Domainating: Brands, Art & Content

artist/illustrator/designer/webmaster/copywriter/videographer/optimizer/promoter/ad-man

Web Design: CSS or Tables Based Layouts?

I’m going to be the odd man out, here.  Most professional web designers can’t stand tables based lay-out techniques and will knock them down with extreme prejudice and fierce abandon.  But if you truly look at the real issue, that at this time and place it really doesn’t seem to matter to anyone but us professional web designers, you might want to re-examine the issue.  There are, after all, exceptions to every rule.

I started in this business as a web designer.  I suppose the only one phrase that describes me now is entrepreneur (and I can’t even spell it without checking an online dictionary).  I now wear so many hats that I realize the differences between extremely closely related positions will vary only on our perception.  In fact that the very same job can be defined in different ways, both advantageously, and hypocritically.

As web designers and developers we look to produce visually stunning websites.  Our approach will vary widely.  Some will approach the problem using color and styled text.  Some may use textures or images to define a look.  Others will use Flash to communicate their message.  Even others will incorporate video, possibly even HD quality produced video shorts or effects.

There is no right answer to this design issue, here.  Each method of approaching the problem can produce great results.  Each method comes with its own burden to accomodate.  For instance, minimalistic text based sites with very little imagery usually do not look spectacular unless they are well styled with CSS.  But just because someone used CSS to style text does not mean the author used a tableless design structured with CSS.

But the end product of our work is not hidden at all, because aside from other design elements (such as text, images, Flash, video and (text/image/flash/video) menus), we are simply presenting content.

All it takes is to glance at the code and the date it was created to understand whether a site is professionally designed, or not.  By that, I mean whether or not the code uses tables for layout, or CSS.

I have not mastered CSS although I like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at it.  Hopefully I will continue to get better.  I know I look like a guru to the average web surfer, but I am learning from much smarter people (and they know who they are).  😉

But just because someone needs to create, design and develop a website does not mean they need to use professional design methods.  I do ever so strongly and emphatically encourage using CSS for website design structure, though.

Although I am still not seeing any benefits in my websites which are CSS based over my table based websites in the search engines, I am sure that this will turn around soon.  In fact, I think that any website that is using table based website design will be put into a non-professional, not serious about marketing their message and not serious about their brand presentation category.

That hasn’t happened yet, and I actually fear that the delay in this happening is now long, long overdue.  Ever since IE7 was introduced, IE has been capable of supporting CSS with a few tweaks.

However, not every design requires a professional touch.  Not every website needs a good composition, or even a design theme.

As an example, let’s say I have 500 domain names.  Some are generic names and some are brand names.  I’d like to develop all of them because brand domain names that sit on a parking service receive no clicks, and therefore no PPC revenue and I at least need them to pay for their own registration.  My keyword names might see some clicks, so I am particularly interested in getting the brands going with websites and traffic.

I have some choices, but for examples I will simplify… I can put up a website a day using tables, or I can take a bit of time and do it right and put up a website every two weeks, or possibly something really nice once a month.  So, in the end the decision is simple, will I chose quantity over quality, or vice-versa?

Quite honestly, sometimes the content develops itself before the presentation presents itself.

While I now always use CSS and have fun experimenting with how I might push it (but it never seems to work for me because I expect more than it can deliver), I do understand why some domainers put up a minisite (or two) every day using templates, tables and/or wysiwyg editors.  So because of my position as a domainer, I understand why others do what they do.  But it is my roots as a web designer that I still try to maintain some intellect concerning my website designs, even the ones that are not pretty (and I have quite a few).  At least the underlying code is pretty.  And that is the structure of the website that can easily be styled later.  So I do not fret.

Now, suppose you are not highly educated and fell into the position as a webmaster because you are known to surf the web and download files and fixed someone’s email one time.  You aren’t getting paid for a professional level of work,  and your cheap micro-managing stingy employer who has not one clue is not about to give you a raise or compensate you for HTML classes.  Buying a $50.00 book on HTML & CSS web design might not even seem like a good idea for you because you think you can accomplish everything with a wysiwyg editor.  And really, you only want to keep this job because you don’t want to have to look for another one.  Maybe when the economy turns around, you will.  And they are clueless as to what professional web design is, anyway.  You bet I can understand this type of situation with employers who do not get it.  I have been there, but I just plain know better because I do take pride in my work.

