The Web Standards Project calls it quits,
December 13, 2001 2:43 PM   Subscribe

The Web Standards Project calls it quits, for now.
posted by gazingus (77 comments total)

 
HAHAHAHAHA! Surely this statement is a joke:

YET IN SPITE of the efforts of the W3C, the browser makers, and a leading–edge minority of designers and developers, most of the web remains a Balkanized mess of non–valid markup, unstructured documents yoked to outdated presentational hacks, and incompatible code fragments that leave many millions of web users frustrated and disenfranchised.

Web users couldn't give a damn about web standards and their frustration has nothing to do with standards. They're frustrated by ridiculously long download times (87% of Americans use analog modems) and really crappy "creative" design that hinders peoples' abilities to locate information. Not surprisingly, the people pushing standards the hardest are the same people who love bulky unique exploratory designs that are all about "creating a user experience." Yah, a crappy experience.
posted by fleener at 2:58 PM on December 13, 2001


Oh what's your problem? Can't handle broad generalizations?
posted by fleener at 3:05 PM on December 13, 2001


fleener:

Not surprisingly, the people pushing standards the hardest are the same people who love bulky unique exploratory designs that are all about "creating a user experience."

such as who? zeldman's site seems quite usable to me, and nice, but not terribly ground-breaking (no offense to JZ) or exploratory in design. i know some personal portfolios on the web tend to be pretty creative and exploratory, but of course, those aren't the same as the websites those designers are building -- the websites which the designers need the standards for. there's no need to stereotype designers, fleener.
posted by moz at 3:08 PM on December 13, 2001


(i mean building as in for corporate clients -- sorry!)
posted by moz at 3:09 PM on December 13, 2001


Ummmm... am I the only one who had to view the source just to read it?

It took me a while to get to it, since I had to stop my hysterical laughing at the fact that the only text I could read was at this time, and 1998-2001 The Web Standards Project

I know I'm a neophyte and all, but that's the kind of web standard I could do without.
posted by stefanie at 3:14 PM on December 13, 2001


So.. WSP calls it quits because designers aren't listening?

...

I didn't see them calling it quits when the browser makers were gleefully implementing non-standard tags and aggressively marketing competing web technologies. Why not just shift focus to web designers, now that the browser makers have been harnessed?

Just a thought.
posted by xyzzy at 3:15 PM on December 13, 2001


I embrace broad generalizations. Good post, Fleener!

They could have just said, "we realize we're no longer needed, so we're calling it quits. Been fun." The concept served its purpose to a degree, but web standards also risked slowing down progress. I think in the final analysis, the Internet found a happy medium between adhering to web standards and ignoring them entirely. I always thought they were rather short-sighted in their crusade, but at least they can see when it's time to put up their spurs.
posted by ZachsMind at 3:19 PM on December 13, 2001


Moz, in general, the designers I've known who are presentationalists are also crusaders for web standards because standards would give them the absolute control over presentation that they so desperately desire.

I refer to bulky designs because some of these designers think Adobe ImageReady is a web design program. (It isn't! It's for creating graphics, not entire web sites that are graphics-only!)
posted by fleener at 3:24 PM on December 13, 2001


Zeldman's WaSP doesn't obey standards, they never did. It's probably well formed and valid but there's more to standards than that. I was waiting for WaSP to get popup text by using acronym tags... guess it'll never happen now.
posted by holloway at 3:27 PM on December 13, 2001


I know I'm a neophyte and all, but that's the kind of web standard I could do without.

You're just not on par with the standard. Which browser are you using?
posted by j.edwards at 3:30 PM on December 13, 2001


I love web standards. What most people don't seem to get (and I didn't either until fairly recently -- though Zeldman and others have been saying it all along) is that web standards help everyone -- people with old browsers, people with new browsers. When used properly, they keep the visual "look" of the website from interfering with its usability (and readability) on older browsers, while allowing newer browsers to display everything as God and the designer intended.

(Why, I can almost hear Zeldman saying, "My work here...is done," right before he grits his teeth into a sudden wind and begins walking into the sunset. Way to kick some a**, Z.)

(I have to admit that, until recently, I wasn't using CSS markup correctly. Then I found an excellent tutorial and things really started clicking into place.)
posted by Kikkoman at 3:31 PM on December 13, 2001


[wretching sound] CultOfZeldman.com is available, better snatch it up now.
posted by fleener at 3:47 PM on December 13, 2001


I think they're saying that their job is halfway done at this point, that they're talking a leave of absence because there's not much more to do on their part. The WaSP is a watchdog group. They got after the browser makers about doing the right thing. They made noise. The browser makers have started listening now.

The next thing that needs to happen is for people like us to embrace what WaSP and the browser makers are working to give us. I think Zeldman is saying "It's up to the web's people now. We could get on the browser makers' tails about this and that, but we can't come knocking on your door and demand you write proper code."

Should issues and events arise in the future, should the browser makers lose sight and step off track, I'm sure the WaSP will resurface to make some noise.

Frankly, I'm thankful for the progess that they've helped push along, and I will repay them by using standards.
posted by tomorama at 3:47 PM on December 13, 2001


Within the last couple of months, I had read that the WaSP was going to start focusing some of their efforts on the manufacturers of WYSIWYG html editing programs. I guess they couldn't garner much enthusiasm over making tools for people to use more standards friendly. Regardless, I think they made a difference. Well done WaSP, well done.
posted by bragadocchio at 3:54 PM on December 13, 2001


Wow, Fleener, you're really bringing a lot to this conversation, aren't you? Four unfunny, snarky comments that make you sound ignorant! Good job!
posted by solistrato at 4:03 PM on December 13, 2001


Thank you, thank you. *bowing*

Please do explain how what I've said is incorrect. This is a religious argument, so playing the snark card just makes you look ignorant. What are you feeling at this moment?
posted by fleener at 4:05 PM on December 13, 2001


j.edwards, since I'm at work I'm using Win NT and IE 5.5. For fun I tried Opera 5 and it worked like a charm. Go figure.
posted by stefanie at 4:09 PM on December 13, 2001


Kikkoman, there's a good, new, related article here.
posted by southisup at 4:10 PM on December 13, 2001


Fleeener, your attitude is not appreciated.

"Web users couldn't give a damn about web standards"

Stefanie can't see the page. Is it the browser's fault? A bug in IE? The person who laid out the page? Who knows? Web users do care.

"Moz, in general, the designers I've known who are presentationalists are also crusaders for web standards because standards would give them the absolute control over presentation that they so desperately desire."

You're forgetting that programmers and people who do HTML production are also crusaders because they have to piece together the pages. You seem to want to take out your frustrations on designers when I'd say there are just as many people who don't design, just layout HTML, who are tearing their hair out at having to code for every browser.

Businesses care because production takes longer when a browser fails to render something correctly. When production takes longer, it costs more money.

Web users care because if their configuration isn't tested for (like Stefanie in the above posts) they can't see the page.

"CultOfZeldman.com is available, better snatch it up now."

C'mon, that was snarky.

"What are you feeling at this moment?"

All this anger at Zeldman and the WaSP? I'm feeling like you had a bad day. Seriously, if you want a rational discussion on web standards, I'd love to hear your argument, if you want to post snarky comments and exclamation points, I'll ignore you.
posted by perplexed at 4:25 PM on December 13, 2001


Perplexed said: Web users do care.

I say: No, they do not. The average user does not even know what the term "web standards" means. They simply care whether they achieve their goal or purpose when they visit a web site. If the site displays incorrectly it means the site was not designed for that audience. If your audience uses Netscape 4.7, then you design to accommodate that. WEB DESIGNERS care about web standards.

