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CSS vs Font Tags

Why are so many designers blind to the benefits?

     
8:54 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi everyone,

We've all met the guy wearing the Iron Maiden T-Shirt and the leather jacket in the pub right?

You know the one: Bald patch, about 35yrs, stuck in a 1989 time warp. (incidently the last time he bought a record)

Why are so many web designers reminicent of this real ale drinking billy no mates?

Blind to change - Old School vs New

Personally I can find absolutely no excuse whatsoever for the continued use of the <font> tag. Even version 3 and 4 browsers understand the CSS rules for font declarations so why do the old guard web designers continue to use them?

Is it fear of the unknown or is it something more unstoppably human? Is it actually caused by the same bizzare force that makes people stop buying new music because it's all just noise and hanging out at theme bars/clubs for the 70's/80's?

As we approach the V7 browsers, NN4 gives it's final death rattle and V3 browsers move from legend to myth, what possible reason is there not to embrace a technology that makes everyones lives so much simpler?

Your thoughts both for and against and most importantly the reasoning behind them would be most appreciated.

Disclaimer
I've never been an Iron Maiden fan but I shudder to admit that once saw Def leopard (age 16) and I quite like real ale. Not aimed at any one individual dispite recent off board conversations. It's just a bit of fun! ;-)

Nick

8:55 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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LMAO...yep that old 35-year old! hehe. Toddering with one foot in the grave at that age.

But seriously, from an old man ( and I know anyone over 30 years of age knows nothing) ...

I believe what is happening is that CSS is one more thing to learn. The common herd uses WYSIWYG editors (and often very poorly at that), knows little or no server side scripting, and in reality knows very little about how to really do HTML markup. You cannot expect them to learn how to implement CSS.

[edited by: TheWebographer at 9:01 pm (utc) on May 7, 2003]

8:57 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hey! - I'll be 32 in July buddy! ;)

Nick

9:16 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Simply look at the source of this very page.

I'm sure Brett has his reasons, but that would make him an Iron Maiden fan nonetheless :)

Quite ironic to see the source code of the CSS forum using font tags, although I'm sure it involves a lot of time to convert to CSS from an existing working structure.

On the other hand, there's absolutely no reasons when you do start a new project.

One exception would be reusing badly written modules where business logic is integrated with presentation and you end up with html code all over the place, which make it a pain to convert efficiently.

mavherick

9:26 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Well, I am (was) an Iron Maiden fan - and I first tried to use CSS in 1998 when the latest and greatest browsers of the time began "claiming" CSS support. That experience put me off CSS for many years.

Can you remember what a total mess those first version 4 browsers made of almost everything CSS? I think that many long-time developers may have tried out CSS back then and had a similar experience. Now it's like being asked to re-marry your first wife after a messy divorce.

9:33 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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WYSIWYG

Hey Nick, I think a majority of the problem lies within the WYSIWYG environment. Once you click on that button to make text a different color than black, or to change the size of the font, the ole' <font> tag finds its place in the html. Even the newer WYSIWYG editors still do this.

Unfortunately I think we are going to see the <font> tag for years to come. As WYSIWYG becomes more mainstream, which they do everyday, <font> tags are going to maintain their visibility.

I'd say give it another couple of years before we start to see a real push towards elminating the tag altogether. It will probably take a browser saying that it does not support the <font> tag anymore before any of the programmers of WYSIWYG get the message.

From my perspective, there should be absolutely no presentational markup in the html code.

P.S. Iron Maiden, Zep, Aerosmith. Hey, I grew up in that era and I stopped using <font> tags years ago!

9:37 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Because you just can't reliably do the things with CSS that you can with <font> and <table>. Take a look at all the CSS bugs that IE has, all the things you can't do with it (the '>' child selector, '[]' attribute selectors) unless you add dubious extra divs to your markup. There are also bugs in its CSS positioning that prevent authors from positioning elements with CSS that works cross browser.

The long and the short of it seems to be "because IE sucks" but there is hope!
Standards Case Studies [devedge.netscape.com]

9:37 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>re- marry your first wife after a messy divorce.

heheh, very funny!

>iron maiden
Sorry tedster, nothing personal! hehehe

>1998
Yep, first web page I ever tried to write was with CSS. Flipped over 2 nn4 (had only discovered it that day!) and just cried. - Didn't give up though. I just seriously dumbed down my pretty page ;-)

>WebmasterWorld
[webmasterworld.com...]
Good stuff there from Brett, remember WebmasterWorld is 4yrs old!

Nick

9:39 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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LOL,
Errrrrm.....
At 51, what does that make me¿
Certainly not an Iron Maiden fan, nothing against them though! Certainly a Jimi Hendrix fan....YES!
I do use CSS, (With a little help from my friends [particularly a certain Nick_W])

Going further, I find it hard to believe people using (dare I say it) 'W*rd' to make very simple sites that end up very bloated. I think the comment 'one more thing to learn' possibly sums it up.

I started learning JS and got a little into Flash, thought about perl and then just decided that I probably didn't need that stuff, that is, it was, for me, superfluous (¿) as far as functions in my web designing.

>>>Now it's like being asked to re-marry your first wife after a messy divorce.

Woah now, hang on a minute Tedster, nothing could be that serious (or even the second, come to think about it).... ;+)

10:01 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Even for those of use working with sites that need to support NN4 (we should all go out and have an ale while listening to Iron Maiden), FONT tags can still be nixed. Though I still need to use TABLEs to get the layouts right in NN4, I use CSS for all of the font face, size, style and color. You get some of the advantages of CSS (controlling the look of your site from a central location) while still maintaining compatibility with the older browsers.

