Why Do Google and Twitter Use Table Layouts?

Any developer who’s been around in the last 5+ years has seen, heard, read, been lectured, probably lectured, etc about why tables are simply not a good idea for page layouts. Yes, I understand the argument about keeping content separate from presentation and I tend to agree with it. That being the case, why are the biggest players out there such as Google, Twitter and Amazon still using table-based layouts?

I’m going to suggest another reason, one not so black hatted. Look to your own server side scripts. How many of you have the html and programming logic (php, perl, asp.net, whatever) completely intermingled? Let’s not even consider the logic/dbms interface. My guess is that Amazon, et al, are in the same boat. It’s not a case of simple html/css rewrites, the mid and back tier logic have to be rewritten too.

Had they managed to separate logic from structure from presentation from the db interface at the beginning, it would be trivial, allowing for scale, to change any one part of the whole without effect on the other parts. As it (presumably) is, nothing can be change without having to change nearly everything else.

It is not a question of supporting legacy client UAs, they have to maintain support for their own legacy back ends.

On a side note; does no one remember all the hoops we had to jump through for cross browser table layouts? Or, just making table layouts work at all? All the hacks? The gawd-awful spacer gif? Please, don’t make me do that again!



The problem with any web site that originated before 2005 is that it would have had to use all sorts of now inappropriate methods to get the pages to display in the browsers way back when they started and cleaning up to use the correct HTML 4 strict code can take a long time (and will probably be spread over many years since fixing it will be low priority).

Sites established since 2005 only have the excuse of having copied someone else’s mess rather than doing it right in the first place.

I’d love to ask this question to the coders of Amazon.com… they obviously pay a lot of attention to usability and graceful degradation. Why is their HTML such a trainwreck? Because I’m assuming they rewrote lots of it as they went from being somewhat inaccessible to what they are now.

An interview for SitePoint??

yeah might be you are right

No. That they don’t care about people or doing the right thing. They only care about money: making as much as possible with as little heavy lifting as possible.

You may not mind trying to navigate a deeply nested table layout with a screen reader, but most users find it very tedious.

Tommy, you’ve hit the nail on the head, and not only firms with Web presences. The upshot is, so many of them don’t care about anyone or anything except their money. I’m watching BP trying to profit off of their “spill” in the Gulf and it makes me nauseous. It seems to be an inevitable progression; firms start off user-friendly, committed to being “green,” etc, but as they age, expand, and ossify, they slowly degenerate into being just another callous corporation obsessed with profits above all other concerns.

It kills me that Google’s tres-simple search page has 35 validation errors, many of them the use of obsolete attributes (alink? bgcolor?!?) and even an incorrect charset.

and what does that tell you?

that they don’t care about certain (older or feebler) browsers

Yeah, especially Lynx.

the big guys never hold themselves to the same standards that the little people do (Microsoft for instance). Web standards aren’t created for them and they really don’t give a care as long as they work ok.

There was a survey which stated 95% of the top 100 sites didn’t validate… it shouldn’t be much of a surprise that many of them code poorly. :slight_smile:

probably because table-based layouts work in a predictable, identical way across all browsers

Not true. Early browsers such as the original WWW browser don’t support tables since that tag was not a part of HTML 1. Your suggestion that tables work across all browsers is therefore an exaggeration.

Why do so many people assume that a big company automatically means competent staff? It just means they’re really good at marketing.

Misguided attempts to retain compatibility with Netscape 1.1 and Mosaic? :slight_smile: If anyone from Google, Twitter, or Amazon is floating around these forums, we’d love to hear a rationale.

I love Lynx, may it reign supreme for all eternity - at least it has one up on Internut Exploder, it hasn’t had a bug in years (and yes it’s still being developed)! :slight_smile: