It’s like doing math with an abacus that’s just a little broken.
It’s wednesday work day! The week is halfway over! I just took the last final of my Junior year, thereby ending my academic relationship with the University of Idaho and for some unfathomable reason, I picked up a extra shift delivering Pizza tonight. So if for some reason I am not able to finish this post in the next hour and a half, it may not actually make it out until the morning. Something that I apologize deeply in advance for, maybe one of these days I will get ahead enough that everythig always goes out in the morning. Maybe in August? When I’m not working 70 hours a week?
Since me talking about being behind is certainly not why you are here, how about I dive into work?
Any ideas what I did this week? For the first time ever?
You guessed it! I built an HTML email. I can hear the questioning now, so what you built an HTML email? Aren’t you a web developer? Isn’t it your JOB to do things like that? Ah. you caught me. But that’s only because you didn’t let me finish my sentence. I built it using only tables. If you’re here because you subscribe to my blog and not because you find things like HTML interesting and fun, this might be where you leave, (if you do, please come back tomorrow for the food) but let me say quickly that the best analogy I can come up with is that designing and building web pages with tables is analogous to doing math with an abacus that’s just a little broken in the 21st century. Except that isn’t quite right either because someone might find using an abacus fun. In reality, the only reason a person would ever use tables to build webpages, is if they had no idea what they were doing and were trying to learn via teaching materials from the late 90’s.
TABLES FOR LAYOUT ARE DEPRECATED! They should ONLY EVER be used for TABULAR DATA. That’s it. End of story. If you aren’t gonna use tabular data. Don’t put in a table. If you don’t have tabular data, then what you really want is CSS. W3Schools has some fantastic CSS resources to get you started if you’re interested.
Nevertheless, I guess, and this came as a huge surprise to me, if you are working with emails, you HAVE to use tables, and inline styles and all your code gets to look like it’s the mid 90’s. As somebody who learned to code 3 years ago, coding like the 90’s was a foreign concept to me until about a month ago.
It went a little like this:
My Development Officer (D.O.) sent me an .ai file and was like “Hey can you turn this into an email and send it out before the end of the day? Naively thinking that it would be no different than coding anything else I had ever coded, I readily agreed and told myself I would start on it as soon as I finished the project I was in the middle of. And then I finished my project, opened the file, opened our mail client, iModules, (it has nothing to do with Apple) opened up an existing template from a previous email I had sent out (that email was bult by creative services, technically the on campus policy of how emails are supposed to be done.) thinking I would just need to modify a few lines of code. And I almost instantly got incredibly confused.
There were tables nested in tables nested in tables! No article, no header, no footer. Just Tables. I called up one of my colleagues, asked her if she knew anything about this, and was told that “Yep, that’s just the way emails are.” Since I didn’t have nearly the appropriate amount of time necessary to learn how to code like it was the 90’s I asked my D.O. to reformat the email in the current template and if she could give me a couple days notice next time I would figure out how to make it happen. Of course this is assuming that no one tells her to start following protocol and just having creative services build the email.
Anyway, come Friday, she sends me an email that says “Hey, So I have another email to send out. Will you build it and get it out at the beginning of next week?”
“I’ll do my best.” Was my simple reply.
Here. Why don’t you take a look at the file she sent me.
Thankfully, I have this one Co-Worker, who is just stellar at all things iModules so I asked her if she could take 30 minutes out of her day to give me some pointers. She happily agreed and so with a date set for Friday afternoon I prepared to be a great student by coding the page in my head with modern day standards. Yeah you’re right. That really didn’t prepare me at all. But I like I said before, I had no frame of reference with which to go from.
So I went in to her office, and it basically went down like this,
My Coworker (Lesa): So what I usually do is just copy and paste bits and pieces out of other emails that have gone out. You need a date on the left like that? Here you go. A full-width image? Here’s one of those. A two Column area? I have some of that.
And she just started copying bit of code, most of them entire tables in and of themselves, and she just emailed them all to me. She told me that I pretty much just have to put them together and Whalla! There you are!
So I said Thank You, put it all together, and Lo- and Behold it worked just like she said. Suddenly I kindof understood how this whole nested tables idea fit together and actually worked.
I was a little unsatisfied though, I mean, what happens when I need something not previously designed? How do you be innovative when you can’t do anything that hasn’t already been done.
No. It worked this time, but I look forward to next time, when I can design with tables from scratch. It may feel like using a broken abacus but I think it’s healthy exercise that helps me appreciate how far the web has come.
Have you learned anything new this week? If not when was the last time you did learn something new? Hopefully not too extraordinarily long ago 🙂
Here’s some photos I took for work last weekend too. Actually no. I need to go to work. I’ll post them next week 🙂
Have a great evening,