[edited by: CritterNYC at 10:54 pm (utc) on May 7, 2003]

10:39 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I just love CSS - change one external file and you can re-vamp the whole look of your page - COOL.

By the way - I am the guy in the bar with the PINK FLOYD t-shirt, baldy patch and leather jacket - still hallucinating from the 70's. But even us "old fogeys" can spot a good thing when we see one!

10:41 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Quite ironic to see the source code of the CSS forum using font tags, although I'm sure it involves a lot of time to convert to CSS from an existing working structure.

True enough, it took me the best part of an afternoon to convert this forum to CSS :)

10:44 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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True enough, it took me the best part of an afternoon to convert this forum to CSS :)

It just took me a whole 2 seconds to strip the page of all presentational markup. Opened the page in my Editor (Brett will probably see the request), applied the remove formatting command and viola, all tags were gone!

10:45 pm on May 7, 2003 (gmt 0)

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As long as font tags remain I beyond caring :P

I tend to make all new sites now with a CSS and if I have any old sites I just renovate them when I get bored and convert them. Takes all of about 2 minutes to convert a site.

4:08 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Iron who? The Grateful Dead was more my speed back in the day. (I'm forty nine - in Internet years that's a hundred and ten.)
IT is a second career for me and I've seen the same attitudes at work on the factory floor and in the corporate office.
People stick with what they know as long as it works and they are being paid to do it the same way they've always done it. Why change if management's happy?
Also, most people do not like to learn new things. Learning something new means that, at the beginning, you are going to be incompetent. This makes most people very uncomfortable. It's like traveling back to being five years old again. It takes a certain kind of personality to see past that feeling and to keep on climbing the learning curve.
You can prove the superiority of the new method and everyone will agree that it IS better. Then, when the meeting's over everyone will go back to doing it the old way.
4:22 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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True enough, it took me the best part of an afternoon to convert this forum to CSS :)

Hey graham, didn't mean for that to sound like it took you too long. What you did and what I did are two totally different things. All I did was strip the formatting. You actually rebuilt the forum pages and applied the css. Sorry about that. After reading my response, I can see maybe a slight misinterpretation. ;)

6:33 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Yeah, graham did a stand up job there.

I still think part of the reason is fear of the unkown and the relative safty of the known. It's amazing what you can convince yourself of if you really try ;-)

Nick

6:38 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Every site I've worked on lately is done in XHTML and uses CSS. There's less code on the page, no clutter above the content and fonts and colors can be changed easily.

Not everyone over 30 is scared to change, they just need a push in the right direction. Sometimes you have to push them with an oil-soaked two-by-four...

6:40 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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>>oil-soaked two-by-four

The writer in you is showing DG! - I've no idea what 'oil soaked' does to a 2x4 but it sounds EVIL ;-)

Nick

6:51 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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An oil soaked two-by-four gets HEAVY. Heavy helps when you have to move something that is dense. ;)
6:59 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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No worries - I was only teasing in the first place.

What I produced was really just a 'proof of concept' - it worked fine on the 3 browsers I had to hand at the time, but not so well on some older browsers. Also I just did the styling directly on the HTML, Brett would actually have to go in and alter his cgi scripts that generatethe pages.

So basically, to do a 'real' conversion would have taken a lot longer. I'm very impressed if ncsuk can do it in two minutes :)

8:58 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Because you just can't reliably do the things with CSS that you can with <font> and <table>. Take a look at all the CSS bugs that IE has, all the things you can't do with it (the '>' child selector, '[]' attribute selectors) unless you add dubious extra divs to your markup. There are also bugs in its CSS positioning that prevent authors from positioning elements with CSS that works cross browser.
Everything passed the first sentence is irrelevent to the context, as we're talking about the use of font tags only. And countless CSS based sites would contest that their stylesheets are just as durable as archaic font tags.
9:16 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Moving a bunch of font tags out of a page takes all of a few seconds and then writing them into a CSS file is not a problem.

If you are going to make tables etc then that can take a little while longer as you may need to make multiple version of CSS files. All in all though its not too hard to do and I personally dont know a great deal about CSS but its easy to work out.

9:28 am on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Probably because the people using font tags - I bet the largest percentage - are not hand-coding their pages or using a progressive, WYSIWYG style sheet friendly editor - and their current editor automatically inserts font tags for them. Not a conscious decision on their part, they're just going with the flow and churning out WYSIWYG pages without giving the matter any consideration. Essentially, they've made the choice to use font tags without really choosing anything.

It isn't like the majority of their clients are going to protest, right?

Jeez - if they were hand-coding they'd have carpal tunnel for sure from all the unnecessary font tag keystrokes ;) They'd likely be the first to convert!

12:31 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Idiot girl...once you learn server side scripting you actually hand code once, use thousands of times. Learning to hand code and program a little saves you time and keystrokes in the long run.

But if you are going to hand code every page on a hundred page website - or even use a WYSIWYG editor... You would be better off learning how to program.

7:56 pm on May 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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And I'm 65!

But I still love the power of CSS for font specifications, and for border controls and colors.

I still use TABLE though, it's easy and I get what I want.

One issue for me - I tend to ignore non-MSIE browsers... maybe because I don't want to make my life more complicated in "retirement"! :-)

(old guy with red suit and white beard)