Perplexed said: You seem to want to take out your frustrations on designers when I'd say there are just as many people who don't design, just layout HTML, who are tearing their hair out at having to code for every browser

I say: Fair enough. But with the dot-com bust, only big companies can afford to pay people who are strictly page coders. Everyone else has been thrown back into wearing multiple hats.

Perplexed said: C'mon, that was snarky.

I say: OK, that was a snarky comment, but there was a point. Blindly following Zeldman or Jakob or anyone is getting rather old.

Perplexed said: I'd love to hear your argument

My main point was in my first and third posts. Average people don't care about standards and some of the most militant crusaders for standards are responsible for creating web sites that frustrate average users. I took issue with the Web Standards Project blaming user frustration on standards. It has nothing to do with standards. Designers could create web sites that will satisfy the needs and desires of average people using old browsers like Netscape 4.7. Their diatribe - and that's what it was - is a rather pathetic, whiny piece.
posted by fleener at 4:36 PM on December 13, 2001


To all I have snarked today, I apologize.
posted by fleener at 4:44 PM on December 13, 2001


What most people don't seem to get (...) is that web standards help everyone -- people with old browsers, people with new browsers.
Old browsers weren't made for these standards. Unless you mean that old browsers benefit by having the removal of basic usability elements (like, say, columns).
When used properly, they keep the visual "look" of the website from interfering with its usability (and readability) on older browsers, while allowing newer browsers to display everything as God and the designer intended.
Not true at all. The readibility of a page is impaired by pancaking each element one after another down the page, which (as a general rule) will cause a lot more scrolling. It makes poor use of screen space and visually scanning a page is more difficult. In older browsers background colours often used by sites to distinguish page elements will gone. Sighted users certainly don't benefit from bleeding edge standards (and yes, CSS 1 is from 1996 - but a full implementation wasn't available until at least 2000, if not 2001 - hence the blood).

The main benefit from these bleeding edge standards is user style sheets, a good thing - though you can allow the most used parts of user style sheets and still provide a layout that'll work in older browsers. The other is print style sheets which in so far as providing a printable version could also be achieved server-side and gain another 20% audience.

What I have been most dissapointed in the reaction to Zeldman's campaign and the poor understanding of the w3 standards and weilding the users of older browsers to their point across. Pinning a badge from validator.w3.org only means you're syntactically compliant. If you were to use an acronym tag (focus/hover over this sentence to see the result) to show a bubble of text you would be abusing standards. No validator can be expected to understand that you're not actually defining an acronym, nor that WaSP were using CSS 'display: none' to hide an upgrade message for newer browsers. Both of these practices abuse w3 standards. It was sad that Zeldman's campaign was ignorant of these standards (or, worse, chose to disobey them).

However weilding users was immoral, in my opinion. WaSP didn't advocate helping people with their browsing in older browsers. That the pages didn't work so well in older browsers was the point, and intentionally poor browsing was the tool WaSP used to get their view across.
posted by holloway at 5:05 PM on December 13, 2001


only big companies can afford to pay people who are strictly page coders. Everyone else has been thrown back into wearing multiple hats.

as a multiple-hat-wearer (I update, design, code (HTML & PHP), and help other people design & update for a community college - when I'm not answering email, sitting in meetings, etc.) I appreciate standards a great deal.

I'm in the middle of overhauling part of our site, and this time trying to be very clear about making it "standards-compliant" - because if I put all of my presentation/style into a stylesheet, then when I want to change colors/fonts/sizes/whatever for something, it takes 5 seconds instead of 3 hours.

and if you think about it clearly enough ahead of time, you can make sure that it "works" for everybody, including all the people with Netscape 4.x - and still have a bit of flair for at least part of your audience.

plus, where I work, it's important for us to be accessible - to old browsers, the disabled, people on hideously slow connections (many neighborhoods in areas we serve have very bad, very old wire - one of my co-workers regularly gets 28k or lower on her 56k modem). again, if you take a little time up front, and follow the standards, using as few work-arounds as you need, your site(s) can be accessible to most audiences.

(I often test my work in Lynx, just for shits & giggles.)

and thanks, southisup, for linking that article - if I'd had time today, I'd've posted it to the front page - saw it on zeldman's site yesterday. he says what I've been thinking lately, but more clearly than I've been able to.

holloway, I read your post while previewing mine - I think you make some good points, which I'd like to think about for a bit before I post again.
posted by epersonae at 5:13 PM on December 13, 2001


Perplexed said: Web users do care.

I say: No, they do not. The average user does not even know what the term "web standards" means. They simply care whether they achieve their goal or purpose when they visit a web site. If the site displays incorrectly it means the site was not designed for that audience. If your audience uses Netscape 4.7, then you design to accommodate that. WEB DESIGNERS care about web standards.


I care about air quality standards, car safety standards, and FDA standards. Oh not directly, I mean I'm not glued to Prescription Drugs Weekly Magazine or anything, but I care that there are people ensuring that there are standards of production for things I injest and ride in. I care that seatbelts have a certain tensile strength. I care that the manufacturer of my child's baby crib didn't use some carcinogen that hasn't been tested for.

I think we agree, really. The average web user doesn't stay up at night wondering if the MARQUEE tag will ever get included in an HTML spec. But luckily we have people like Zeldman and the rest who do care. Who would fight to keep non-standard tags and implementations of layout from showing up in browsers. (MARQUEE is a bad example, I'm writing this as I run off to our Christmas Party, but I hope you get the idea.)

So in the end Stefanie isn't pissed that there is something relating to browser incompatibility with that page that's causing it to render incorrectly, she's just pissed that it doesn't work.

Perplexed said: You seem to want to take out your frustrations on designers when I'd say there are just as many people who don't design, just layout HTML, who are tearing their hair out at having to code for every browser

I say: Fair enough. But with the dot-com bust, only big companies can afford to pay people who are strictly page coders. Everyone else has been thrown back into wearing multiple hats.


Yeah, it sucks. You wouldn't believe the crap I have to deal with in JavaScript. If you ever get a chance, check out the source of a dHTML site. You'll see tons of If IE do this, if NS do this... And then, even on the server side we code around browsers. If there was one standard for JS, layout, and positioning, I'd get so much more done. You should see my test environment. I could start an ISP with all the machines I have here.


Perplexed said: C'mon, that was snarky.

I say: OK, that was a snarky comment, but there was a point. Blindly following Zeldman or Jakob or anyone is getting rather old.


I don't blindly follow anyone. I base all my opinions on personal experience. I've been doing this for 7 years and only today did I realize how far we've come. I remember when the WaSP started and I said to myself, "Good fucking luck." Things have changed and they've changed for the better so I'm happier.

Perplexed said: I'd love to hear your argument

My main point was in my first and third posts. Average people don't care about standards and some of the most militant crusaders for standards are responsible for creating web sites that frustrate average users. I took issue with the Web Standards Project blaming user frustration on standards. It has nothing to do with standards. Designers could create web sites that will satisfy the needs and desires of average people using old browsers like Netscape 4.7. Their diatribe - and that's what it was - is a rather pathetic, whiny piece.


I work with designers. I agree, they can piss me off to no end with their nutty ideas about things floating about on a page-- but I don't think this is about designers, I think this is about anyone who wants a transparent web. I don't think about standards when I call someone in Tanzania. I don't think about standards when I board an airplane made by 20 different sub-contractors. I care that things work and that they work well.

