Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Using CSS - Complex Forms Without Tables? Anyone? Anyone?

I have spent the last couple weeks doing research on CSS form development for very complex forms that involve things like multiple sections and multiple columns. I often hear that "tables are evil" or that "tables should only use them for tabular data", and I was determined to find a way to incorporate CSS for my next form.

I decided to do some in depth research to determine if there was a standard or best practice for complex form development. Fortunately for me, there are thousands of examples on the web and others that can be found in various books. I decided to purchase The CSS Anthology - 101 Essential Tips, Tricks & Hacks by Rachel Andrews which has a number of great examples. I also downloaded a free book by the same publisher titled The Art & Science of CSS I also went to Borders bookstore and spent some more time perusing through about eight different CSS books. Another book by Rachel Andrew even had the promising title HTML Utopia: Designing Without Tables.

Unfortunately, I could not find a single example that would meet my requirements. Pretty much every example I encountered had a very simple form, usually a very standard one with name, address, and zip code. I could not find a single form that was more complex that involved things like multiple sections and multiple columns.

Ultimately, I have come to the conclusion that while there may be a solution for a complex form using CSS, it hasn't been documented or standardized. Until then, I plan to continue using tables to develop complex forms. If anyone out there in the blogosphere has any suggestions I am posting a screenshot of the form.



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