I went to my first real full length web development conference today, Rustbelt Refresh. It was a very good conference with good speakers and interesting topics. Finally something like this in Cleveland. I learned and got to thinking about various things. I was rather tired though after waking up so early and spending a whole day there. I will summarize / talk about each presentation, as sort of a minimal review, but primarily to store and cement what I’ve taken away in my mind.
Eric Meyer is our local global CSS celebrity. I’ve gone to every local presentation he gave that I was aware of, which I think totals three with this one.
His talk started with a history of CSS layout, and how CSS never got a real layout system and the things we still use today are mostly hacks, limited in what can be done with them, and often create problems. To summarize this history: At first the web had no layout, and content just went with the flow. Then tables came in for tabular data. They quickly became used for layout because of the lack of alternatives, and soon made markup a nested mess that was difficult to maintain and impossible to change the layout without changing the site structure. Floats were added to allow content to flow around things like images, and quickly became usurped for layout. Since they were designed without layout in mind, they had a lot of problems in use for it, and a lot of creative hacks have been created to get around them, like equal height columns and zero height containers. Then came positioning, which was actually designed for layout, but had the problem of taking things out of flow and thus not allowing things to move in relation to each other, etc.