Standards would reign in the designer who wants to push the envelope with some wild menuing system, and it would ensure that that menuing system is easy and straightforward to make.
posted by perplexed at 5:22 PM on December 13, 2001


I guess they couldn't garner much enthusiasm over making tools for people to use more standards friendly.

didn't macromedia release a plug-in that spit out valid xhtml code for dreamweaver 4.0, shortly after it came out? not sure, but i think i saw that somewhere.

everything else i wanted to say, espersonae summer up. it's got nothing to do with zeldman-worshipping. in fact, i think wasp and id were thoroughly bashed here more so than in most places. standards just makes a lot more sense than trying to code for NS 4.7.
posted by lotsofno at 5:26 PM on December 13, 2001


didn't macromedia release a plug-in that spit out valid xhtml code for dreamweaver 4.0, shortly after it came out? not sure, but i think i saw that somewhere.
If it's the same one I saw it embedded style="blah blah blah blah blah blah blah" for each paragraph -- which really puts the complaints about font tags in perspective, now don't it?
posted by holloway at 5:31 PM on December 13, 2001


Owen has a fantastic multi-page essay over at his site that is pertinent here. It covers the reasoning behind valid markup, and looks to the future. It's not about the cool borders on hyperlinks, it's about accessibility and device independence.
posted by mathowie at 5:39 PM on December 13, 2001


um, isn't that the same one southisup linked to?

but then again, I liked it so much that I read it twice....
posted by epersonae at 6:03 PM on December 13, 2001


summer up

good god... "summed," rather
posted by lotsofno at 6:46 PM on December 13, 2001


lotsofno - s'okay. this time of year, I could sometimes stand to summer up.

holloway - all right, I went off & had pizza & thought about it.

my goal, in attempting to follow standards, is the greatest good for the greatest number. it's knowing the rules deeply enough that you know when to f*** with them - and which hacks will do the least damage, or be easiest to run with in the future.

yeah, it sucks to give up columns for middle-aged (since, really, old browsers are gonna be all outa whack anyway) browsers. but using tables to create text columns can be something of a morass in many cases.

as for the @import & display: none hacks, you have to know your work, even more than your audience, to determine when & how to use them.

no reason to use @import if you're not using float or positioning. and even then, if you want to be gently open to the middle-aged browser crowd (fonts, colors, sizes, borders, etc.), no reason you can't have a linked stylesheet that controls everything but the floating & positioning.

again, I only use the display: none hack if I think that my design is dependant on the layout tricks of the CSS. and even then, you can be gentle about it - far more gentle than the WaSP/ALA suggested text.

That the pages didn't work so well in older browsers was the point, and intentionally poor browsing was the tool WaSP used to get their view across.

I'll admit, I've done this a few times to my co-workers who are overly attached to their Netscape 4.x.

But after having one internal client who bugged me for weeks because something was a fraction off in his Netscape 4.731415 browser (I swear, he has (still!) the most obscure version on the planet) in the lovely but totally hack-tastic design by an intern, it felt necessary just as an explanation to the people I work with.

there. that's my example. she did this very cool-looking design that relied on every whacked table hack you could think of, plus all kinds of non-standard code. and in certain circumstances, it looked great. in every other situation, it was a mess - actually unusable. I've been working on a redesign - with a simpler design, with the goal of having it look vaguely similar in a range of circumstances, but still usable in most other circumstances.

I got to that point by thinking about standards. and god bless the WaSP for helping me to get there.

I've got the start of another rant about the training of web designers (I had an intriguing discussion with another intern recently) but I think I'd better just finish my dinner instead.
posted by epersonae at 7:09 PM on December 13, 2001


I think, to me at least, the WaSP was more about this

Above all the problem lies with clients who confuse the web with print. Who insist on pixel-perfect rendering of their sites in user agents incapable of such renderings except at the expense of interoperability, accessibility, and document structure.

than any standards. I mean, standards are great and make things a lot easier to build for us... but unless you educate those people with that "pin-point accurate design" mentality into a dynamic-web mentality, they're moot really.

If you've ever been given an Illustrator/Photoshop file, and were expected to HTMLize it in such a way that it displays exactly the same across a whole plethora of browsers, then you'd know that getting it to look like that takes much longer than any actual HTML writing - regardless of any standards.
posted by mkn at 7:46 PM on December 13, 2001


exactly. that's the really short & consise version of what I was trying to say. at least, part of it, anyway.
posted by epersonae at 9:12 PM on December 13, 2001


I just want to pipe in and say I agree with Perplexed and Solistrato. Fleener, get a clue.
posted by bloggboy at 9:32 PM on December 13, 2001


One reason I have to use the @import to pull my CSS layouts into my weblog is because my Mom still views it with Netscape Gold.

I still get a few of those "3.x" visitors every now and then, and I feel it's a lot more conscientious of me to use @import and display:none to explain why my layouts display unformatted for them, rather than sacrifice my design vision just so my site can compensate for the coding shortcomings of other browsers which aren't my fault.

The chore of refreshing in two or three or even four different browsers while coding is still often necessary these days, but it isn't quite so much the designer's horror that it used to be; and we have Zeldman and the other WASP folks to thank for that. I'm really grateful for all they've done, and for all I've learned from them.

Thanks, guys! :)
posted by brownpau at 9:53 PM on December 13, 2001


separated at birth?


posted by gazingus at 10:02 PM on December 13, 2001


Web Standards: designers care, browser companies pretend to care, users don't care. UNLESS the user has to deal with accessibility issues, then they will care a lot. That is the point of standards. It tries to take care of everyone. The W3C intentions are not that mysterious, make the code work for as many browsers as possible, for as many people as possible while thinking about the future. This is how coders should think to.
posted by dfa at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2001


I think it is important to note that adopting standards will not necessarily solve the problem of browsers rendering pages differently. The W3C specs are quite vague in some areas as to the behavior of user agents, containing words like "should" and "may." This leaves open the probability of as many interpretations as there are standard-compliant user agents.

This leads me to two conclusions: 1) HTML and CSS are woefully inadequate as presentation tools (better use *ack* Flash), and 2) standards are intended more for the benefit of XML/XSLT authors than for designers.
posted by gazingus at 11:24 PM on December 13, 2001


What epersonae, perplexed and mkn said. +1

Standards are a Good Thing, there's no debating it. WaSP was too mean to end users ('Get a better browser, lamo!') and not totally compliant to the spirit of the standards, but you have to admit it made a difference, to browser makers and to designers/coders/whatyoumightcallthemtoday. We should all be thankful.

As xyzzy said, the real biggie about standards lies with the designers/coders/whatyoumightcallthemtoday now. And it's a little bit disappointing that WaSP gives up so easily on this new fight.

I'm also getting tired of hasty accusations of cult worshipping. If Zeldman or Nielsen are right about something, and I agree with them, does that automatically make me a stupid peon?
posted by qbert72 at 11:29 PM on December 13, 2001


Web Standards and strict w3c compliancy are a fantastic idea for an ideal world. In case you haven't noticed, we don't live in an ideal world. I've been working with the Web since 1993, and the hats I wear are many (Web Designer, Web Developer, HTML/CSS/Javascript/PHP/Perl, Webmaster, Sysadmin, IT Manager), and the one universal constant -- the basis upon which the Web was founded -- is that information should be accessible to as many people as humanly possible without demanding they upgrade their browser.
If forced to choose between the minor convenience of strict compliancy and the ability for nearly everyone to gain the same experience from my work, I will select the latter without hesitation every time. The vast majority of my sites look identical in 6.x, 5.x, 4.x (and even 3.x, usually) browsers without hundreds of additional lines of code.

