not going to be convinced anyway, but I mostly posted so others wouldn't be subject to misinformation without hearing the other side.

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    Note: I am not for Tables over Div's. I am just tired of people starting on me as soon as they see <table.. in my code.

    I am for what ever works.

    There's nothing in your layout that can't also be done with a CSS layout and proper markup
    True. I could easily recreate that "template" with either tables or divs, or a combination of both. But it is absolutely impossible to get the functionality that have described above, just by using divs and CSS.

    I will personally kiss the rear end of anyone that proves me wrong. On webcam.

    I welcome you to prove it, and I'm publicly putting $500 up right now.

    Quote me on it.

    MrLeN

    Edit Note:

    ..but I am not just limited to changing the look and feel. I can successfully add, remove parts of the template via CSS and the web page will compensate and render perfectly in all browsers, no matter what template section I turn on or off.
    Last edited by MrLeN; Sep 7, 2005 at 09:42.

  6. #6
    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    This doesn't really belong here whether it's a rant or not.

    I'm not going to waste my time reading the useless quote you've posted , but while scrolling down i read this :
    I find it hard to agree that there are many real benefits to using a DIV laying at all. At best, all a DIV layout really achieves is to be a friend with CSS. But we don't design web pages around CSS. We design CSS around the web page.
    This sounds like an old fart who has been using frontpage since he started designing websites , no matter how much he claims he "know". He knows nothing about designing , and i don't feel like proving him/you wrong , because :
    Quote Originally Posted by vgarcia
    You're probably not going to be convinced anyway, but I mostly posted so others wouldn't be subject to misinformation without hearing the other side.

  7. #7
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    Mrlen, I personally like your template and think it is a very nice table layout that should work and look good in almost any browser. as a mater of fact i think it's a master piece of work! given the fact it's a valid Xhtml document.

    I am beginning to wonder if there is a tin ch of jealousy or mis construed taking place here. let me bowl a bumper to the batsman vinnie garcia and se if he can negotiate it. HTML is not a Language. Hypertaxt markup is a language. The L in HTML represents and stands for LAYOUT not language.

    The L has been a undefined and controversial issue from the very introduction of hypertext markup. In the world of computers language Htm is the language, and the controversial L , stands for LAYOUT. Here is the in-swinger now, HTML stands for Hypertext markup Layout and not language.

    Here is the out swinger now. HTML is for laying out and tabulating computer language like HTM, so please back of of Mrlen and give him the respect and praises he deserver for constructing a well formated standard compliant XHTML Document.

    I think Mrlen is clever and creative enough to address cell phone and other accessibility issues as he continue to develop his master piece.

    Please be carefully who you are jumping on in these forums. Vinnie, i found 2 errors on your personal home page rendering it Invalid. Mperor, you only escape the bumper because your document is valid, even thoug it more seem like a blog than a website.

    Oh! and by the way, WML has no problems with displaying well formed tables in any handheld device.
    Last edited by The Doc; Sep 10, 2005 at 10:17.

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    ☆★☆★ silver trophy vgarcia's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Doc

    Please be carefully who you are jumping on in these forums. Vinnie, i found 2 errors on your personal home page rendering it Invalid.
    And when the hell did I say anything about validation in my post? Oh that's right I didn't! I was talking about why you should use HTML elements for their intended purpose and use CSS for defining how those elements look. But thanks for the heads-up, I fixed the issue in all of 3 seconds and now my site is a shining beacon of validation am I rite?

    You should be careful about who you are jumping on in these forums, and the issues you conflate together. The proper use of an element has little if anything to do with validation, as do many issues that people tend to conflate together (i.e. browser hacks, accessibility, etc.).

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    Thanks Doc. Yeah, you tell'em

    MrLeN

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    SitePoint Wizard drhowarddrfine's Avatar
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    the L in html represents and stands for LAYOUT not language.
    HyperText Markup LANGUAGE

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy someonewhois's Avatar
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    I think I'm going to start using PowerPoint for listening to music. I mean, it can play music, so that means it's the 100% best method of listening to music, right? Right? Who's with me? Nobody? Go figure.

  12. #12
    [Biped] LJK's Avatar
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    Hi -
    Am obligated to say:
    "How can anyone take this stuff so personally?"
    Since that always flashes through my mind when reading posts like this.

    One issue that's been sidestepped is loading times - which I always
    heard were rather long for all that table code - and the sliced images
    which usually accompany them.

    Am grateful to have learned Content Separate From Style from the get-go.
    [To me, it is akin to Form Follows Function - the mutha of all design mantras!]
    That way, I got to avoid an [apparently] painful transition, as so many others seem to experience, here.

