Tableless Design: Not ready for prime time!

Here we used to have an article about how hard it was to deisgn an HTML page wihtou tables back in 2003.

Since the web browsers have evolved a lot since then I have removed the examples becaus ethey required custom CSS to be injected in the CMS running this site.

Here are still a few paragraphs from the original article that still make sense:

I will restrict my rendering tests to Internet Explorer 6.0.2800.1106, Netscape Navigator 7.02 and Opera 7.10 (build 2840) on Windows. I think everyone would agree that if something won't work with the latest versions of these three most used browsers, it is definitely not ready for prime time!

With tableless design - i-e with the use of CSS styles instead - you should theorically be able to not only preserve semantic intelligence and accessibility of your document, but you should also be able to improve the "liquid flow" of your design, that is to say, the second picture should go under the first one when the browser width is insuficient.

Well, at least, if it doesn't improve the liquid flow, you should be able to get the same layout. At least!

And you actually can get the same layout... sometimes!

Most browsers will not render CSS the same way depending on the doctype of your document. You need to watch that carefully to make sure you activate standards compliant mode in all browsers.

Then you can play... spend hours trying to get that damn thing to look like the intended design...

Mobile devices are going crazy!

Can you imagine carrying this one in your pocket?

Brother m-print

Brother's m-print micro printer: 17.5 mm thick, less than 300 g, printing A7 documents. You can actually carry it in your pocket and use it to print from your phone or PDA!

(But I certainly wasn't imagining this when I mentioned "Personal Digital Gear" last time! ;) I really wonder what's coming next! :)

Smartphones are doomed !

There's been a lot of excitement in the air lately about how smartphones are supposed to change the mobile world as we knew it until now.

Simple plan: take the best PDA, take the best mobile phone, melt them together, rely on Moore's law to get it down to an acceptable size, and there you have it: the ultimate mobile device of the 21st century!

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce you to THE DEVICE: mobile phone, PDA, mp3 player, voice recorder, digital still & video camera, GPS, Gameboy, calculator, exchange rate converter, remote controller for your appliances... all in one and bundled with a wireless headset or stereo headphones!

Yeah Right...

Now, if you have been reading my weblog in French, you know I've been ranting about this for a while; but since this is my first post on Mobitopia, let me try to explain in English why this ultimate smartphone vision sounds like nonsense to me... Actually, I could put it into two single words:


Yes! Regardless of how fast chip makers can integrate the technology, you definitely don't want to use the same-sized device for everything, and in particular as a phone and as a PDA!


Even if you own a wireless headset! You cannot expect people (well, at least the non-geek population ;) to wear it all the time! Most of the time, the phone rings and you just have to pick it up, optionally check who's calling, accept the call and hold the device to your ear so you can listen and talk... And there's a maximum size to the device over which you don't want to hold it against your head! Think about those large Tréos... Don't you think they've crossed the line?

I bet people will continue to use phones that way for... quite a long time... probably until someone makes that Star-Trek-style-hands-free-high-quality-audio-communication a reality ;)

Moreover, you want to be able to use your phone with one hand, since there are plenty of situations where you just can't afford a second one ;) Like walking in the street carrying a suitcase or whatever... Here again, there is a maximum size to the device you can hold and operate with one hand while walking in the street!

Given that size factor, manufacturers have come up with some pretty ingenious solutions like T9 for single handed text entry! But still...


First thing, you cannot actually rely on T9 for serious text entry! T9 is cool... for SMS! But not for taking notes! Not for updating a spreadsheet! (Remember a phone keyboard is not even as complete as a numeric keypad! It has no keys for + - / * . etc.) Actually, T9 gets exponentially boring with the length of the text to be typed!

So what? Add a stylus? P800 style? Sure it gets better... but if Palm, long time supporter of Grafitti starts building keyboards into their PDAs, there's a serious reason: users DO WANT a keyboard for text entry! (I was able to cope with Grafitti, but well... have to admit it remains slower/harder than with a keyboard...)

But keep that stylus anyway, you do need it to move appointments! Do you really believe you could beat a stylus drag & drop with some sophisticated smart phone jog-dial or joystick interface ? ;)

Okay, so the keyboard alone makes the device too big for a decent phone (don't ask me about the Tréo again! ;) but there's more!

At this point, I think we all agree that the PDA is a device designed to be used with both hands, don't we? So why not make it a little larger? Any pocket could carry a PDA somewhat larger than current Palms for example!

Sony has opened the way with some of their Cliés... But still, PDA Screens are destined to grow larger!

Actually, it is the only way out if they want to keep a real advantage on those smartphones!

Yes! You DO WANT a larger screen to read ebooks in the train! You DO WANT a larger screen to edit spreadsheets! You DO WANT a larger screen to surf the web!!! Admit it, I KNOW YOU ALL DO! :) Also, think about games, think about watching pictures or movies! Get the point? :)

A screen approximately 1.5 times larger and 1.5 times higher than current standard PDA screens would offer 2 to 2.5 times more display space and still fit seamlessly in your pocket! I'm talking about real size here, not about increasing resolution (which is important too but it's another story...) Ironically, the only pocket device having that kind of screen today, is the eBookman from Franklin... which remains pretty confidential...

So here we are: a phone is better small and one hand operated and a PDA is better with a large screen and a (also large) keyboard! This is why I think those two devices need to remain two separate entities... communicating via Bluetooth! What would we have Bluetooth for elseway? ;) As a matter of fact, the PDA needs network access from the phone! And, of course, you could not stand having two separate address books!

Regarding all the other gadgets (camera, mp3 player, etc...), they can be integrated in one or the other device... doesn't really matter... the data will wirelessly flow anyway!

By the way, if a third standalone device was to be introduced in your PDG (Personal Digital Gear), consider a Bluetooth hard drive: literally gigabytes of data you can carry in your suitcase or the trunk of your car... (I'm thinking about my mp3 collection right now ;)

Now... of course I don't think everyone in this world needs a full featured PDA (nor to carry around gigabytes of data)! Actually, those people who had no need for a PDA until now will be pleased with an enhanced phone that integrates PDA-like features. But those who have been using PDAs extensively will probably never be satisfied with an all in one smartphone!

So, of course, smartphones as an evolution of the mobile phone are not doomed (just wanted to get your attention! ;) but smartphones as a merger of the mobile phone and the PDA (and priced that way!) are definitely doomed!

Talent to be found in...

I really like this one:

“Talent… is most likely to be found among non-conformists, dissenters, and rebels.”

– David Ogilvy