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it always comes down to trial and error. make a thing, try a thing, go back and *remake* the thing because DHTML and CSS are funny in a sad kind of way - like an old married couple that hates each other but won't divorce.
is there a better way to do it? I mean other than schlepping it off onto someone else, which is my first choice.
is there some magic to web development that makes it not suck?
When I was growin' up, I was the smartest kid I knew. Maybe that was just because I didn't know that many kids. All I know is now I feel the opposite.
I have some experience with Betty Blocks, and the HTML and CSS part is indeed quite easy, just drag it on the form.
Everything else sucks, like no source control, back-end code is also drag 'n drop, don't even try the newest front-end frameworks, weird database without a query language (that I know of)...
You can't have your pie and eat it too
Long answer: neither (D)HTML nor CSS were really designed for the purpose they are used for, namely a browser-independent specification of page layout, etc. It is therefore no surprise that HTML development is so kludgy.
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
-- 6079 Smith W.
page elements that are absolutely positioned, to contain all your content. It works great and you can also make the designs conform automatically to any screen width - see my example at www.philpearl.us/adaptive/.
I understand that CSS is not everyone's thing, but I wouldn't call it unusable. I think what frustrates many users is that while it is simple to use in a basic way, it can be difficult to use well. A lot of the burden for organization is on the user, and you do need a strategy and a knowledge of the whole application in order to use it economically. There is something of a craft to it, which I realize is not something everyone feels should be required of them. Because there are so many ways to do the same thing, more important than the immediate CSS rules is the planning and organization.
CSS would not be usable if it produced errors, or if the browsers weren't so tolerant of bad CSS. You really do need to take the time and get the basics of specificity and selectors first. Some of the layout concepts can take a while to gel, and you do still need to deal with some browser differences (although it's a lot better now than it used to be). But after a while I began to appreciate how much you can get done with very little code, once you have the hierarchy of styles established for the application, it becomes very predictable.
I see a lot of people hate on CSS, but very often specific issues turn out to be known and solvable. I can see why it can be seen as chaotic and unplanned, but I think it's better to think of it as very open-ended, and better to re-adjust expectations on what's needed to use it.