Archives » September 26th, 2003

September 26, 2003

Standards Rant #212

Jeffrey Veen: The Business Value of Web Standards. Wherein Jeff justifies their CSS redesign as a business decision.

How important is standardization to an individual business like ours? Do Web standards give organizations a return on investment? Does the transition to XHTML and CSS make financial sense? The answer to those questions is yes.

The message is a familiar one by now, but it needs to keep being stated. Proper design can save on bandwidth costs, initial design costs, and subsequent maintenance costs. We need to keep hammering out this message until it spreads across the globe, until people realize that partying like it’s 1996 maybe isn’t the best way to do business anymore. We can’t say it once and then let it get buried in the archives. The point needs to be continually made.

And it’s working. The message is getting out, and the tide is slowly turning. Web standards advocates are out there making enough noise, and enough people are starting to listen. The standards are there, the browsers are ready, I think we’re going to see a larger and larger surge in standards-based design as time goes on. Don’t get me wrong, tag soup is not going away. I don’t think browsers are ever going to drop the lax parsing rules that make tag soup possible. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s what the Web was built on, the concept that you can just bash out something quick and simple and have it work. Forgot to close a tag, or nested something wrong? It’s okay. The browser will muddle along, take a stab at what you really meant, and your message will get across. Tag soup is perfectly fine.

For amateur sites.

When you’re a professional, building professional sites, you need to strive for that higher level of quality. All of the excuses not to learn and use standards-based design have been eroded over the last few years, until we reach the point we’re at now: There is no reason that a professional site can’t be built using XHTML, and be styled with CSS. There is no reason to leave tags unclosed and improperly nested, to use spacer images and empty table cells to create margins. 100% validation isn’t strictly necessary, because there are always little things like unescaped ampersands that can slip by and screw you up. But there are countless best practices out there that can be used, that are actually easier than the tag soup methods. And it all comes down to this: being a “professional” web designer shouldn’t just mean you’re doing it for money instead of a hobby. It should mean you’re producing work that’s a notch above everyone else’s, that there’s a standard of quality that you’re striving for, that you’re not just using eight-year old techniques because they still work. It should mean you’re committed to the industry, and you’re following along with the latest developments. Any excuses you might come up with all boil down to “I don’t have enough time/energy/drive/intelligence to learn how to do it right.” And if you can’t learn to do something right, how can you be considered a professional?

The preceeding has been my standards advocacy rant for the month of September. Stay tuned for the October installment.

What can users do?

Peter Seebach: Tips on how to get some use out of that rotten system. An article that advocates dealing with crappy software by actually taking steps to be a smarter user. What a concept!

  • When all else fails, read the directions
  • Learn to troubleshoot
  • Useful complaints
  • Asking for advice

I don’t know about this idea of people trying to apply common sense towards working with computers instead of immediately throwing their hands up in desperation. I don’t think it’ll fly.

Settling In

Okay, so I haven’t been writing much. And this is probably the time I should be writing the most, because in twenty years I’ll want to look back at this and see what I was thinking, what I was doing during this time. But when I do look back there won’t be anything here. It will just be blank pages for days and days. It’ll be like how I got so excited about rereading my travel journal from ten years ago, but the further I got into it the more pissed off at myself I became because back when I wrote it I didn’t actually write about what was happening or what I was seeing. I don’t want that same thing to happen now. That’s exactly the reason I set up the BabyBlog, so I could just write and write about everything. And yet it sits, mostly empty. I haven’t posted any new pictures, I haven’t even fluffed up the design yet. I’m becoming a disappointment to myself.

Of course, maybe the reason all this is happening is because instead of writing about life I’m choosing to actually dive in and live it. I have a wife and a new baby. They’re getting my attention now. And the time I do spend on the computer is spent catching up on work, because I’m only spending four hours a day at the office now. So it’s a weird little paradox I’m caught up in here, where I have a life but I don’t have the time to write about it, and if I did have the time to write, I wouldn’t have the life to write about. So I made a choice, and life won. Plus, I haven’t been getting any noticable amount of sleep lately, and I’ve found that sleep deprivation does wonders for writer’s block. Original thought is something that doesn’t come easily to me anyway. Toss a few bleary-eyed mornings into the mix, and you’re lucky if I can string together a coherent sentence. I could be writing through all of this, but the result might look like I had just flipped through a dictionary at random and chosen words by sticking a pin in the page. Circumflex signatory envelops ignoble stockyard! Mushroom?

Things will return to a more normal flow. We’re settling into a routine, a routine that means a little more time for non-baby activities. Right now, for example. Do you think I’d be able to be writing this if Viola wasn’t rocking the baby to sleep in the chair?

And you never know. The Computer Vet Weblog might actually start writing about computers one day. Imagine that!