Standard Tricks

There’s an article from A List Apart titled “From table hacks to CSS layout: A web designer’s journey”. This article from 2001 is an interesting read, believe it or not, and it doesn’t sound all that different from the challenges of web design in 2012. Odd considering it’s been 11 years, which is like 5,000,011 in technology years.

Of course, there are a few things that make this article a bit dated — Jeffrey Zeldman talks about IE4/5, Netscape 6, and Opera 5 being the browsers “on the market now”. He mentions the “future” regarding CSS and web standards, a laments the issues between coding for Mac or IE.

But still relevant more than a decade later are his main points about separating style and content, and the need for following standards and using cascading style sheets effectively to do so. Many of his coding issues are still issues today. Using CSS to create websites that can be viewed equally on even more platforms than 2001 is a point being repeated over and over again for our web design and digital imagery courses. Coding still looks like the same coding — that hasn’t changed and isn’t going anywhere real soon.

So what does it mean that a web design student in 2012 can take away valuable information from an article posted in 2001? Does it mean that web evolution is that slow? Absolutely not. It means that you must crawl before you walk and walk before you run — the fundamental foundations are strong, relevant and still holding everything up. (Thank goodness.) Standards (W3C was even mentioned in the article) are standards for a reason. As we begin our own journey into web design, we are learning “old school” coding in HTML before we move on to CSS. Why? Well, because that’s where it started, it still works now, and it is the basis for everything we’ll learn from here on out. Separating style and content has given designers freedom from tables and allowed greater accessibility for users. Zeldman was right when he said, “Because very, very soon the whole web will work this way. And you’ll want to be part of it – because ultimately it is a better, less-frustrating, more powerful way to build websites. Of course, if you choose not to learn about CSS and other web standards, MacDonald’s restaurants are said to have an excellent management training program.”

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