Layers (<DIV>) and browser compatibility

  peabody 13:53 10 Jun 04

We are, I am sure, all acutely aware of the problem of browser (esp. version) compatibility. Dreamweaver offers a wonderfully easy and flexible way to lay out pages using layers. It is possible to overlap layers but it is then not possible to convert the layers to tables (which you can do for non-overlapping layers).

How much do we need to worry about this when publishing web sites these days? I am aware that the older browser versions (3.0 and previous?) will not cater for DIV> tags and so this would cause problems.

How cautious need we be nowadays regarding this issue?

  Taran 14:13 10 Jun 04

Browser compatability is becomeing more of an issue, not less of one. In particluar accessibilty for the various degrees of disabled web users is very much at the fore and most web designers are frantically trying to keep pace with the evolving standards and legalities.

Dreamweaver translates layers into CSS positioning, after a fashion. The touble with that is not all browsers support or can cope with absolute positioning and Dreamweaver does not support all browsers in the code it generates.

If you want relaible tables you should avoid multiple nested tables and use the drawing tools to establish your desired row/column/cell attributes.

On its own a <div> tag is a content block, or a container for content, if you prefer. Overlaps can be desirable in some cases, likle where a portion of a page in a corner is used for some menu links and the rest of the page is for content, but controlling them can rapidly get out of hand.

My own opinion is that browsers are, in general, lousy at dealing with a lot of quite common page elements and prefer to attract users based on bells and whistles functions rather than reliable page rendering.

Version 3 browsers are out of the picture as far as I am concerned. I refuse to design to cater for them since in doing so you sacrifice a huge amount of control over your end product and version 4 browsers have been around for longer than anyone cares to remember. Web stats suggest a very high proprtion of users are on the latest version of IE and certainly the majority are on 5.5 or over.

I think it is far more important to design something that can be easily read by text based browsers and screenreader software than something that a version 3 browser can handle.

My own web stats have not shown a version 3 browser for a long time now, and only a small few version 4 browser hits have appeared this last year or so.

  peabody 16:48 10 Jun 04

When you refer to 'drawing tools' in the context of tables, do you mean the facility within Dreamweaver to allow you to draw table cells (or tables) in Layout mode?

Thanks again.

  Taran 17:23 10 Jun 04

Yes, the drawing tools in Layout mode allow you to draw the table and the cells it contains.

It is actually extremely powerful and you can come up with some very subtle results, without having to nest tables within tables within tables within....

At the end of the day though, I personally prefer to use no tables at all and concentrate on CSS layouts using <div> tags as the containers for the page content.

Doing this takes a bit of getting used to and requires extra care in browser compatability terms, but the results can be incredible and the pages can become seriously fast.

There are pros and cons, but yes, to get back on track, try the drawing tools in Layout view and play around with them. You can get some very pleasing results.

  peabody 17:58 10 Jun 04

Thanks, Taran. I go forth with far more confidence!

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