Holier-than-thou standardites

Paul Boag

A number of things have happened recently that have got me thinking about the state of web design. I find myself increasingly concerned about the mentality that is developing within certain parts of the industry.

I guess a recent interview I did for Dustin Diaz started me thinking. We found ourselves on the subject of whether I ever got sick of talking about good practice in web design (things like web standards, progressive enhancement etc.). I explained that this is where my real passion lies and that boagworld.com exists to communicate best practice in a way that isn’t patronising or full of technbabble, which nobody understands.

I have become increasingly concerned that there is a growing divide between those who have grasped this new methodology for designing websites and those who have not. The problem is that many of the "Standardites" have a holy-than-thou attitude, which can seem very condescending to those that aren’t "in the know". In our desire to promote standards we have made those who are not yet using them, feel ignorant.

Not me too!

What has disturbed me most is that I have found myself doing the same thing. In my last podcast, I ranted about another web design show that promoted all kinds of bad practice. In next weeks show I moan about the "ignorance" of some designers when it comes to accessibility (following comments made on sitepoint.com about the target case). In both cases, I may have (and probably did) come across as very dogmatic and arrogant. This kind of approach only builds walls making it harder to educate and inform.

Take for example Andy Clarke’s comments to accessify.com:

Those people still delivering nested table layout, spacer gifs or ignoring accessibility can no longer call themselves web professionals.

In the past, I have praised Andy for these comments and I still believe that they are in essence true. However, now I find myself wondering if comments like that actually help. If I wasn’t using web standards and had not yet faced the challenges of accessibility, I would find those comments very demoralising.
There can be all kinds of reasons why people haven’t adopted these new "best practices". Whether it is a lack of time and training, or simply that they find them too challenging, when in the past they have relied on a WYSIWYG editor like Dreamweaver. Whatever the case we should be aiming to encourage and not condemn these people.

The web standards gang

There is a definite web standards community who all read the same blogs and go to the same conferences. When you are in this group it is hard to conceive that people have not yet grasped the concepts of standards and we are in serious danger of becoming increasingly insular.

My hope is that boagworld.com can bridge that gap and convince people about "web design good practice" without bashing them around the head with it.