Travelocity Uses CSS!?

In a stack of papers called Unorganized.

  • Jan
  • 30
  • 2005

I’m planning a trip to New York to visit a dear friend and, while planning, I noticed that the Travelocity Web site has gone through a face lift. To be honest, I can’t quite remember what it used to look like, but I know that it’s not the same as when I first looked at airfare two weeks ago. Well, maybe my memory’s not so good and there have been no changes at all, but something looked different to me. So, on a whim, I checked the source code just to see what is going on.

Lo! And behold! I see DIVs for page divisions and ULs for navigation and even a few header tags! There’s only one small, completely unnecessary table (probably some leftover Vignette code that will be cleaned up soon). They are controlling layout by using CSS. Outstanding…and why didn’t I notice this sooner?

Using The Wayback Machine, I’ve found out that this has been the case for a while. I never had reason to check out their code before, so obviously I’m late in noticing this. But I like to point out more prestigious sites catching the hint that tables make pages even more complicated, not easier. How cool is it to look at the source for a page and be able to tell exactly what everything is, to simply look at the content and not be bothered with the layout?

Semantics, Shmemantics
The case against tables for layout is not a semantic argument, though I can make that argument just as well as the next standards-obssessed coder. For me, it’s about looking at the code and being able to explain it to someone who can’t read HTML. It’s about making a quick edit without the fear of misplacing a TR or TD or not specifying the COLSPAN correctly. That’s much simpler to do using DIVs for layout, instead of TR/TD combinations that can throw the entire page out of whack quickly. And, of course, bottom line is that the page is much smaller in file size by using DIVs instead of tables.

Their Mistake
Travelocity uses some JavaScript to point insufficient browsers to a suggested browser update page. That’s a mistake. At most, they should simply include a message at the top that tells users of the fact the site is designed with CSS and may look a little odd to browsers that don’t support the latest and greatest in Internet technology (then just hide that comment using CSS’s “display: none” so the rest of us aren’t bothered). The way they have the system set up right now, I can’t use their site if I’m using an old browser. That’s their mistake and they may have already lost customers because of that.

Who is Travelocity to tell me what browser I should use? They deal in travel fares, not in what I have installed on my computer. If I decide that something like Netscape 4.7 is my browser of preference, then that’s what I’ll use, thank you very much. Travelocity should stick to their own decisions, let me know about those decisions, and let the cards fall where they may.

You Were Late; Why Should We Care?
By now, you are either giddy with joy or asking youself, “So what?” I’ll tell you. The more big companies adopt CSS, the more smaller companies will be willing to do so and the more those people with antiquated browsers will have to upgrade or get used to seeing their content a little bit less styled than everyone else. The reason I like Travelocity’s switch is that it makes it less difficult to sell CSS to clients. I like to sell CSS to clients because that saves bandwidth and makes future changes much easier. While we’re at cutting the fat out of our diets, let’s try to cut the fat out of our Web pages, too.

Netscape 4.7 is dead. Any computer that’s still using it probably isn’t a prospective client for much of what is sold on the Internet. I’m a teacher by day and several of my iMacs in the classroom are running NS4.7 because it’s all they can handle. And not a single one of those computers will be used to buy an airline ticket (or check email in a Hotmail account, for that matter).

So why should the future of Web design be held back for fear of losing a few straggling users? They’ll catch up; they’ll read the unstyled content just fine. The more companies there are that adopt CSS, the quicker we can all get to the next big thing. As CSS becomes the mainstream way of designing pages, it will become passe and there will be room to create something else. And I’m always looking forward to that.

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