Layers question

  slowhand_1000 17:22 07 Oct 2003

Just out of interest, what's the general concensus on using (or not) layers ?.

The main reason I ask is because it seems a whole lot easier positioning layers than it does tables. I'm sure there must be more benefits although I'm equally sure there will be more reasons not to.

As I said, just curious.

  Taran 01:37 10 Oct 2003

Tables are a designers mainstay and offer a lot of control, once you get the hang of them. The problem with going beyond the limits of tables and the simpler align and style HTML tags lies in your target audiences? web browsing software and its ability to correctly interpret your designs.

Layers fall into one of those slightly questionable areas where browser software does not always render them the way you intended them to work which can mangle your page elements.

This is also the main reason why the majority of designers have not completely moved over to CSS page formatting to make faster loading pages with far more control over all page elements than by using more traditional methods. In theory at least, CSS and/or layers should give you, the designer, ultimate control over the final appearance of your site and by seperating content from presentation you get faster page loads and far more control over everything on said page. In practice though, the very real problems some mainstream web browsers have in correctly rendering CSS and layers means your pages can sometimes end up by looking like a sack of soot tied in the middle instead of the slick design you had originally intended.

I agree that using layers allows a lot of control and the fact that you can also add them (and their contents) to timelines for even more control only gives the argument in their favour more weight.

Try creating a heavily layered and/or CSS backed site then look at it with NetScape 4.7

If you don't blow a capillary I'll be very surprised.

Unless you can absolutely guarantee your target audiences browser software (an intranet over LAN is a good example) you have to design for the majority which is not necessarily the easiest method or the one that offers you the most control over your design.



  Taran 01:39 10 Oct 2003

On a personal note, I can't remember the last time I used layers extensively.

Other designers may well have different working methods to me (probably no bad thing !), but I don't think I've published a site this year that had layered content.

Almost everything I do is done using tables and/or fully tested CSS for page control.


  Taran 01:50 10 Oct 2003

I should have added that the one thing I really like layers for is when using them for dynamic content without the pain of having to call content from a database.

You can set up image galleries and text copy fills in one page where the content is loaded into a series of layers when a button or hyperlink is clicked. It's a handy feature and has a multitude of uses but in general I still have to say that I rarely use layers since there are other ways of calling dynamic content that I prefer to use that don't rely on browser software and any issues it may have with them.

  slowhand_1000 09:33 10 Oct 2003

Cheers Taran

Layers in a nutshell :-)

As I said I was just a tad curious and not knowing anyone on the inside to ask......... But having read your post(s) I get the gist of why everyone uses tables.

Thanks for the reply

  Taran 10:14 10 Oct 2003

I don't necessarily want to be the founder of any misinformation here, so let me clarify one point: the above is my take on the overall subject of layers in web pages, a view that may or may not be shared by other designers.

At the end of the day, as long as you employ a thorough testing process for your finished pages and sites and the outcomes are as expected there is nothing to prevent you using layers if you so choose. I prefer not to for the above and other reasons, but it still has to be an individual choice based on the scenario and target audience in question.

Keep in mind the intranet over LAN scenario I originally mentioned. On a company or academic body network, where all client machines are running the same browser software to access your site content, you can do what you like within those boundaries since you can test and verify the end results on the version and type of browser being used.

It is the element of the unknown when designing pages and sites for the big wide world out there that trips people up regarding page content and how to deliver it. If the whole world was using Internet Explorer 6, my job would become so much simpler but as long as alternative browsers are available and in widespread use you have to cater for their users via a comprehensive testing program.

I guess I just don't want you to throw layers to the winds without knowing your options and how to verify the outputs since they can and do perform some very useful tasks.

Hope this is a little clearer.

Best regards


  slowhand_1000 18:45 10 Oct 2003

I will go with my gut instinct after reading your reply. As you say if everyone sang from the same hymn sheet...

  wolfen 22:13 15 Oct 2003

I have used both layers and tables in some designs. The horses for courses and agree with what Tarin says. I sometimes start out positioning in layers and then convert to tables, sometimes I use tables within layers. i will stop now as this wont be helping you, however it is one opinion.

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