A painfully accurate parable, about the use of HTML TABLES (the Bulldozer) versus Cascading Style Sheets - CSS (the Bamboo Rake) to structure web pages.
[The Parable] Let’s say, a house has burnt down the day before the inaugural parade, right besides the grandstand where all the speeches will be made, and you have been grabbed on your way back to the office after lunch, to clear the rubble and level the lot, and spread some clean sand, because the operator of the bulldozer has stumbled and broken a leg in the rubble. The bulldozer is a D12, the biggest there is, with a 15 foot blade, and capable of clearing the lot in 5 passes - in about an hour. And spreading the sand should take no more than another hour. The bulldozer is as easy to operate as a farm tractor, which any 6 year-old can drive, after having been shown once. And to finish the job and make everything look good, you’re also given a bamboo lawn rake, for raking simple Japanese Garden style patterns into the sand, which will take about an hour, at the most. The whole thing can be done in 3 hours, max.
You’re just about to climb onto the bulldozer when the Semantics police shows up and says - “No, no, you cannot do this. The bulldozer cannot be used to clear the rubble; it can only be used to doze bulls.” You ask, “why, for heavens sake?” and the Semantics police says, “it says so right in the name; it is a BULLDOZER man; get a grip! It could not be any clearer, Bulldozers are made only for dozing bulls, and this D 12 Bulldozer is made for dozing 12 bulls”. And you look around and say “ok, I guess I can go home now because there isn’t any bamboo to rake here”. But the Semantics police says - “No, No, No; not in this case. You must use the BAMBOO RAKE to clear the rubble and level the lot, and then spread and rake the sand”. And you say, looking at the mountain of rubble and the bamboo lawn rake - “but it says BAMBOO RAKE, and there is lots of rubble and no bamboo anywhere around here”. And the Semantics police say, “never mind that, this is a very elegant way of clearing the rubble and leveling the lot. Get a grip man, and get on it!” And you say, “but this will take forever; I’ll still be here next year!” And the Semantics Police say, “so you better get on it, so you won’t still be here in 3 years.” [End of Parable].
This is exactly and precisely the current situation in the production of web sites. It could not get any weirder; an actual, real world Alice in Wonderland situation. While the Semantics Police insist that HTML TABLES can only be used for ‘tabular data’, they have no such reservation about using STYLE SHEETS to generate structure. Talk about a double standard.
Worse, two basic elements in TABLES are “CELLSPACING” and “CELLPADDING”, by which the space between TABLE CELLS and the width of the inner margin around the perimeter of each “CELL” can be specified. And CELLS can contain anything and everything under the sun. Cell phone cells, for instance, typically contain an areas of about .5 to 2 square miles in urban areas, and as much as 50 sq. miles in the country, with commercial and residential highrises, houses, apartments, condominiums, roads, lanes, bridges, stores, shops, hordes of sparrows, pigeons and people, countless pets and innumerable pests, in short, everything under the sun, including endless acres of kitchen sinks - and at least in many cases, web site development offices. Any web site development office with a cell phone is in such a cell. Biological cells contain the machinery of Life, and in aggregates, make up all living things on this Earth, from amoeba to our selves. Storm cells contain vast areas of storms, terrorist cells typically contain any number of terrorists, prison cell contain one or more prisoners, and rubber lined cells contain mentally challenged people who are prone to beat their heads against the wall.
The simple fact is that structuring web pages with CSS is a colossal waste of time; the basic web page 3-column layout with a header, footer and fluid center is a pleasant 15 minute breeze in TABLES which works in all browsers ever made - and a painfully agonizing 5 hour toil in CSS, which has to be tweaked endlessly to work in all major browsers - and falls apart at the slightest change.
And if you want to do a recurrent 72 column 10 row layout with full width headers for each section, for your collection of football trading cards, let’s say, it’s as easy as COLSPAN=“72” and ten times 72 TD’s one TR in TABLES.
The bottom line: TABLES are a brilliantly simple, endlessly variable, rock solid and supremely effective way of structuring web pages, and is well within the capacity of the average 10-year old, and his or her grandma. And while CSS is a powerful and supremely effective means of styling web pages; it’s a colossal time wasting joke for structuring web pages.
I for one won’t waste my time, nor my customers time.