    It took a couple of hours and is by no means a perfect representation of
    the original - or excellent code, for that matter - but I'd bet a dime
    that this would download faster ;-)

    Have some fun,
    El
    Attached Files Attached Files
    F-Fox 2.0 :: WIN :: el design :: US

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    Ha! Ha! Trying to negotiate the bumper thrown at vinnie? that's OK ! it only shows you are no chicken, hopefully a good sport. This one is a Beamer. Hypertext is the language. how you mark it up and lay it out determine it's DTD and validity as an HTML document.

    Whats your take on that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by The Doc
    Ha! Ha! Trying to negotiate the bumper thrown at vinnie? that's OK ! it only shows you are no chicken, hopefully a good sport. This one is a Beamer. Hypertext is the language. how you mark it up and lay it out determine it's DTD and validity as an HTML document.

    Whats your take on that?
    I don't know what your point is, really. The language is "HyperText Markup Language", or HTML for short. The syntax rules are defined by SGML, since HTML is an application of SGML. HTML doesn't define presentation very well, because that's not what it was designed to do. HTML was designed to attach semantics to documents, and allow hyperlinks between them. Validation is a different issue I believe, because documents can pass DTD validation without actually being conformant (or even valid).
    Simon Pieters

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    It's normal for people to react in an unpredictable manner to things they see and hear for the first time. The real intent here is to open dialog on the issue or issues and respectfully agree to disagree. Hypertext is computer language. the rest is left to your interpretation, imagination or disposition.

    If i am not mistaken, i think Html was design to aid scientist in tabulating and exchanging research data that can be read by computers in a relatively efficient and structured manner on networks and intranets. Html was not design as a platform for designing and displaying webpages.

    Although it has become the preferred publishing methods by web designers and developers, that was not the intended purpose. Only since Browsers manufactures realized html was capable of serving more than scientific purpose, they began messing with html.

    Forums could also be about shearing and learning even new things.
    what's your take on that.

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    Doc, reardless of the initial purpose of HTML, it has evolved greatly over it's lifespan and w3c have supported it's every step.

    Mr Len, while I'm 100% with you in regards to your practices, if you truly know your stuff and believe a few tables were necessary in your case, why are you oh-so bothered by others' opinions? Why bother wasting your valuable time?

    I'm sure you've seen a number of 'CSS- Vs. Tables' arguements, and have noticed that pretty much everyone had their mind made up at their first post.

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    SitePoint Wizard silver trophy someonewhois's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Egor
    Doc, reardless of the initial purpose of HTML, it has evolved greatly over it's lifespan and w3c have supported it's every step.
    Yeah, things start off in all sorts of weird ways. SMTP (or was it POP3?) started off as like 6 guys to send messages to each other, and now millions of people use it (and that's causing immense problems with spam and all).

    Quote Originally Posted by Egor
    Mr Len, while I'm 100% with you in regards to your practices, if you truly know your stuff and believe a few tables were necessary in your case, why are you oh-so bothered by others' opinions? Why bother wasting your valuable time?
    The only "necessary" use of tables is tabular data. It's also the only proper use of it. Other than that and you're just misusing them by hacking them into place the way you want.

  18. #18
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    We miss you, Dan Schulz.
    Learn CSS. | X/HTML Validator | CSS validator
    Dynamic Site Solutions
    Code for Firefox, Chrome, Safari, & Opera, then add fixes for IE, not vice versa.

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    SitePoint Wizard mPeror's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Doc
    Mperor, you only escape the bumper because your document is valid, even thoug it more seem like a blog than a website.
    So it's either a blog or a website? well , the second post in my site has a big bold subject saying "This isn't a blog". The main page is just for updates , so i guess it's a "website".

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    personally i thought Html and tables were ideal for building websites and never thought the combination would become the whipping boy it seem to be right now.

    If one recognize the W3c and WDG as the authority in setting the guidelines and making recommendations for web developers to follow, i don't see the point in going in a different direction.

    If we are going to adhere to the rules and recommendations, then we should start using Xhtml with CSS and avoid using table as much as possible.

    In Mrlen's case. I gave my honest opinion on the looks of his template and also gave him his props for writing a valid document. However, It does not mean i condone his method of achieving what i think is a nice looking template. All of that can be achieved with allot less markup using Css.

    I think Mrlen will understand the point you guys are trying to make to him only when he begin to practice and experiment some more with Css to build table less pages sites and templates.

    Look guys, all this new Xml Xhtml CSS and no tables, scare the hex out of allot of webmasters that have become dependent on their simple Html and tables, so i think we should at least help them to build up their courage for handling all this new stuff. Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Give your thoughts.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by The Doc
    Look guys, all this new Xml Xhtml CSS and no tables, scare the hex out of allot of webmasters that have become dependent on their simple Html and tables, so i think we should at least help them to build up their courage for handling all this new stuff. Ha! Ha! Ha!

