Tableless Design Can be a Problem Across Browsers

I think the biggest problem I currently have with tableless design is that it that it can be a problem displaying on different browsers.  Table design has already gone through these growing pains.  I rarely find an issue anymore with a browser or operating system displaying a tabled design inaccurately.  The browser code has been refined over a decade and a half to make rendering HTML pretty consistent.  Tableless design is way behind the curve here.  Browsers rarely render sites exactly the same and tableless design is subject to all the compatibility problems sites used to encounter 10 years ago.

It is common to see rendering mistakes on tableless sites, even ones built by large specialized design firms.  In many cases, it doesn’t bother me. If a picture bumps to the left a few extra pixels, who cares?  The problem is that it can often render so poorly that text gets cut off or overlapped.  That’s a major problem.  That is a problem that can negatively effect the user experience and site conversion. 

Having said all that, designers and developers are getting more savvy at tackling these problems.  The trouble is that it usually requires (what my last post warned of) a stock layout with little variation from other sites or additional coding to render more accurately across platforms and browsers.  Those might not be deal breakers but something to consider.  Extra cose is also a common explanation for increased setup fees.  Usually the problem is that no one can foresee all of these issues.  Even the best designers and developers that test for rendering problems are likely to miss some.  The good news is that the testing can minimize risk of a bad user experience.   The bad news is that some visitors will likely encounter a problem.  I’m not sold that WCC compliance with separate CSS layouts is worth that.  There are few things that compare to a good user experience and site conversion. For me, tableless design is not one of them and often looks like an unnecessary risk.


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  • Some interesting points although I have to disagree…

    The whole point of building sites using CSS is to provide a consistent platform independent user experience. By building sites with CSS and semantic markup (asuming its done properly) you are ensuring site content is available to range of users. Regardless if the user is disabled, using a text only browser, using a phone browser, using tabbed browsing, a google bot, etc. Tables are for tabular data not for website layout. In my opinion tableless design is a neccessity to ensure site content is future proof, the unnecessary risk is using tables for layout and not moving with the times.

  • eMarketing Innovation

    I agree with most of what you are saying. CSS is definately the direction things are flowing especially taking mobile devices into account (which I don’t think I covered in any of these posts).

    I’d want to highlight (assuming it is done properly). Unfortunately that is not always the case. It’s not uncommon to come accross poorly laid out sites (yes, I know my site is due for an overhaul). I have to say I have seen some well coded sites with clean code that still render improperly. That’s really the point, CSS is still working out some layout flaws.

    Thank you for your comments.

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