Tables really are evil

Dave says: Last year on this day I asked if tables are really evil. Now one year later, I long for the simplicity of tables, … If it ain’t broke, dont fix it.
The trouble is, it is broke–it being the late ’90s set of HTML kludges and tricksneeded to get the pre-standards-compliant browsers to display a particular layout. The problems with these methods have been extensively documented elsewhere, but Dave just doesn’t see the brokeness as being what it is. Oh well…
CSS is hard. I went through the learning curve myself, and I’ve shepherded several of my designers and developers throught it as well, and it’s hard. I think the reason CSS is hard is because it’s totally unlike anything that most developers have ever encountered before. It’s not like learning a new programming language once you’ve already got one under your belt. There’s a philosophical hump that you have to get over: totally separating formatting from structure is a fundamentally different way of constructing web pages. But once you’ve gotten over the hump and experienced the benefits of the new approach, you won’t go back to the old way unless you’re forced to.
CSS is not only hard to learn, but it’s far from perfect either. There are numerous browser bugs that have to be worked around, and if you have to support Netscape 4, then you’re going to have some challenges to overcome. And there are certain layout formats which would be trival to construct using tables, but are essentially impossible to build using pure CSS. But even those issues can usually be overcome using a little Javascript if they are important enough.
So even though CSS is hard to learn, and has browser support issues, in my estimation it’s still much better than the old approach. In general, I’m more concerned with forward compatibility than I am with backward compatibility. I’m more concerned that my content will usable on next year’s SmartPhones than I am about IE 3. If I have to learn something new, that’s okay because constant re-education is an integral part of the profession that I chose 28 years ago. The browser problems will fade over time (to be replaced by news ones, no doubt), and the learning curve will flatten out as better books and tutorials are published and the evolution of the development tools continues.
Speaking of development tools, if you’re trying to learn CSS or developing sites using CSS, you really need to be using TopStyle by Bradbury Software. Its the best thing out there right now for editing CSS, and its very reasonably priced.