Bad News in a seemingly well organized package

The National Sciences Foundation has puiblished the 2002 Science and Engineering Indicators survey. It’s a fairly clearly organized site, chocked full of statistics, more statistical data, and presumably damned lies. (With respects to Clements, who poularized the phase, and Disraeli who coined it: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics.”)
The good news is that this site is a nice expample of how an organization can use the web to communicate a large volume of information. The site fairly closely follows the conceptual model for document construction. This is the model we were taught in high school composition class, with an outline and supporting paragraphs, and bibliography, table of contents indexes, and so forth.
The bad news is two-fold.
First bad news is the actual content. There are pages and pages full of discouraging facts such as:
50% of American adults does not know how long it takes for the earth to make a revolution around the sun.
The second bad news is the code. The have a perfectly organized outline, and a language that tries to enfource that model. (I’m guessing they meant to either present this as HTMLor XHTML although the document code doesn’t say.) And they choose to put this in tables.
Tables may have been popularized as design elements during the 4.x browser wars because it was fairly easy for designers to get similar effects in very poorly compliant browsers. But let’s move on. As it says in the standard,
Tables represent relationships between data. Authors specify these relationships in the document language …
All of which is to say that tables are supposed to show users some data in a grid layout for easy creadability. Though use of other elements and correct CSS authors can do most things that we used to do with tables and still have our code and document layout meet standards.

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