Why CSS On Older Browsers Is Broken

At 03:27 AM 9/29/2000 , Alan J. Flavell wrote:
>On Wed, 27 Sep 2000, Kynn Bartlett wrote:
> > web designers will _not_ accept styled text as a solution because
> > of the following:
> > (1)  CSS is not widely implemented yet and excludes older browsers.
>Excuse me butting in, but this assertion should not be allowed to
>stand unchallenged.  I suspect that you presented this as a parody
>rather than as something that you believe yourself, but, since it is
>such a widespread response, then I respectfully suggest it needs to be
>more overtly challenged.
>The whole point of the stylesheet concept is that it does NOT "exclude
>older browsers".  On the contrary, its proper use ensures access to
>the content by older browsers (minus some details of the presentation,
>of course).

No, it's accurate, and you are not thinking like a graphic

I am troubled by the continued insistence that graphical web
designers' needs are "not really needs" and the callous way in
which we dismiss their concerns.

Is it _any_ surprise that we get back the same attitude when we
talk about accessibility?  Frankly, the WAI folks are _more_
arrogant in dismissing graphical designer needs than graphic
artists ever are in dismissing the needs of people with

Let's look at why older browsers are excluded by CSS.

I'll use my web page as an example.  (http://kynn.com/ for
those who haven't read my .sig.)

Right now it's orange and yellow and all sorta autumny.  I use
tables and I apply styles, colors, and fonts using only CSS.

If you use Internet Explorer 4+, Opera 3.6+, or Netscape
Navigator 4+, you will see a happy autumnal web site, and you
will have access to the content of the site.

If you use an older browser, or one which does not support
CSS (or have CSS turned off), you will see a very plain, default-
colors web site, and you will have access to the content of the

 From an accessibility standpoint, this is GREAT and it is how
things are meant to function.

 From a graphic designer standpoint this is a TERRIBLE TRAGEDY
and demonstrates exactly why CSS is not reliable -- because it
doesn't work in old browsers!  My design, my feel to the site,
the look I was trying for -- it's completely GONE in Netscape

Now, if instead of using CSS, I had used attributes on the 
body tag and the table elements, and maybe some well-chosen
solid-color graphics, I _would_ have the same presentation on
each browser.  I could look at it in Netscape 3, Netscape 4,
Opera 4, and IE 5.5, and it would WORK on all of them!

CSS is provably BROKEN for the needs of the graphic artist.

Remember -- this is an artist who CARES ABOUT BACKWARDS
COMPATIBILITY.  For YEARS we have been trying to impress people
with the need to support older browsers -- and now that our
hypothetical designer is doing that (supporting Netscape 3,
where a pure CSS model would not work), he's told it can't
be used?  Buh?

And this isn't even starting to get into the Netscape 4
implementation.  Look at http://www.hwg.org/ in Netscape 4
and in IE 5.  There are three-D buttons visible in IE, but
they are GONE and the font styling is WRONG in Netscape.

>But some designers express "needs" which are perverse in WWW terms -
>and that cannot be achieved anyway.  But in attempting to achieve the
>unachievable, they can produce some disastrous consequences.

It's perfectly achievable.  Graphic artists have figured out
how to get the effects they want.  You want to replace these
workable solutions with broken solutions which are not
backwards compatible, because you do not see the problem which
is being solved.  The problem facing web designers is not
"making the textual information accessible", it's "making the
page look like what I want it to look like."

It is truly a shame that there are so few graphic artists
involved in these discussions, and it is no surprise that we
continue to make specifications which will not be applied, because
we discount the valid concerns of the people who will have to
apply these standards.


Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                    http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta               http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                      http://www.awarecenter.org/
Accessibility Roundtable Web Broadcast           http://kynn.com/+on24
What's on my bookshelf?                         http://kynn.com/books/

Received on Friday, 29 September 2000 13:22:41 UTC