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Mourning The Demise Of The HTML Table

Alas poor table, you appear to have had your day. You will be missed by me at least.

I remember when the HTML table was one of the core aspects of web design. The table was the way you could layout a page without resorting to the dreaded frames style of design. Nowadays though, frames are thankfully almost extinct, tables are getting bad press and everyone’s out there looking for table-less designs.

Why?

The idea is that instead of laying out each page of your site individually, you lay it out using a single stylesheet. If you want to change an element of the design across the site, you change it once in the stylesheet and it is instantly changed across the site. Not having extra code on every page to layout the tables claims to reduce load on the servers.
It’s all very laudable, but should Mr & Mrs Macgregor with their Bed and Breakfast website really worry about having a costly redesign done to reduce load on servers and make site-wide design tweaks instantly. er, no…

Table-less CSS design does have it’s place, but it’s place is on sites where server loads really matter. A site with just a couple of thousand visitors a month shouldn’t be concerning itself with such issues. Smaller sites are probably built in Dreamweaver or Frontpage and site-wide page alterations can be done almost instantly anyway. It might save web designers a bit of time, but because table-less css is a buzzword just now, those same designers are likely to charge you more for it than if they had built the same site in tables anyway.

Is there any SEO advantage to doing away with tables? Possibly, but only for those sites who can’t do anything else to improve themselves. The idea being less code, more content somehow makes the content appear less diluted. There is also some mileage in the notion of being able to layout a page so that the important content is closer to the top (above the fold). In reality though most sites need to look at their content for SEO improvements, not their design.

I suspect tables will live on in the underground, home-made website circles. I just hope that people who don’t really need table-less CSS aren’t railroaded into spending large amounts of money on redesigns.
The table is dead, long live the table.

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