Last night during a long coding-session, I stumbled upon an old site of mine. It was beautiful. Everything looked exactly how it should to be the most usable, useful, beautiful application possible. This was before I got suckered into divs and validation by the standards-gustapo. I was never given a direct or logical answer from the masses as to why I should be using standards-compliant code when the browsers aren’t standards compliant, and a great deal of things can only be done well in a non-standard way, and a great many more will take hours to be standard and mere seconds to just work. “But everyone is doing it!” I figured that this meant that maybe the people I talked to just didn’t have the low-down, but that there really were advantages and maybe some sort of advantage would come out of all of this wasted time making sure I complied to standards and used the horribly-implemented DIVs with as-poorly-observed CSS instead of the beloved tables of old.
It’s been over a year now, and I still haven’t once said to myself “wow, I’m really glad I made that site valid” for any of my projects. Then it occured to me… there is no payoff coming! Making your code standards-compliant and crossbrowser now isn’t going to help you port to new browsers (since every page out there that is cross-browser now would have to be re-written for a browser that actually works how it is supposed to). This is just the typical human response of trying to create conformity. This isn’t helping fix the problems with browsers, it’s just giving coders another thing to waste their time on. That beautiful page of mine from before used tables anywhere that made sense given what tables do. Now this may not be “semantically optimal”… but divs just don’t work like they’re supposed to. I’ve been using them for a LONG time now and have gotten to know them quite well inside and out. The truth is, their behavior is just so wildly implemented that the same code will do drastically different things in many browsers. ‘Table’ is not the right word for the content many times, but they are a lot closer to working than divs are. Divs just DO NOT FAIL GRACEFULLY which is a major flaw in any programming system. And I’m not just talking about the borders/floating/wrapping issues that we are all familiar with… divs will make your browser act like a jittery crack-addict.
As an example, I’ll mention two bugs off the top of my head (that will probably get their own articles later): the FireFox heuristic machine and the IE ghost-footer.
- In FireFox (yes even 220.127.116.11, etc.), I have a fully valid page on Projectories with a two-columned UL (they wrap automatically… according to standards anyway) and sometimes it will render with randomly-different wrapping. You heard me right… the EXACT SAME HTML will randomly render different ways. So this two-column list will have maybe one item in the first row, 2 in the second, 2 in the third, 1 in the fourth, etc.. There is no reasoning with FireFox on this matter. Another coder and I have revisited this bug many times and have been unable to convince Fox to listen. Thanks Fox, I didn’t need a “computer” anyway… I probably only needed a heuristic machine anyway. Oh I forgot… FireFox is OpenSource so it’s probably my own fault since I haven’t fixed their bug myself, right? My bad.
- In Internet Explorer, there is a page (on an as-yet-unreleased-site) with a simple footer like you’d see on many pages. The main layout of the page is done with divs in a completely-valid cross-browser way. IE 6 and IE 7 however, there is one of the most insane and unacceptable bugs I have ever seen a browser pull. It seriously writes a random sub-string of the footer…. again. Allow me to clarify: the last item in the footer is “Privacy” and the page will sometimes display an extra “y” on a seperate line (also properly linked as if it was the same link as before) and it will sometimes display “vacy”, or “Privacy”, etc.. Now the most obvious thought when seeing this would be “wow, I must have really messed up outputting that footer”. I check though, then I double checked. I rubbed my eyes and triple-checked. I had my co-worker check it, then we stared confused and checked it again. We looked at the source in 2 different browsers (because possibly the “view source” command could be messed up?) and we could come to only one conclusion. IE was written by handicapable children who don’t speak english and have bad eyesight. The source-code NEVER showed these ghost-messages. The source code is very simple at that footer, so it’s not hard to verify. I know this sounds unbelievable, so this will get its own entry sometime with the server and client code, an example page to reproduce it, and screenshots of what was rendered.
It all just got to be too much. I realized that making some standards-crusaders and maybe Tim Berners Lee (whom I now hate) happy, just is not worth the expense of additional features, portability, and design that I could be giving to my users (whom I love). So that’s it. No more mister nice-tool. I’m gonna go make a table. :-P