Posted on Sunday, July 18, 2004 11:59, by Teri
After 8 years of design work, I've awoken to the fact only in the past 2 weeks that I have a long way to go on the road to compliant design, or, more appropriately, designing with Cascading Styles rather than burying everything inside tables.
I became acquainted with the very well-known CSS Zen Garden over a year ago. To say I was intrigued, enthralled, enthused and in awe would be putting it lightly. I saw the project as the wave of the future, the best of things to come. But, try as I might, I couldn't get the hang of how that could possibly fit into my design life. So, from a distance, I simply admired the contributions and wondered how some of the fantastic designs could be incorporated into tables. WRONG thought.
Spending many hours reading from the professionals - David Shea, Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman and others - I've finally bitten the bullet and am tackling (and conquering, I might add) the task of going from tables-driven design to pure CSS design. The difficult thing in my battle is determing how to combine my new-found CSS abilities with my long-standing customer base of FrontPage template users. But I am determined that there is a beautiful combination between the two - fully compliant webs and the use of FrontPage as a web publishing program - that can be achieved with the appropriate time, effort and ability to design for and educate FrontPage template users.
So what's the point? What's important about a "compliant" web, and what's wrong with tables and the design we and millions of others have been using for a decade? As I see it, the first and foremost benefit of a compliant web is the "accessibility" issue. This may not mean much to you, BUT, it is such an issue these days that some countries do not even allow non-compliant webs. One website has been sued (and was fined $20,000) for a non-compliant web, simply because the vision-impaired viewer could not easily experience the full content of the web.
So what does accessibility mean?
- Visually impaired readers have access to the content of the site, either by means of text-to-speech (TTS) systems, screen enlargers or a Braille displayer.
- Mobility impaired readers have access to all areas of the site, by ensuring hyperlinks are easy to access, see, and use without some of the additional devices (such as a mouse) commonly relied upon by non-impaired readers.
- Readers with non-graphical browsers are able to view the content of the web, as well as receive a textual content for images which are used but cannot be viewed.
- Readers accessing the site from mobile devices (hand held PDA's, cell phones, etc.) are able to view and easily read the content of the site without having to muddle through design elements placed before content due to table-designed sites.
Other than the obvious benefits of having a compliant, accessible web, there is one not-so-obvious benefit for the web site owner - that benefit is realized in search engine placement, as the content may be placed first on the actual HTML page, regardless of where it appears to the reader due to the positioning used in the style sheet.
I could go on, and I will, on another day. Pure CSS designed sites are not a fantasy, not a passing thing, not a wave of the future. CSS designed, fully compliant sites are essential for today, for now, and of course, for the future. It's time for template designers to find the way to provide ease of use to their customer base using pure CSS, fully compliant design.