Unintentionally Blank

Phil Nash on the Internet, Web Standards and Accessibility

How Many Web Designers Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb?

Sep 21, 2006

by Phil Nash

Web standards are the backbone of the internet these days. Well built, good looking sites with semantic, valid mark up for the content and CSS controlling the design mean that pages render as they should for all users. Thanks to the W3C the web is a better place for all of us. Or is it?


OK, this post isn't about the electrician capabilities of your average web designer. It's my attempt at a metaphor. What I'm really talking about is the fact that standards-aware Web designers and developers are still a tiny minority of the people working in the Web business. So says Roger Johansson in his recent Vitamin article Why Standards Still Matter. The main focus of the article is that, even though the use of standards is growing amongst developers, we still need to do more. This doesn't appear to be the opinion of some others though.

Occasionally I hear mutterings from some people who seem to think enough has been said about best practices and that we should find something else to write about. Some say that Web standards aren’t important anymore, because most Web developers are already using them.

Like Roger, I agree that this sentiment is completely wrong. If you search around web designers in your area, even your country, and check out their portfolio (or even their own sites) you can see that the majority of them show a blatent disregard for web standards. Has enough been said? Is it time to talk about something else now? I don't think so.

What Should We Be Saying Then?

Roger isn't the only one thinking this way either, where he suggests making a splash in developer forums, writing articles for relevant magazines or even trying to convince teachers and institutions that haven't caught up yet to change their ways, others, like Robert Nyman, bring it a bit closer to home. In his article The Web Standards War Is Far From Over Robert suggests doing your bit by setting a good example and trying to influence colleagues and clients (hey, they're the ones paying for it) by showing them the benefits of standards based design.

So What I'm Really Trying To Ask Is...

... how many web designers who use proper standards does it take to influence the whole industry? A bit of a mouthful but an important question. In my opinion, everybody who already understands standards and puts them to good use everyday should be helping encuorage someone else to. If everyone converts another web designer to using standards and they all convert five friends then, following the pyriamid scheme method of things, we'll have the whole world using standards in no time.

So, if you're a web designer reading this thinking "He doesn't know what he's talking about, the <font> tag is my friend," then stick around and find out more about standards and what's so great about them. If, on the other hand, you are thinking "Right on, standards rock!" then go out and tell someone else why, if we all try then we can make a difference.

Lastly, why don't you tell me, do you know how to use web standards or are you in the dark? Maybe you don't care either way, since you're not a designer at all? Don't forget that your blog (if you have one) is a part of the web too and could benefit from a standards based approach. It might fix your dodgy sidebar anyway. Whatever the case, if you publish paegs on the web, you should be thinking about this.

So What About Your First Question?

OK, if you really want to know:

How many web designers does it take to change a lightbulb?
Three. One to change the structure, one to update the style, and one to blog about the inadequate bulb support offered by today’s socket manufacturers.

But that's an issue for another time. Thanks to Reid Stott for the joke.

Unintentionally Blank is Phil Nash's thoughts on web development from 2006-2008. Any code or opinions may be out of date.