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The inspiration behind this post was a blog post by Stefan Mischook of killersites.com. Stefan has been a great source of business inspiration for many when it comes to developing commercially. The blog post in question can be found on Stefans blog, found here.
Up until fairly recently one could lay their page out using HTML tables, and providing CSS was being used amply, nothing more would be said. However today is a different story. These days, any serious web developer would have asked themselves if using DIV's to layout the elements of a page rather than tables is worth doing.
A little background on HTML Tables
HTML tables were never intended to entirely control a web page's layout however tables rapidly become the choice due to their ease to implament. I still today have not found an editor such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage that offers as much functionality on a plate for DIV's as they do tables and this could well explain how tables dominated view code for so long.
What are HTML Tables to be used for?
The intention, as I see it, is that tables were used to display 'table data'. So league tables, various other kinds of data - tables, regardless as to if they are on the web or out in the real world, have always been used to display data in rows and columns.
What's so good about a DIV?
It is said that search bots can crawl a page much more efficiently using if that page is coded using a DIV layout over a tabled layout. I'm yet to see certified proof that this statement is correct althought I'm in no disbelief that DIV layouts have many other advantages.
Advantages to a DIV'd layout over a TABLE'd layout as I see it ...
- Freedom - Use DIV's and valid CSS to layout your page and you will find much more freedom in terms of positioning of elements and data.
- Rendering Speed - I have seen a few comparisons done from browser to browser recently on how fast a page loads, it seems they are all gearing up on DIV's and how quickly they can load them.
- AJAX - AJAX can easily update table data however when it comes to elements, using DIV's usually means less view code.
- No Flaming - you don't get flamed on forums when you post links to your work.
Now I'm sure there are heaps more however the first three I listed there I believe to be the most beneficial. The last one does not bother me. Though it does bother me that manors seem to be decreasing as DIV layout popularity increases.
Should I Use DIV's Now Then?
It seems unquestionable that DIV layouts are the future, and where feasable I will personally use DIV's to layout my pages rather than Tables however the choice is totally at the developers discretion. If you are happy developing your pages using table layouts and your clients has not specified a DIV layout then do it! Just make sure that either way your XHTML and CSS validates to W3C standards, if it does - sophisticated search bots such as Google's will have no problem crawling your site.
No doubt this post will raise some grumbles from new-starters through to experienced life-long developers. Although I'm not pro HTML Tables for page layouts going forward I'am pro choice - developers should stick together and learn from one another, not flame and hassle each other for our preferred practices.