    Give your thoughts.
    What's truely scarey is the pace with which corporate buyers (people who don't code) have started insisting on tableless/css/xhtml. I think some of them are taking section 508 and using it as an excuse to talk in new sophisticated terminologies... and to give them a little edge over their antiquated bosses and competitors.

    It's great being able to meet their expectations even if they don't understand what they're getting , but, anyone who isn't doing tableless probably should try and start before tables go totally out with last years summer cloths.


    working hard is hard work

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    Whether you choose to use XHTML or HTML is another matter.

    Except for a few small differences that relate to the differences between HTML and XHTML, CSS works the same in both.
    We miss you, Dan Schulz.
    Learn CSS. | X/HTML Validator | CSS validator
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    ~unplugged Ainslie X11's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MrLeN
    So, this time. I have explained myself. Hopefully you will reconsider your reply and just tell me whether you like the site or not - as a general viewer.
    As a general viewer. I think you've used a big loud chunky design that's easy to template. It's dark, the buttons aren't fun, and the colors don't blend well.

    I'm currently working on core modules for a tableless Limbo, and the theme changes happen in the admin panel by simply selecting the theme wanted and then clicking the publish button - are you still fronting $500 for yours to be redone properly ? If you wanna hold that thought I should be able to find a spare hour later next week, unless someone beats me to it :-)


    working hard is hard work

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    Hey Mr. Len,

    Are you still giving away $500 for creating that layout without using tables? I make a respectable amount hourly for my time, but I've never been paid $250/hr. for a job yet

    Let me know bro!
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  25. #25
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    LJK, That layout is shocking. I could make a better div layout with my eyes closed. Also, why am I taking this issue so personally? Well, I'm not really. I just want to be able to get some comments from people, without them jumping on the fact that my template has tables. So, I've posted this at every webmaster forum I'm a member of. The next time I ask for comments and someone pipes up about the tables, I can just send them here and tell'em I don't want to know about or discuss the issue.

    zcprpan, I don't understand your point. The template is not written in HTML. It's written in XHTML and fully controlled with CSS. However, it does comprise of a few tables., for better functionality. And I'm going to prove why soon too. As soon as I get the time to complete the functionality version, of "why" the template needed to be made that way.

    Ainslie, I am not building templates for customers. I am building them in a fashion that makes things easier on myself. Therefore, if XHTML/CSS templates "go out with last summers clothes", I'll keep using them, providing they are what work best.

    the_pm, yes the $500 offer is still up. However, you should read the offer again. I am not offering it just for a tableless version of the template. I can quite easily do that myself, and probably better than most people posting here. And a hell of a lot better than the shocker LJK presented, which nearly made me fall off my chair.

    It amazes me how many people loosely call a css/div template a "css template". The template above "is" a CSS template. Except, for practical reasons I have used a combination of tables and div's.

    I am convinced of one thing. There aren't many people that actually know what they're talking about. And I don't really care if people agree with me or not. I just want to get this out so that next time someone starts on me when they see <table.. in my template, I can just say "speak to the hand" and send them to this thread

    What a lot of people don't realise is that it is actually extremely simple to make a CSS/DIV template. There's absolutely nothing hard about that whatsoever. However, when you want to start pulling out left or right menu area's, or getting the pages to wrap to the browser (height and width) and start including extra columns etc over multiple pages and site sections, you'll find that the template will almost always have a coronary.

    If you want to build a 3 page website or a blog. Fine, use DIV's only. But if you're building a template that can be 770px wide, or 100% wide, while 100% high, or so that you can change the width of the left and right menu's just by modifying the CSS, or of you want those combinations with or without a left menu, or with a left and not a right or vice versa, all just by adjusting the CSS, then you've got no chance whatsoever.

    On a last note:

    "I think Mrlen will understand the point you guys are trying to make to him only when he begin to practice and experiment some more with Css to build table less pages sites and templates."

    My middle name is DIV and I can make a DIV layout better than the whole lot of you. I have made heaps of them before. Really nice ones too. Even DIV templates that look like the one I have made this post about. They worked fine too, until I wanted to start adding extra layout functionality.

    MrLeN

    P.S. Oh, I just want to point out also, that this code I have written will soon be used on all of my websites (over a dozen). To make things quicker, I don't want to have to re-write code over and over again. I'd rather just build my content. Therefore, this code can be used to form into absolutely any arrangement. You can remove any part of the template simply by using display: none, and the template will still render perfectly in all browsers. I can completely change the look of the template, merely by modifying the css.

    So now, I can build dozens of websites, with thousands of pages, with any look and feel I can think of and I never have to look at the template again. So all those people who want to tell me that "HTML" (which I am not even using) isn't meant for layout, go tell someone who doesn't know. This template is a perfect example of that.


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