April 24, 2003

Web Commandments

I recently happened across a page of Web Commandments on the Brown site; I agree with most of their points. In fact, with all but one I agree 100%. I sent them the following letter:

I really like your guidelines page (commandments.html :), and agree with almost everything you've said. But one comment puzzled me:

Tables are good. Use them to format the page, and use specific dimensions-this will decrease load-time.

They can actually considerably increase load-time, especially when they are used for really fine-grained page layout. On old browsers---netscape 4 and earlier---they could sometimes decrease *render* time, but that's not really true of IE6, Mozilla, OmniWeb, or any of the other modern browsers. And they're really bad for people who try to view the page in a non-standard way, as from a text browser, a voice browser for the blind, or a magnifying browser for the visually impaired; or anything else that needs to view content without visual structure. They also can make a page very hard to maintain, especially if the page layout is part of a larger scheme that applies to several pages.

Much better would be to use CSS (and CSS2!) to do the layout commands, leaving just the content and structure in the main html file; it's the best of all worlds, really, letting you have tight control over the look of the thing in a modern browser, but older browsers can at least view it, and nonstandard browsers can too. I noticed that you were aware of the merits of CSS with respect to font specification, so I was surprised to see you advocate tables; I'm writing this letter because you obviously do Care About These Things, so I thought you might have just missed the memo on style sheets for layout. :)

Think that was reasonable? We'll see if they respond.

"This vessel, the accumulated canon of copyright and patent law, was developed to convey forms and methods of expression entirely different from the vaporous cargo it is now being asked to carry. It is leaking as much from within as from without. Legal efforts to keep the old boat floating are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial." --John Perry Barlow Posted by blahedo at 11:08pm on 24 Apr 2003

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