I have spent thousands of dollars on software when working in a $10,000.00/year job, because the employer wouldn’t.  I didn’t buy the software for him/her, I bought it for myself at home.  Then I recommended they buy it only to realize that they would also need to upgrade their computer, as well.  So there are plenty of small businesses using wysiwyg editors or template based design studios simply because they refuse to enter the 21st century and upgrade their equipment every few years.

It is my position that such instances of table based layouts that any search engine runs into absolutely needs to start lowering the rank of such poorly designed web presences.

The trouble is, there may be instances in where an informational website uses a table to display information correctly and appropriately.  And that is the problem, I think, the search engines have not studied how to separate the table layout design from the table layout function.

But, it is still wrong to use tables based layouts unless your informational web site/page requires such a tabled relationship in order to display information.

Let’s face it, most designs will not look like:

<html>
<head>
</head>
<body>
<table>
 <tr>
 <td colspan="2"><img src="/logo.gif" /><h1>Heading</h1></td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
 <td>Menu Links</td>
 <td><p>Content here and lots of it.</p></td>
 </tr>
 <tr>
 <td colspan="2"><p>Footer Info</p></td>
 </tr>
</table>
<p align="center">Copyright Info</p>
</body>
</html>

This code looks too easy for any thing (bot or algorithm) to recognize, so I do feel that the search engines are failing professional designers.  And I cannot understand why.

Is it in fact that the search engines suck so badly by not prioritizing effective professional design principles and ignoring the “love, care and pride” that goes into a standards compatible website that has actually screwed-up our economy? By allowing substandard design to go completely unnoticed and professionally designed cross-browser compatible superior website design coded with love, care and affection for the visual arts to be completely unrecognized and the achievement ignored?

Clearly, this is where the search engines can and should make a difference.  Most tables based websites are crap or spam.

I know the search engine cannot understand visual impact, stunning graphics, effective presentation or even creative branding.  And yet, by simple logic I know that they can easily understand code and code patterns to reveal the fact that some websites are simply better put together than others.

Right now, it just doesn’t matter how you design a website unless you take any sort of pride in your work.  But it better, and soon.  Because there really ought to be a huge penalty for neglecting simple web design principles.  And for the search engines to deny our professionalism to our work is for them to disregard their own lack of professionalism.  They are simply producing web spam themselves by ignoring these problems and featuring ugly, poorly coded crap sites over clean coded masterpeices.

So I wonder, has Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft (Bing) let us down?  I think they have, immensely.  They simply are not acting like web professionals themselves because they are not recognizing good technique.

The whole point is, it should matter.  CSS structured websites are far superior to tables based websites.  CSS uses less resources and memory, loads quicker, and is more efficient in both user-end functionality as well as design management for the coder.  It truly is a sin to use tables based websites in a professional environment.

Heck, tables based websites are also good indicators of web spam.  That’s all there is to it.

Use CSS structured layout designs, folks.  If you don’t know how, learn.  Become a professional or die.  And hurry-up Google, Yahoo & MSN, start killing off some of the non-professional designers.  The sooner, the better.

If you think that tables based web design is OK, I have one last argument for you.  Grab a Droid or other Android based phone/pda device and load your tables based websites into it.  More than likley, any tables based website will look like crap. The Android OS and its default browser were developed more recently and do not have the backward compatibility for tables based layout display.  This is actually a plus, as it is disseminating tabular data.  Search engines can actually utilize tabular data more effectively if it treats it as such.  This allows search functionality more sense in the search results if the description can be placed for a product at a specific price.

So using tables is truly improper now that we do not need it for layout.  At one point we did.  That point is long in the past, now.

These same tables based websites actually pretend to look OK on the iPhone MOST of the time, but will also have display issues when loading the presentation some times.  And if you want to be taken as a web design professional, don’t you want to avoid looking like crap, ever?

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November 11, 2009 - Posted by | Brands, Google, Graphic Design, Internet, Search, Web Design & Development, Website Optimization | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. […] twittered this previous post to @mattcutts, who is in charge of Google’s Web Spam Department, twice yesterday and yet […]

    Pingback by The Contradiction of Search and the PPC Advertising Business Model « Domainating: Brands, Art & Content | November 12, 2009 | Reply


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