W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > July 2005

Re: CSS is doomed (10 years per version ?!?)

From: Laurens Holst <lholst@students.cs.uu.nl>
Date: Fri, 01 Jul 2005 16:43:21 +0200
Message-ID: <42C55689.6070707@students.cs.uu.nl>
To: Orion Adrian <orion.adrian@gmail.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org

Orion Adrian wrote:

>I used to teach programming languages and web languages. One thing
>that I noticed time and time again is that new people coming to the
>language had a lot of trouble with layout in CSS. Other properties
>were fairly easy to get, some like text-transform gave them a little
>pause. But by and far the hardest thing was layout.
Layout in CSS is fine. It is under-supported by user agents. Did you 
ever explain layout to your pupils as declaring divs to be table cells 
and rows, with display: table? I’d say that is surely intuitive.

Other parts of layout may be under-developed by CSS, but that can be 
improved, and is being improved. I do not understand where you got the 
notion that it would be better to drop CSS in favour of something 
entirely new.

>CSS layout fails on a lot of core usability grounds. I recognized the
>failure even before I had read the books that described why they were
>CSS layout isn't obvious. They way float is described doesn't lead
>many to the idea that it should be used for multi-column layout.
That is because IT SHOULD NOT. Repeat: floats are NOT for layout.

It’s just that they are currently used so, because absolute positioning 
and display: table is not implemented well by (...drums...) IE.


>Organizing space on a page, which is usually done from an overhead
>view all at once here is done by manipulating a lot of properties
>(margins, padding, etc). These produce complex interactions that are
>hard to predict for someone whose has less than a lot of experience.
I’m sorry to disappoint you, but I find paddings/margins/borders to work 
very comfortably. Even collapsing margins make sense. Box models can be 
argued about.

>One of the major rules of usability is that your product's model
>should match the existing mental model of the person using the
>product. I feel CSS fails on this point.
If a mental model is broken (e.g. the mental model of HTML with TABLE 
and FONT tags), people need to be educated. That is definitely possible, 
and happening right now with CSS. Key words like semantics and 
separation of content from layout get a lot more attention nowadays and 
more and more people learn about them and are convinced about their 

>And I'm here not to promote
>Microsoft, but to promote those values that I feel would make CSS
>better using Microsoft's success as an example of why I feel they
>would be benificial.
>I hope that clears things up.
Not really. I don’t see how you think CSS is insufficient for layout. 
You are reasoning based on what you use for web development now, not on 
what you could use per the CSS specifications.

The only reason why it lacks for layout in practical situations is 
because a web developer cannot use display: table and absolute 
positioning properly, and that is exactly *because* Microsoft failed to 
implement those properly (and let’s not even mention all the other CSS 
that needs MS-specific hacks). So it is really quite skewed that of all 
things, you use Microsoft as a ‘good example’.

Microsoft stopping development on Internet Explorer after getting a 
monopoly position is the SOLE reason for the standstill of CSS. Today, 
we are still limited to using the same CSS as 4 years ago ONLY BECAUSE 
that is what the user agent 80% of the general public uses supports.

Imagine how much more we could do if that hadn’t happened!

And I for one am glad that Microsoft has picked up IE development again, 
and is going to improve their CSS support. I hope they will continue 
after this with an Internet Explorer 8 with even better support for 
current and new CSS technologies, and will become an active innovator in 
the area of standards again, and not go the 
re-invent-wheels-as-proprietary-technologies way.


Ushiko-san! Kimi wa doushite, Ushiko-san!!
Laurens Holst, student, university of Utrecht, the Netherlands.
Website: www.grauw.nl. Backbase employee; www.backbase.com.
Received on Friday, 1 July 2005 14:43:26 UTC

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