I get paid to wield "a Balkanized mess of non?valid markup" with finesse, and I do it well. "Web Standards" would only make my job more difficult and would literally exclude a portion of the online population I'm unwilling to alienate.
posted by Danelope at 11:33 PM on December 13, 2001


Standard compliant markup does not exclude anybody. That's precisely what standards are made for in the first place. However, it will display differently on different user agents. The web guy/girl's job is to make sure it does so gracefully. A good rule of thumb is to always look at your web site in Lynx, to see if it is still usable at it's simplest level (a level used by PDA or braille readers, or speech browsers, to name a few).
posted by qbert72 at 12:07 AM on December 14, 2001


I am willing to accept that the average web user doesn't think about web standards, but they aren't supposed to. As a few people have mentioned, web standards are meant for web designers.

"Web Standards" would only make my job more difficult and would literally exclude a portion of the online population I'm unwilling to alienate.

Now it bothers me to see this coming from a self-proclaimed skilled web renaissance man. There is no doubt that Netscape 4.7 cannot properly handle CSS, especially when it is used for layout. So if you are coding to standards, not to browsers, then you cannot take advantage of some of the really interesting areas of CSS. So I don't doubt that you or anyone can code a page that works in all browsers without redirects, etc., but it just isn't as much fun.

About your job being more difficult, a lot of the benefits of new technologies included in W3C Specs will make designing a whole lot easier. And, if we as designers support them now then the browsers will be forced to follow web standards. Yes, we may be a bit ahead of the users but that is under our discretion. If you are creating a mass market site you should never use the most new- fangled technologies, but it doesn't mean you should completely disregard the standards.

I think I'll breathe out now and let this discussion grow a bit more.
posted by capndesign at 12:15 AM on December 14, 2001


southisup: Thanks for pointing out that article. I'll be looking into it.

Old browsers weren't made for these standards. Unless you mean that old browsers benefit by having the removal of basic usability elements (like, say, columns).

Good point. Ok, so I'll restate: Old browsers can still view the sites that utilize web standards. Access to the information is still granted regardless of your tech level. Certainly, you may run into usability issues, but I feel compelled to point out that the original HTML spec -- and even the extensions added during the browser wars -- doesn't account for all of the needs we have today: Delivery of content to a greater range of platforms, repurposing of content, content syndication, etc. -- all these things have benefited greatly from the specs the WaSP has supported.

Also, as someone else pointed out, browser specific markup and table-based layouts often behave unpredictably when rendered by the wide range of user agents out there today. Standards are a solution to that problem.

Pinning a badge from validator.w3.org only means you're syntactically compliant. If you were to use an acronym tag (focus/hover over this sentence to see the result) to show a bubble of text you would be abusing standards.

True. It's rather a given that the standards are going to be abused by someone -- just as old, crufty HTML 3.2 code is "extended" and abused by people. In the WaSP's case, they were in a position to push the agenda of standards, which helps us continue to shovel out content effectively for the platforms and browsers extant and yet to appear.

Web Standards and strict w3c compliancy are a fantastic idea for an ideal world. In case you haven't noticed, we don't live in an ideal world.

They were designed to tackle the real world problems faced by designers in the here and now. The standards were developed because things didn't render the same on every device and every browser. If you want to reach the widest audience, conformance to the standards is literally your best bet. Non-conformance only ensures that the ever-increasing number of devices trying to access your content will each render your site in a slightly different manner.

I get paid to wield "a Balkanized mess of non?valid markup" with finesse, and I do it well. "Web Standards" would only make my job more difficult and would literally exclude a portion of the online population I'm unwilling to alienate.

Actually, it makes your job easier. I've been employing css on all my sites for about a year now, and it takes a lot less time to update/manage a site when you don't have to fiddle with font tags and other markup circa 1996.
posted by Kikkoman at 12:49 AM on December 14, 2001


Also, as someone else pointed out, browser specific markup and table-based layouts often behave unpredictably when rendered by the wide range of user agents out there today. Standards are a solution to that problem.
If it were a battle between 'the most idiotic html you can get' and 'standards' then yes, standards would win. But, as the other guy said, a smart mish-mash of official and unofficial html is what works. (If you want to talk about supporting what's best for the future... yadda yadda... standards!)
In the WaSP's case, they were in a position to push the agenda of standards, which helps us continue to shovel out content effectively for the platforms and browsers extant and yet to appear.
Be hypocritical? Yeah - I think everyone got that.
posted by holloway at 2:25 AM on December 14, 2001


You all are a bunch of whiney asses.

1. the general web user DOES care about web standards, they just don't know it. They want to be able to see the page how it is supposed to be seen, or at least be able to see it as well as possible. browsers that support CSS and HTML properly allow web designers like myself to create ONE page that can be viewed perfectly by newer browsers, and degrade nicely for older ones.

Image if they ahd to republish books for each type of corrective eyewear that people wear - one version for glasses, one for contacts, one for no glasses, one for bifocals... that's what we WERE dealing with. Having the browsers (eyewear) support one standard allows us to create one "book". very simple concept.

sorry someone stuck a spike up your butt, fleener. I'm betting you're not a designer, or at least not one that's been around very long. I've been designing websites since 1994, when I created a site for students at my university, and ever since there was more than one browser, standards have been a big issue.

designers SHOULD make sure the website they create looks good in Netscape 2.0, 3.0, etc... but it's nice when standards make it easy to do so.
posted by presto at 5:29 AM on December 14, 2001


Standards. Standards are essential to the ability for any technology to prosper, grow, and be useful. If you all don't know, one of the largest organizations in the world is the International Standards Organization, or ISO. They have responsibility for creating and maintaing standards for practically everything. ANSI (The American National Standards Institute) is a member. Look on the back of your stove and you'll see that all the power hookups say they 'complies with ISO blah blah blah'.

Normal people don't care about standards? How about your cell phone that works in the US, but not in Europe? Or why do you have to buy an adapter to plug in your (American) computer in Brussels that is different from the adapter you need for Europe and England? Why do you need any adapters at all? How annoying is that, anyway? (Just imagine needing a different adapter for every country in the world)

I work in the financial industry and deal with standards every day, designing systems based on different messaging standards (like ISO15022), using static data that comes from providers that don't comply with the messaging standards we have to use the data for, and having to code for market practices that are different in each country because they can't agree on a single standard.

I'm working on XML standards for market data (MDDL), XML for ISO15022 (WG10/SwiftML), convergence of messaging standards (FIX/SWIFT), and half a dozen other standards-related issues because without these standards being use properly, the industry will never get to T+1. Not that any of you care about T+1, but it will reduce liquidity risk in the marketplace and basically make the economy healthier, make your stock investments worth more, and so forth.

I participated with the WaSP in through their e-mail threads and the people there worked, listened, and did have an affect on the browsers you used and the new ones you use today. They helped make sure they were better because they complied with standards.

But the important thing Zeldman noted was the use of standards by the developers. I face this every day as people try to say "Well, yeah, that's the standard way to use the message, but why don't we shove this bit of data in here?"

Specialized coding, maintenance headaches and costly overhead. Standards help eliminate all of this, while providing a consistant view and user experience. Why do I njeed to shove some non-standard bit of data in my message? Usually because the recipient on the other end hasn't fixed their system to use the standards. And in many cases, I'm paying THEM for service. So, I say 'screw em' and tell them to fix their system. Otherwise I have 100 different messages going out my door, and 100 messages and code to maintain as opposed to ONE.

Backward compatability is wonderful. And for browsers, and the web, which is really an infant still, yes, you still have a good number of users sitting with 4.0's. But as it matures, and as long as standards are part of that maturing process, 'old' browsers will be less and less of an issue. You commoditize the portion of the web - namely the delivery/display of the information - and it frees you to worry about the next levels;

Speed, bandwidth, design, presentation. If you have standards on the content, you can start to really make progress in those areas.
posted by rich at 7:25 AM on December 14, 2001


What rich said. Next time you flick a switch to get electric power, buy clothing, visit a pharmacy, eat any food you didn't grow yourself, cross the road, enter any building without worrying whether it will collapse, enjoy any form of recorded media, read anything, fly or even sleep in a bed, be grateful industries have standards.

