View Full Version : css only - yet all big sites use tables?

03-12-2005, 01:11 PM
Before I start may I make one thing clear: this is not flame bait or a troll, but rather a serious point that I am struggling with.

I do all my sites in css. There are no tables in my design anymore and any older sites I have are being changed to be css only (it does take time!). I can see the advantages of css. I can see the disadvantages of tables. Now that I have all that out of the way....

All, and I mean all the worlds most popular sites use tables for their stucture. Go to (Amazon, BBC, Microsoft, Google, etc) the top 5, 10, 20 or 50 sites on the planet and they all use tables.

So why do they do this? Is it simply a matter of not getting round to it yet or do they do it for other reasons. Many of them use excellent css for their code (so they know and use it well) yet their base structure is still tables.

Or is it that because they are so popular, millions upon millions of hits a day, that they need something robust and viewable by all browsers from all over the world?

If someone does have a view on this, please don't point me to a css tutorial or why tables are stupid and people who use them should be hung, etc. I am after a mature discussion about what is, in my opinion, a very intersting point, and not a knee jerk reaction.

Is it linked to the fact that the viewer doesn't care whether a site is built on tables, divs, chairs or chicken wings. As long as it works for them? Again, a serious point. The average user couldn't care less about the site structure.

I will stress again (as someone will miss this point, LOL), I use css and do not use tables in my designs but do wonder why the popular sites still use tables when they have obviously been updated to take full advantage of good css (so are built by talented and capable designers who know and implement the latest css very well).

Perhaps there isn't an answerable question in this post, but it does concern me and I have issues with sites that use tables as it is not the 'best' way of doing it. Yet the sites mentioned above do!

P.S. I have done a search for this but the other threads are full of reactionary posts and links to css sites. But if it is a direct dupe then please point me to it. :)

03-12-2005, 01:36 PM

I have noticed the same thing and wondered as well... sites like ABCNews.com and CNN are another couple of examples.

The only thing I could come up with, for a possible reason, is for easier insertion of dynamic content. But that is just a guess.

It may just be that they are not concerned with the finer points like semantics or "tableless" design.

I'd like to read a good discussion of this myself. :)


03-12-2005, 01:53 PM
I get annoyed by this, too......

Here's a wild stab in the dark why this may be the case:

For some of the BIG sites, you have teams of developers working to maintain them....I would guess that the individual developer's skill sets vary, so some know a lot about CSS and some do not....

This might also be due to a lack of organization, a lack of importance placed on continuing education in the workplace, and a lack of "synchronized standards for coding" in the workplace....Or, just an extreme lack of foresight on part of these organizations...

Still, it may also be that these large company's websites are catering to all browsers and all different versions, so this might make the use of tables more desirable (since some CSS doesn;t work in some browsers)....

Also, I'm sure money has something to do with it, since money makes the world go round....Skilled developers in a struggling economy perhaps cost more money than some large companies are willing to spend....Or they think that they can eke by just as well with developers that use tables and are paid less....

could be a zillion things, I think....

03-12-2005, 02:11 PM
Phew, didn't get a flame response!

I'm not sure it is lack or foresight particularly or lack of developer skills exactly. Although the organisation of those skills maybe a factor. I say this because some of the sites use damned good css! I use firefox and have the developers toolbar installed so I just click and view the css in a new tab (makes it easy) and some of it is really impressive.

I do think it could come down to catering for 'all' browsers and 'all' viewers. We all know how difficult it is to get a css design to work properly in all browsers (not saying that is bad thing) but for a truly global audience it does show that perhaps (and I stress perhaps) tables are still needed for the skeleton of the design?

I don't know.

But I honestly find it a concern that I spend so much time using css only (and I'm not going to go back to tables) and know for a fact that some browsers cannot see it as intended when the truly global, truly succesful sities do not use it for their skeleton structure....

I wonder what other people think?

03-12-2005, 02:13 PM
They do this because tableless designs do not work in browsers below IE5.

IE4 has no concept whatsoever of the "float" property. Using tables increases browser compatibility.

Tabled designs ensure all users can see the site. Tableless designs simply don't catering only for modern users... chances are it'll get worse when XHTML 2.0 is released and a lot of new tags are introduced which IE 5 won't support.

Then large corporations (which pretty much all use IE 5.5) will not be able to use "modern sites" unless upgrading. That would cost millions which I doubt they will do.

W3C are trying to move the web forward but the move forward is just deserting "older" users.

Tableless designs are being pushed forward but at a cost.

03-12-2005, 03:51 PM
Look at www.bbc.co.uk and www.microsoft.com. Each website have over 2 million pages available. I don't know what, if at all, CMS they use, but it would take a long time and would be very costly to update all the pages with XHTML/CSS standards.

Another problem is the accesibility issues as evo just said:p


03-12-2005, 05:55 PM

Well, if you think about it logically, why would they upgrade to a tabless design? They're making lots of money, and better yet, their sites look perfect, and NO one has a problem when trying to view the sites. So upgrading to a tabless design would be like playing with fire for them. They have things to loose, but they have nothing to gain by doing it. I'm sure they'll use a tabless design in the future, but now, I cannot see many advantages for them to upgrade.

Just a thought,

03-12-2005, 08:16 PM
Maybe in the future, but they still have very large websites in page numbers etc and css isn't displayed properly by older browsers. In the future however, I can see more and more people using more advanced and non-obselete browsers like IE etc. Accessibility is a priority on their list.