Tableless Web Design

Tuesday, 22 September 2015

by Silumesii Maboshe

A few years into the new millenium a dear friend introduced me to the work of Jeffrey Zeldman. I was starting to take website development seriously and the introduction could not have come at a better time. I was hungry and foolish–a developer in need of form and structure. In an era when web development was an undefined, fuzzy cloud, Zeldman and the community around him were pushing for something called “web standards”.

Reading and reflecting on the ideas of the early web standards movement was a satisfying period of my life. I was constantly learning, constantly experimenting, falling down, getting up, trying again and slowly becoming a better developer. Sweet, sweet progress!

A big part of web standards was the idea of semantic markup for HTML. The most tell-tale sign that you were not using semantic markup and web standards was using HTML tables for layout. I made a habit of viewing the source of my favourite websites to see whether or not they were up to scratch (and laugh at the ones that were not).

Fast-forward a decade (more or less) to September 2015. I’m sitting at my laptop looking at a few Zambian websites and curiously, out of habit perhaps, view source and notice … tables used for layout! Have a look at the source for The Post Newspaper and the new Manda Hill Mall website to see what I’m talking about.

My initial feeling was exasperation. Shouldn’t this practice have died 10 years ago? Soon after, I felt resignation and perhaps a little acceptance. The web is an open platform. Anyone is allowed to build what they want the way they want to. Nevertheless, here are a few resources on tables and layout that kept me from falling off the wagon. Enjoy!