Standards are the mechanism by which industries make sure things, literally anything, are safe, behave predictably, work together and can be produced affordably. To think the web is unique in not requiring standardization is absurd and ridiculous.
posted by normy at 7:45 AM on December 14, 2001


IT is not true to say that only designers care about Web standards. Although I've been building on the web for years, my primary role is on the business end of things, and for me web standards are critical.

There are three things I get when a vendor I'm looking at suggests that he/she will adhere to W3C standards.

1. It's cheaper. At the outset of a project the pricetag for a compliantly-coded site may be the same. But down the road, it will be cheaper. Web projects (obviously) don't end at the site's launch - they are ongoing. High-quality standards-compliant code makes both ongoing content development (with or without a CMS) AND redesigns easier to do, and sometimes MUCH less time-consuming.

2. Less lock-in. Related to the previous, a company that produces standards-compliant code isn't locking me in to hiring them for the maintenance contract. That's important - it shows confidence in the company's abilities. Not that big a deal, really, but interesting.

3. Flexibility for the future. The biggest thing about using CSS with W3C code to me is that it makes HTML a structural language again. (So 'p class = bigheading' is no good in my judgement - just use h1 and an element selector). Therefore, a site's pages don't just look well-structured, they can be well-structured. If pages of code have to be read on an alternative device with no facility for CSS, or more importantly by another machine, the documents' structure is already built-in, independent of how it looks.

I was actually looking forward to another salvo from the WaSP towards the companies who make HTML editors, as it drives me nuts that none have adequate support for this stuff.
posted by mikel at 9:07 AM on December 14, 2001


My feeling is that the argument put forth by those 'designers' who are against the WaSP's work regarding standards seems to be about some percieved pontificating. They outright reject the ideas recommended by the WaSP for what seems to be no other reason than to say, "You don't speak for me and my audience."

Well true, the WaSP doesn't speak for all designers. They have never claimed to. They have never come down from the mount with any sort of commandment and said that their recommendations should be implemented at all levels, by every designer working today. In an effort to help the web move forward, all that they have esentially asked is that designers step back and take a broader view. That they look at, understand, and implement where applicable, the current set of recommended standards. In some cases, this 'broader view' might alienate some users. But it is up to the designer to decide if or where and when it is appropriate to alienate users.

Now by alienating users, this does not necessarily mean prohibiting users from accessing a site. Far from it. The only thing the WaSP recommendations could cause (unless you were to take it to extremes) by way of alienation is a less visually appealing design for users of older browsers. Properly structured, marked up and laid out, access to information remains unhindered, and the page will actually be available to a broader audience. Since certain presentational elements, that could prevent access to a site by some user agents, can be prevented from being served, the page becomes more inclusive by allowing the information to be accessed by a broader range of user than was previously possible. The argument that information becomes inaccessible falls apart at this point. The only thing that becomes inaccessible is the graphic presentation, and as I stated, if properly marked up and laid out, the page remains quite useable.

The next argument heard from the WaSP's opposition is about forcing users to upgrade their browsers. The WaSP has never advocated a forced upgrade of users. They have recommended user education by way of messages explaining that the user's browser has proved to be unable to display the complete design. I see no reason to discredit this recommendation, since the web is an interactive medium, and user education is always a good thing. There really isn't a good reason to start explaining about standards to the typical user, but explaining that his browser isn't suited to a more refined experience on the web isn't out of bounds in my opinion. Granted, they may not care, but if they don't care (and your site is still useable, and information is not being held hostage), then that only leaves ego to care whether the graphic presentation gets seen or not. Wanting nearly everyone to gain the same 'experience' from your work is ego. While user experience contributes to the usability of a site, designing useable sites should be the fundamental point. Yes, designers get paid for their expertise in wielding the tools of the web and doing it well. So that's exactly the point. Use your 'expertise' to design sites that ultimately are useable by everyone. They will still be 'experienced' by the majority of users. It's no less work than trying to get a layout to render the same in all browsers on all platforms. In fact it's less work. Which brings me to my final point.

The last argument always seems to be that there is more coding, and hence more work involved in creating websites which adhere to standards. Flat out untrue. Sites that adhere to current W3C recommended standards, and which separate content from presentation, are cleaner, more easily parsed and rendered across a variety of user agents, and ultimately lighter in terms of bytes, which makes downloading the page easier on users with slow connections or modems. The usual work still applies. Preproduction and forethought about your audience and how best to present your information to your potential users. Designing with 'standards' in mind presents no extra work except to the designer who has no experience working with the current standards.
posted by mikhail at 10:13 AM on December 14, 2001


(I have to admit that, until recently, I wasn't using CSS markup correctly. Then I found an excellent tutorial and things really started clicking into place.)

This addresses my point of view exactly. I have been doing web design for years. But years _after_ I was out of college. I have a degree in English Lit. The job I have in the field is mostly about content, and it is for a nonprofit.

With all this being said, it seems that even if designers wholeheartedly embrace standards it doesn't mean they have the know-how (or time) to implement them. My day and my budget don't allow for me to spend time learning how to do all these standard-compliant things. I _want_ to, but even the most in-depth tutorials don't cover everything, and I don't have any money in my budget to get the skills I need at this point. So I try in my limited spare time to learn about standards, and I use my personal site to teach myself CSS etc, and that is about all I can do right now.

So while it is important to work for standards, I felt this last article at WaSP came across as scolding designers when each individual designer's situation is different.

my $.02
posted by terrapin at 11:45 AM on December 14, 2001


There are three things I get when a vendor I'm looking at suggests that he/she will adhere to W3C standards.

1. It's cheaper and it doesn't work as well. At the outset of a project the pricetag for a compliantly-coded site may be the same. But down the road, years from now, it will be cheaper. Sure, most commercial sites these days use server-side scripting and we could ensure that the template was easily changed. Hell, even if you don't have a server it's not like templates aren't popular (Dreamweaver, Hotdog, and the list goes on). Web projects (obviously) don't end at the site's launch - they are ongoing. High-quality standards-compliant code makes both ongoing content development (with or without a CMS) AND redesigns easier to do, and sometimes MUCH less time-consuming - sure less people can see them, but it's their own damn fault! Download a new browser, mom!

2. Less lock-in and stuff. Related to the previous, a company that produces standards-compliant code isn't locking me in to hiring them for the maintenance contract. Sure, anyone in the industry could pick up another's HTML - but I learn standards. Not that big a deal, really, but interesting.

3. These standards will payoff in six months, certainly at least by 2003. The biggest thing about using CSS with W3C code to me is that it makes HTML a structural language again. I'm sure you could fowl up your HTML anyway, actually, as it's not like anything structurally done with HTML varies when you introduce CSS. Therefore, a site's pages don't just look well-structured, they can be well-structured - just like HTML 2. God bless CSS. If pages of code have to be read on an alternative device with no facility for CSS, or more importantly by another machine, they'll be told to upgrade. Ha!
posted by holloway at 11:51 AM on December 14, 2001


Unfortunately personal vitriol always creeps into these discussions. It's understood that as individuals we are never going to fall on the same side of the fence, but we do have some commonalities that unite us (the very fact we work/play/publish on the Web is one). We should try to find reasons to support one another.

At the very least, we should applaud the success of WaSP for getting the trials and tribulations of the independent developer into the mainstream press (it isn't easy to boil down all this angst into a soundbyte that a reporter will get right...let alone make it through the editing process to print). WaSP may not accurately represent everyone's "religion," but hey, that's true in most situations where you are dealing with intelligent, free-spirited individuals...(unless, of course, you just joined a cult... :-)
posted by kilroy at 12:41 PM on December 14, 2001


WaSP isn't calling it quits, just taking a short break to regroup and rethink in light of having achieved our initial objective of seeing baseline W3C standards implemented in the major browsers.

