Be Careful When Preaching Web Standards

Album Cover: No Line On The Horizon

"I'm running down the road like loose electricity while the band in my head plays a striptease."
U2 / Breathe

Posted on September 13, 2004 10:13 PM in Web Design
Warning: This blog entry was written two or more years ago. Therefore, it may contain broken links, out-dated or misleading content, or information that is just plain wrong. Please read on with caution.

As mentioned before, I am a big fan of Doug Bowman's web design work at Stopdesign.

Today, Doug announced that he has introduced a nifty stylesheet switching approach that allows his visitors to tweak Stopdesign to their liking so that everyone can have their way. This is great to see, and is an excellent example of how separating style from structure can provide boundless opportunity in design.

However, while reading through some of the related comments over at his site, I stumbled upon the following:

This is one of the best reasons for standards-based designs. Try doing this with tables and suffer!

Gabriel Mihalache, the commenter in question, is unfortunately very off-base with his comment.

While it is true that those who choose to design with tables go against what is now considered common standards-based design, it is downright incorrect to say that Doug could not have achieved the feat he did had he used a table-based design. Doug's achievement can be attributed solely to the complete (and completely creative) use of style/structure separation. Whether or not his stylesheets and the rules therein apply to divs or tables is completely irrelevant.

One thing we must be careful of when preaching web standards is that we don't end up sounding like all those anti-Microsoft folks out there. Just because a site utilizes tables for its structure does not mean it can't meet all the requirements of a standard and valid web document. Tables are acceptable entities in XHTML and HTML.

Anyone who truly understands the the purpose of web standards and knows the real potential of separating style from content will easily see the weakness(es) in Gabriel's conjecture.

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