Why is Web page layout still such a problem?

I was just reading an article about the future of CSS. A main focus of the article is on the extremely poor layout capabilities of CSS. One such paragraph from the article goes a long way towards showing the futility of AJAX development today: CSS is great for simple web style. CSS is awful for layout. Rich Ajax apps need layout. You spend the majority of your time trying to get CSS working correctly!

UI layout is one of those problems that was solved years ago by traditional UI toolkits. Besides absolute positioning and sizing, there are a number of very rich dynamic schemes available. There are the AWT and Swing layout managers. Windows Forms allows for dynamic layout. Qt offers some very capable layout classes. Even lesser-known toolkits, like FOX, offer very flexible UI layout schemes.

So there should be no shortage of inspiration when it comes to flexible, dynamic UI layout. This is a very critical aspect of most graphical application programs, and thus it is no wonder that it’s a problem that has received so much attention from so many different people in the past. But thanks to their effort, we now have a pretty good idea about how to deal with UI layout in an effective, sensible manner.

Of course, this knowledge doesn’t seem to be able to make its way to those folks developing Web-based applications using JavaScript. It’s not a problem with the knowledge, of course. It’s a problem with the people who willingly keep struggling with an unsuitable platform (the Web browsre) that fails to adequately address such an elemental task.

So I have to laugh when I see a statement like, “It is time to create a CSS module for layout that works.” No, it was time to do that a decade ago, when CSS was first coming into the scene!

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