And also to relax after three-plus years of daily work, most of which goes on behind the scenes, and all of which benefits you, even if you choose not to learn about or use W3C technologies in your own sites at this time.

WaSP isn't telling anyone what to do. If you choose not to use or learn about web standards at this time, you probably have your reasons, and far be it from me to judge those. We are, however, asking thoughtful people to think.

I feel it incumbent on me to point out that web standards have major advantages for web users, developers, and site owners, and I will continue to do so. You are free to disagree, and even to be aggressive about your disagreement if that gives you pleasure.

Some of the hostility here is surely based on faulty perceptions, some on lack of knowledge, and some appears to be personal. I always find it odd when people who don't know me personally attack me personally. But hey. Enjoy.

In any case, the WaSP is not me, it is simply an idea, and a rather simple, common-sense one, which partially explains its unpopularity.

The idea is that the inventor of the web and the big brains he has gathered around him at W3C have some pretty good ideas about the way the web can evolve — but those ideas can only reach fruition if the technologies involved are implemented by browser and device manufacturers (and this has been happening), AND if people who create websites are willing to pick up the ball and run with it (this has also been happening, though the practice is far from widespread).

In any case, no matter how diplomatically (or otherwise) WaSP phrases its views, message sent is not always message received, some people take offense when you say “Have a nice day,” and anything to do with web design and development inevitably starts religious arguments. And as we know, religion can prompt everything from the noblest acts of which human beings are capable, to the vilest and most violent atrocities ever unleashed on a horrified world. But I digress.
posted by Zeldman at 2:43 PM on December 14, 2001 [1 favorite]


The Legend of Zeldman (bet you haven't heard that one before, eh?),

In the future could you please say "and all of which benefits you except Matthew Cruickshank who finds our abuse of standards and in particular our standards' fanboys kinda funny" instead? Other than that your vagueness amazes me and have a nice christmas.

Thanks!
posted by holloway at 9:31 PM on December 14, 2001


Some of the hostility here is surely based on faulty perceptions, some on lack of knowledge, and some appears to be personal. I always find it odd when people who don't know me personally attack me personally. But hey. Enjoy.

Excellent way to defend a sniveling article. Love your straw man arguments!
posted by fleener at 9:06 AM on December 16, 2001


(In other words... right people off with a sweeping comment and not address the many issues many have raised. Good job.)
posted by fleener at 9:10 AM on December 16, 2001


Here's the thing. Coding for standards doesn't make the coding component of a job harder, as some have argued; it makes defending your work harder.

You code a site using HTML and CSS, and lock out Netscape 4.7 (by choice, mind you.) Now you have to tell your client why those people will see a generic site. Your code can be gorgeous, but using the standards also forces designers and developers to do a little marketing and selling. If you're confident in your work, it can be done.

Those who need to code for NS4.7 still do. As a web design teacher, I find that my students vastly prefer using CSS and HTML for design - as they should. They're the ones who are going to benefit from it the most: good designers who know what the future is going to bring.

And insofar as worshipping Zeldman, I'm not afraid to say that I'm a card-carrying member of the Zeldman Fan Club (Chicago Chapter, member number 9402). There's no shame in supporting someone whose cause I believe in.
posted by hijinx at 9:31 AM on December 16, 2001


"...anything to do with web design and development inevitably starts religious arguments"
"...standards' fanboys"
"There's no shame in supporting someone whose cause I believe in."


That the discussion in this thread is primarily about resistance to common technical standards for web development technologies, rather than about their scope and how such standards should be implemented, illustrates just how immature the web development industry remains.

"scolding designers when each individual designer's situation is different"

It looks like their situations, that is the multitude of problems caused by the lack of a common foundation for website development, will remain different and unnecessarily difficult. Unless they and the people who make the tools they use recognize that standardized core development resources are essential for the evolution of this (or any other) medium.

To suggest an analogy with manufacturing industry, the web hasn't yet achieved a 1914 level of evolution.
posted by normy at 11:43 AM on December 16, 2001


Great link, normy. I love Machinery's Handbook.

I imagine each software developer has had its own internal debate on the extent to which they're likely to profit by "the evolution of the medium" versus keeping things fragmented and proprietary. Learning from the history of earlier debates is probably a good idea. When standarization eventually happens, does it tend to come from cooperation among competitors, external pressure (e.g., government contracting standards), or the economic dominance of one company within an industry?
posted by rodii at 12:11 PM on December 16, 2001


That the discussion in this thread is primarily about resistance to common technical standards for web development technologies, rather than about their scope and how such standards should be implemented, illustrates just how immature the web development industry remains.
Er, normy, if you're quoting me it'd be nice if you could take the time to read my post. I have no resistance to standards (as a coding style they don't allow many usability elements or widest audience yet - I hope they soon will). My main gripe is the WaSP hypocracy. They provided code that abuses standards that was soon on most-every weblog - and the standards fanboys had their cause of the month to latch onto.

I was terribly frustrated during the initial WaSP hooha. I had been doing CSS layouts for years, and I knew that it didn't pay off yet. People were attracted to WaSP though, it's strange. I think it was that they thought they were taking higher moral ground - there was an arrogance about it that I couldn't stand. They claimed a death to legacy and netscape 4 and, most of all, a death to hacks.

Now that it's settled down they've learnt that a bit of legacy helps common users of the web. They've learnt tricks like hiding style from Netscape 4 with @import or referring to glish.com's columned layouts that exploits bugs in the IE5.5 CSS parser. They're just as dirty as ever.

I'll support you if you obey standards or if you resort to every hack in the book. But don't claim to code to standards and only have syntactic compliance - it just shows that you're a standards fanboy who doesn't understand a thing.
posted by holloway at 5:15 PM on December 16, 2001


holloway, bandying ad hominem phrases about like "standards fanboy" (whatever the heck that means, but I'm assuming it's supposed to be uncomplimentary) doesn't help your point, is all. I read your post three times, but I'm still not sure what you're trying to say, but lets assume that's a failing on my part and leave it at that.
posted by normy at 6:23 PM on December 16, 2001


Sorry, I guess the term was kinda vague.
fanboy (n) /1: A person whose obsession involves an inordinate amount of collecting. They will buy almost any item associated with their interest, no matter the usefulness or the price.
IMO it's characterised by a superficial understanding and strong loyalty. In this case, fans of the standards who don't actually understand the standards but like being fans of the standards.
posted by holloway at 8:13 PM on December 16, 2001


Not to say that you're a standards fanboy, normy. I mean "you" in the grass, trees, you and me, towns and city(s), france and italy, kinda way.
posted by holloway at 8:17 PM on December 16, 2001


The New York Public Library is publishing sites in valid XHTML and CSS that work perfectly well in non–compliant browsers like Netscape 4. There is no conflict between industry standards and the requirement to support old browsers when that need exists. You can comply with W3C standards, support rigorous document structure, and make your site accessible to even the buggiest browsers. WaSP has never said otherwise.

When the medium matures (along with some of its practitioners), structure and presentation will be separated, allowing for greater interoperability and accessibility. By the time everyone here is coding that way, “4.0 browsers” will be as forgotten as these arguments. Sites such as A List Apart have gone that route already in hopes of inspiring the community — just as sites like VolumeOne and Praystation inspire graphic and motion designers to think more creatively.

ALA does not “lock out Netscape 4.7,” it simply hides it design from browsers that can’t parse CSS. Netscape readership of ALA has gone up, not down, since we separated content from presentation in February 2001.

