Monthly Archives: April 2005

An Update from the Trenches

D. Keith Robinson posited recently that chances are, when it comes to Web professionals, you’re part of a minority if you have a passion for the Web.

From where I am standing in the heart of Silicon Valley, it would appear that the growth of Web standards-based development is gaining momentum and may just be approaching the tipping-point. It has long been an organic growth from a grass-roots effort, but is now beginning to trickle up, as it were, and infiltrate the thoughts of IT managers.

I work for a major software manufacturer and have been lucky enough over the past year-and-a-half to have been able to first communicate and then demonstrate the benefits of Web standards clearly to the high-level decision makers at my organization. Web standards is fast becoming just a matter of doing business at one more of the top 50 Web properties on the planet. Uhhh…for the most part. Hey, we’re really just getting started when you consider the mountain of legacy content that’s been overtaken by the weeds of tag soup.

You Can’t Say No to Accessibility

Down here, it’s getting to the point now where any Web professional with an understanding of Web standards on both a conceptual and technical level can walk into a company and present a valid and compelling case for a standards-based redesign. Web standards sells itself. How can any IT manager in these days of Section 508 requirements say no to the potential for accessibility improvements that exist?

We are in a position now where we can demand that a third-party provider of marketing emails supply us with valid XHTML 1.0 code and they don’t say “Umm…XH…er…huh?” anymore. The response is “Strict, Transistional or Frameset?”. At least it was just last week. Admittedly it was a surprise because that’s hardly par for the course. For instance, it was only a week earlier that a large online store vendor responded ignorantly with “the code will always have tables.”

While You Were Sleeping

I agree with Keith that what is holding back a more explosive growth of Web standards is ignorance of the majority of Web professionals. A lot of people who were just happy to survive the burst of the dot-com bubble and have been snug-as-a-bug-in-a-rug with a job stopped learning and just held on tight to that paycheck every week. So much so that a sort of paralysis set in. Besides, it’s a lot easier to maintain the status-quo and surf the Web for crap than it is to research topics to expand your knowledge and acquire new skills.

As Keith says, “Some people don’t like to take their work home with them.” and that will always be the case. But it’s getting to the point where they will eventually have to adapt if they want to continue working as front-end Web developers and designers. I’ve seen a wide range of reactions to the introduction of Web standards to veteran Web professionals. Quite a few look on in excitement and welcome the change and take to it like a fish takes to water. Some look on in dread as they realize they’re going to have to think for a change. And a much smaller number regrettably just look for another job. Sad but true.

If you can’t hire ’em, teach ’em!

It became painfully obvious to me that we were in the minority when we had a number of job openings and had an extremely difficult time finding anyone with a real practical knowledge of Web standards who actually was unemployed and looking for work. Instead of abandoning all hope, what we decided to do instead was seek out seemingly bright people that had at least heard of Web standards, had a thirst for knowledge, genuine excitement about learning new things and last but not least had what we hoped was that true passion for the Web. We would bring these designers and developers on board and TEACH them Web standards. So far, so good. It’s worked out well. Too well it would seem. Now some of our best & brightest are leaving the nest. They are going on to spread their passion for the Web and knowledge of Web standards to others. And they’ll tell two friends, and they’ll tell two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on….

To the majority..

It’s really not that hard to do. The answers are out there and there and there. You just have to open your mind and accept the fact that everything you know might be wrong. As the growing minority has already discovered,
it’s enlightening if you can do it.
It’s only a matter of time.