Hacked-Off with CSS?

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Many webmasters/designers are now using CSS for layout purposes on their sites to ensure web current web standards are met. But with current trends it can be hard to predict the exact look of a site across the complete range of browsers. Some are flawed and some have their ‘special quirks’ when displaying a website. Designers, being the types that need perfection in their design, often ‘Hack’ their CSS code to create a design that ‘works’ across browsers or platforms. But is this the way forward?

For those not familiar with CSS Hacks, they are ways of using styles/classes that only apply to particular browsers. They are used to overcome the display problems mentioned previously by exploiting CSS structure and code. Most involve simple punctuation tricks to fool the problematic browser into accepting a different style to the browsers that display correctly.

CSS Hacks work, but there are two main points to consider:

Firstly, the validity of the CSS may be affected. Invalid CSS hardly seems worthwhile as the main aim of CSS layout is to embrace web standards.

Secondly, designers have performed Hacks to satisfy current and past browsers. They have failed to look in the other direction – will it be futureproof? With the launch of the next version of Internet Explorer this summer (and many more to follow), one has to wonder whether these Hacks, or quick fixes, will break a site. In essence, we cannot predict how Hacks will be displayed. Designers might like the idea of work needing to be done in the future on a clients site but if the site breaks the client is unlikely to commission the same team to fix it.

The true skill of a designer is shown when s/he creates a design without Hacks that generally looks great and works. Slight differences have to be expected. Trade-offs have to be made – and it is the decisions made that show a quality end product.


Publication Date: Friday 10th June, 2005
Author: Andrew Faulkner View profile

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