The fact that A List Apart hides its Style Sheets from non–compliant browsers does not mean that you must do likewise in your sites today, any more than the creative pleasure I derive from visiting VolumeOne means that I must build all my sites in Flash. The way A List Apart is produced does point toward the future, but even ALA is quite primitive compared to what we will have one day. The longer some designers and developers willfully misunderstand the impetus behind web standards, the longer it will take to reach the future.

“Dirty” standards, as some here are referring to necessary CSS workarounds, do not indicate a problem with W3C standards; they simply indicate where we are in browser history.

Comments about “fans,” “legends,” and so on are trivial, infantile, and beside the point. The concept of web standards has taken root because industry standards are needed, not because I have any special power or mystique. Bill Gates, I assure you, does not know my name, and may never have heard of The Web Standards Project. Nor did I play any part in creating CSS, XML, XHTML, etc. The credit belongs to the W3C, and to those engineers at Microsoft, Netscape, Mozilla, and Opera who have worked hard to bring standards to their browsers.

If you believe that W3C standards are harmful, and that font tags and other crud are The Way of The Future, I encourage you to form an organization supporting your beliefs rather than waste bandwidth lambasting the WaSP or trying to draw me into absurd arguments based on strange personal resentments and a curious lack of knowledge about the technology that enables you to publish online.
posted by Zeldman at 10:08 AM on December 17, 2001


normy: That the discussion in this thread is primarily about resistance to common technical standards for web development technologies, rather than about their scope and how such standards should be implemented, illustrates just how immature the web development industry remains.

Your point is noted, but care to explain how the quote you pulled from my post supports your argument? My point was that I'm a fan of Zeldman as well as a fan of standards (and also, per the "fanboy" term being bandied about, an individual who utilizes and writes for those standards). A lot of people have taken Zeldman to task, with the inability to separate the man from the organization. I like 'em both.
posted by hijinx at 10:40 AM on December 17, 2001


holloway,

Before furthering the discussion, I will be happy to stipulate a few things. First, that the WaSP and Zeldman generate a bit of blind loyalty or 'fanboys'. I'm not sure if you want to continue to argue over the existence of the phenomenon of fanaticism and blind loyalty in society, but that argument has very little to do with the WaSP's browser upgrade campaign. There are plenty of designers who follow one camp or another, or even blindly follow what they know without widening there experience. It's a moot point. If you want to condemn the WaSP's message because they have fans, you're free to do so, but it's not an argument which doesn't have a firm footing. You're also free to condemn what you perceive as the WaSP's manipulation of it's alleged fans and loyalists, but that just paints you as a blind oppositionist or a troll.

Second, that there are designers out there who don't understand the W3C specifications well enough to implement them properly. I would even go so far as say that there probably isn't a designer out there who understands all the specifications so completely that they are able to utilize, and take full advantage of, all the elements available within them. The W3C itself doesn't make use of the 'acronym' tag in every instance possible. As an example there is this page. So, by pointing fingers, taunting, and trying to say that they're being hypocritical because they don't obey standards just makes you look like a bit childish.

Let's also call things what they are. If we are discussing the W3C specifications let's call them just that—'specifications'. The WaSP's use of the term standards is more about achieving standardization of browsers so that they can render HTML et. al properly. This was their original goal. That widened to try to get designers to achieve standardization in their coding practices so that their markup conformed to the guidelines set down in the W3C specifications.

So discarding arguments that spring from the above issues, the points you've made here (and it's hard to know what your point is since it seems to keep changing), seem to settle on few key issues.

1. The trick of hiding the CSS from NS4 and other 'older/bad' browsers impairs their usability.
2. You feel 'wielding' users and forcing people to upgrade is immoral.
3. Hacks are a necessary part of web design.

So let's take them one by one, shall we?

In response to number 1: It really depends on the page's content and how that page's hierarchy was laid out doesn't it? You can't simply cast a broad stroke like that and say that it affects usability in all cases. I think that perhaps, designers who utilize the WaSP trick of hiding the CSS and yet don't understand hierarchical layout, and don't take some usability issues into account will wind up creating pages that are less usable in older browsers, but certainly not unusable. The usability card isn't a strong argument because much of the web already has poor usability. And the people who use older browsers (by choice or not) already have a degraded web experience. The trick itself doesn't make a page less useable. A lack of structure in the document (which is the job of the designer anyway) makes it less useable.

In response to number 2: I would counter that there is a need for a certain level of user education regarding the Internet. Who better to educate the user than the web designer? Done correctly, and with a little bit of tact, the 'ahem' class trick, informing users about their browser, could be construed as being no more harmful than nag screens that accompany shareware, or 'There's a new version available, would you like to upgrade' messages that appear with most software. You could almost call it a good usability element, in that it informs a user that they may be using a sub-par browser. The user who knows he has one or uses it by choice, or has CSS turned off by choice is free to ignore the message. Many people, including yourself it seems, took offense to the WaSP's trick on the same platform that it wasn't right to tell users to upgrade. What they all, and this includes you too, fail to remember is that this was only the WaSP's way of doing this for themselves and their wording was meant to take the hardest line in this regard. They never advocated that all designers turn their backs on users and use a harsh message that was off-putting to users. I defy you to find such a message in their campaign. Within the bounds of the campaign's applicability, they advocated finding ways to alert users, who may have no idea, that a newer version of their browser could enhance their experience on the web. Many designers got overzealous, I will agree. Many blindly followed or put harsh messages in their websites. These people also missed the message. Recklessly abusing what a user sees, or has access to I view as immoral. I've never viewed the WaSP's browser upgrade campaign as such.

I view it this way. There is a certain small percentage of user with 'older' browsers. Of that group, a smaller percentage uses it by choice, another subset because they don't know any better, and the last set because of circumstance (i.e. they can't upgrade for whatever reason). The first group doesn't care and already understand the ramifications of their choice in browser. I am not hindering their experience at all. They're web experience is already hobbled by choice. Go figure.

The message would be ultimately geared for this group. It helps the user in that he now knows that he can upgrade his browser from time to time and enjoy an optimal experience. Ultimately both the user and the people who create the web benefit by this interactivity. I hardly see this as immoral.

The last set may or may not know they are using an older browser. And this is the only group that ultimately gets affected by any hardlining of techniques which lead to a degraded web experience. But here I take into account that at the very least, the site is still usable. It's better than designing 'IE only' or 'NS only' sites

In response to number 3: Yep, hacks and workarounds are a necessary part of web design. The WaSP's point about standardized coding practices was to move away from elements that aren't part of any W3C specification. Avoiding nonstandard markup was their point. They never said don't hack. And here again I would challenge you to find a place where they specifically said don't hack. What they stated was, that you should use standardized markup that is in line with W3C specifications instead of nonstandard, browser specific elements. Hacking pages with nonstandard elements like leftmargin, topmargin, marginwidth, marginheight and such, only succeeded in fragmenting the web. Again, the WaSP's point was to move away from this. They offered tips and ideas on how to do some of these things. Too many designers decided to just use the tips the WaSP offered instead of learning and understanding the specifications, and coming up with their own ways of doing things. To fault the WaSP for what designers were, or were not willing to do is pointless. Too many designers have said they don't have the time to keep up with the specifications. My point would be, at the very least, that's your job. To be aware of, and be able to utilize the specifications including ways to manipulate those same specifications to your needs. I also think the WaSP said if you hack, try to do it with the spirit and/or intent of the specification in mind (I'm sure Zeldman can correct me where I am wrong regarding what it is the WaSP actually said, since I don't claim to speak for them). So feel free to be a hack.

