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CSS Frustration

© November 2005 Anthony Lawrence

CSS is wonderful, because it allows the true separation of content and presentation. CSS is frustrating because it doesn't.

Take this great writeup on column layout with CSS. Wonderful stuff, and I could make immediate use of it.

If it worked.

In fairness, it should work, and the reason it doesn't work apparently is bad implementation in the Gecko rendering engine. But from my point of view, it really doesn't matter where the fault is; the result is that I can't use it.

This kind of thing happens all the time. Simple stuff, like clearing or not clearing alignment flow works slightly differently on different browsers. Another example is the navigation links at the top of each page here - depending on your browser and its version, they either show drop-down menus when you hover over them or they don't. Why? Faulty CSS implementation.

If you can control your browser environment (as you might in an intranet), you can control CSS. If you can't, you either get extremely complicated pages to "fix" things, or you just put up with the broken stuff. Lousy choices, if you ask me.

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Thu Nov 3 10:37:52 2005: 1273   Michael

It is a minefield. People who spend a significant amount of time doing web development seem to carry around a vast memory-bank of workarounds for things that should be done in more straightforward ways. Anyone else isn't going to want to spend the time and effort on it.

A further problem is that many workarounds seem to involve writing CSS the right way for Mozilla/Safari/Opera and using a CSS hack to feed IE (or some version of it) whatever works. The problem is that when IE is fixed many of these hacks will break, and the IE team are begging people not to use them:


A right mess.

It seems to me that the IE team made the right decision in not implementing the MIME-type application/xml+xhtml for IE 7 - because they simply can't do it cleanly yet. There are good reasons for lenient parsing, but the current behavior of browsers - for HTML as well as CSS - is just too far from the standards. We can do without xml parsing (of XHTML) going the same way as HTML parsing.

Thu Nov 3 13:36:07 2005: 1274   drag

It looks like the bug thats only in the beta version of Firefox. I don't know about that Camino version, but the Firefox 1.5a1 is a beta pre-release product. The final 1.5 isn't going to be around for a while yet.

If that is what is stopping you then don't let it...

Although I don't know what version of the gecko renderer for Firefox 1.0.7 is.

Thu Nov 3 13:46:08 2005: 1275   TonyLawrence

It's not just this. Stuff that works on Firefox doesn't work on IE, or works slightly differently on Safari, etc. It's just not as well implemented as it should be.

I do use CSS, but it is annoying to have to check every browser, redoing things to end up with an acceptable middle ground.

Thu Nov 3 16:41:07 2005: 1277   anonymous

Tony: OT, I know but did you see about the Sony rootkit?


What won't these guys stoop to?

Thu Nov 3 16:50:53 2005: 1278   TonyLawrence

I had not seen that.

All I can do is take a deep breath and say nothing..

Thu Nov 3 20:50:32 2005: 1280   TonyLawrence

Sony is supposedly embarassed: (link)

Tue Nov 8 17:50:10 2005: 1311   Gary

I'm not sure that it's all bad. I think sometimes people try to do too much with CSS. Any design medium has restrictions that a designer must work around, and for the moment we must try to make do with what we have remembering that the Web isn't meant to look exactly the same everywhere. Personally, I find that 99.9 of problems I come across are solved by the Tantek Hack, the dummy inline hack, and using a dummy clearer under floats. OK, the latter isn't idea, but a quick search and replace with BBEdit will simply remove them when the time comes.
btw. Tony, you might want to set your
CSS to float: right :-)

Wed Nov 9 09:46:13 2005: 1318   TonyLawrence

I thought I had tried float:right for comments before and hadn't liked it, but I think you may be right, thanks.

Fri May 1 12:02:23 2009: 6299   TonyLawrence

Now almost four years later: things are a little better. IE, Safari and Firefox can be relied upon to produce reasonable results for most things. Of course too many people still haven't upgraded: 32.4% of visitors here using IE are still at 6.0 or below. However, 59% have moved to 7.0 now and 9% have made the leap to IE8. That's encouraging.


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