Going Off the Grid with CSS

CSS (cascading style sheets) make it easier to keep a web site's look consistent, allow easy implementation of important web features that would otherwise require extensive javascript, and even result in more compact HTML. CSS is good. I started using CSS with my web sites a couple of years ago, as soon as I thought CSS was adequately supported by browsers.
    Some commentators advocate CSS for another reason: CSS frees web designers from gridded designs. Before CSS, the argument goes, web designers were forced to design using grids and tables. Now, some commentators claim, CSS allows us to abandon table-based layout and with it gridded design. (A gridded design breaks the page up into boxes and fits text and pictures into the boxes. For examples, see this blog and 99% of all web pages.) Molly Holzschlag's article "Thinking Outside the Grid" is a good example of this argument. Holzschlag isn't an anti-grid extremist. She allows that gridded web designs often work well, but claims CSS creates important new gridless design opportunities. Other go further. The W3C pontificates that layout using tables, and furthermore any attempt at all to actually design the appearance of web pages is an evil corruption of HTML. What an utterly laughable idea.
    Conversely, I wouldn't call myself a pro-grid extremist. I just think gridless designs are like driving at night with the headlights turned off. With practice, pros can do it well with minimal downside. But it's always the hard way, and usually the wrong answer. Whatever, if people want to work off-grid that's fine by me. But I worry that people will get the idea that the only reason we used grids was because we had no alternative. To the contrary, HTML is not very friendly to grid designs. We forced a grid onto HTML by using the only tool we had: tables. Aggressive use of the deprecated <font> tag further reclaimed HTML from the hideous dogma that pages should not be explicitly designed, and CSS is recruited to the same cause. Now W3C wants us to stop putting body text into tables because it's somehow immoral. Sorry, I use gridded designs, implemented with CSS and tables, because that's usually the only solution that is going to work well. As CSS matures and use of older browsers declines, I'll use CSS more. But I won't stop designing gridded designs with tables until I can do what I want better and easier with CSS. W3C apparently wants to persuade us via CSS to abandon design and control of the user experience. Consequently, I'll probably be designing with tables forever.

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