Lastly for your own personal notes...it's:

hypocrisy n 1. The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; insincerity.

You might want to spell it properly the next time you use it. I also don't think the WaSP has ever been hypocritical about what they profess or believe.
posted by mikhail at 11:51 AM on December 17, 2001


You can comply with W3C standards, support rigorous document structure, and make your site accessible to even the buggiest browsers. WaSP has never said otherwise
Zeldman, the point is that you have a rather leniant definition of accessible. Usability wise - it's fucked. Agreed?
“Dirty” standards, as some here are referring to necessary CSS workarounds, do not indicate a problem with W3C standards; they simply indicate where we are in browser history.
Again, the point is that you are resorting to hacks while condemning the old ones. It shows a trend of syntactic compliance to standards without true understanding. You weren't pushing w3 standards - you abused standards. WaSP have created a legacy of documents that access whether browsers should be told to upgrade by whether they can hide a CSS message.

That WaSP spun up such a storm by appearing to obey standards - in my opinion - shows that the fans didn't understand standards at all. It was a cause, it was infantile, and the web was suddenly filled with standards fanboys (and, strangely, glowsticks).
Second, that there are designers out there who don't understand the W3C specifications well enough to implement them properly.
Which is fine, but the web standards organisation provided them the faulty code.
I would even go so far as say that there probably isn't a designer out there who understands all the specifications so completely that they are able to utilize, and take full advantage of, all the elements available within them. The W3C itself doesn't make use of the 'acronym' tag in every instance possible. As an example there is this page. So, by pointing fingers, taunting, and trying to say that they're being hypocritical because they don't obey standards just makes you look like a bit childish.
Oh this is just a copout. If you made a mistake then take it back and try to remedy the situation. Look, I'll do the same: I apologise for spelling hypocrisy incorrectly. I won't do it again.

WaSP were syntactically compliant but there's more to standards than that.

ps. Specify the expansion of each abbreviation or acronym in a document where it first occurs, not each and every time.
posted by holloway at 12:39 PM on December 17, 2001


ambiguity fixer: web standards organisation = web standards project
posted by holloway at 12:55 PM on December 17, 2001


Holloway:

I cannot logically parse your continued arguments, thus cannot respond appropriately. I’m sure you’re trying to say something, but I honestly cannot understand what it is. You wrote:

Zeldman, the point is that you have a rather leniant (sp.) definition of accessible. Usability wise - it’s fucked. Agreed?

I don’t know what that means. Is that English? My definition of accessibility is not lenient; it’s the one specified by WAI Accessibility Guidelines. Usability is an important subject, but it’s not the same as accessibility, and WaSP is not a usability organization in any case. You might as well be complaining about Flash optimization as throwing the word “usability” about, since neither is germane to the topic at hand, which is W3C recommendations.

Finally, even if I ignore the fact that “usability” is not the topic, I fail to see how W3C recommendations lead to sites of which it can be said, “Usability wise — it’s fucked.”

Indeed, I’d argue that compliant sites remove at least one usability obstacle: namely, the absolute failure of the site to render or perform due to browser compatibility issues. By removing browser compatibility issues from the equation, you remove major accessibility and usability obstacles from the user experience.

Of course, a given designer/developer/IA can create an unusable site regardless of the technology involved. You don’t seem to understand that, but then, I’m not sure what you do or don’t understand anyway, because the way you express yourself may be vehement and bullying, but it is totally lacking in clarity or logic. As is often the case, the angrier you get, the less sense you make.

I’ve enjoyed our time together, here, but I’m a grown–up and have work to do, so I must leave you now. Sorry we disagree — if we do disagree. (I’d have to understand what you’re trying to say before I could be sure we disagree.) In any case, have a nice day, and sorry to have troubled you.
posted by Zeldman at 2:25 PM on December 17, 2001


I'd start in on how I'm feeling about the old hacks, but I'd end up repeating things I've written earlier in this thread. it seems to me like most of them - like the table in a table, to get a pretty border, or adding loads of 1 pixel gifs for precision layouts - add a lot of gunk to your code, and make it way harder than it should be to overhaul later.

so far, most of the "new hacks" I've seen are much less damaging to the bottom of your audience, and are a lot easier to strip away or amend.

I too want people to be clear - to themselves & other designers - when they are using hacks. some old saw about knowing when you're breaking the rule comes to mind here. but I have to agree that we are (still) in a stage of development with the web where it's hard to design with no hacks.

know your hacks. they giveth and they taketh away.

WaSP were syntactically compliant but there's more to standards than that.

do you have any suggestions? I don't say that snarkily. my site needs to be accessible to the widest possible set of users - the long arm of the law might not be coming after us quite yet, but I'm sure it will eventually.

also, as someone who works with internal designers at many levels of competency - from none, to people who teach the stuff - I want standards that I can point to and say "this is how we do it here." although we are developing our own, they need to be based on something in the real world. [don't make me tap the sign again.]

I'm starting to think that this is a "cause" that I want to be involved in - I don't have the cojones to think that I'm an expert, but I feel like I've gotten to a point where I understand. and I want to pass on my understanding.
posted by epersonae at 2:40 PM on December 17, 2001


I said every instance possible, not every time. You may notice that the first time that XML and XHTML appear on the page that there is no acronym defined.

And I only used that page as an example not a copout, in context to your accusing the WaSP of not using the acronym tag, and hence not conforming to specifications. The point being, nobody's perfect. I don't claim it, the WaSP doesn't claim it. Why would you expect it?

The WaSP did not set itself up as an authority on W3C specifications and their use. The WaSP is for using standard code to help bring websites into compliance with the specifications and guidelines of the W3C. And I agree, there is more to designing good websites than syntactical compliance. But they also advocate that designers spend some time to learn the specs and try to code according to them. Being syntactically compliant just means that the web isn't fragmented. That there won't be IE or NS only sites because of noncompliant code.

They offered advice and tips. You obviously feel that it was bad advice and tips. The hacks being condemned are hacks that resort to using nonstandard, noncompliant code to make a page do something for a specific browser. Like the WaSP, I don't see the need to use hacks like that anymore. With a majority of browsers that can now handle newer (and in my opinion better) ways of content presentation, it's a perfect time to begin a transformation in coding practices, so that bad habits can be broken.

So are you just down to arguing that you think the WaSP gave out faulty code while trying to get it's message across to designers, and that you dislike the fact that they have fans?
posted by mikhail at 2:59 PM on December 17, 2001


Zeldman, I apologise for the crazy moon-language (leniant = lenient btw). As you continue to assert, you are indeed an adult, and congratulations on the good work becoming one. As for usability and accessibility they were seperate sentences and you were more than welcome to explain yourself without being boxed into either side.

However the more condemning points about WaSP adherence to standards have continued to be ignored by you. But you don't understand my points, right?
do you have any suggestions? I don't say that snarkily. my site needs to be accessible to the widest possible set of users - the long arm of the law might not be coming after us quite yet, but I'm sure it will eventually.
Going to lunch now. In an hour or so, sure!
posted by holloway at 3:07 PM on December 17, 2001


oh, for your consideration, a recent email from one of my co-workers - not technologically illiterate, but not too knowlegable about the web in particular...

Re: A dumb question! :-)

When I open the college's homepage in Internet Explorer, I get a slightly different look than if I open it in Netscape. Any idea why that happens? :-)

and I've gotten variants on that question from a number of people. (my answer usually starts with some variant of "welcome to my world".)

to which, I think, there can be 3 answers:

(1) "change to my browser." a la the old "best viewed with..." buttons. <wince>

(2) we make our pages look identical in 4-8 browser/version/platform combos. like I have time for that. (and of course, that makes it crapola in many of the others - or you give people a 404 - see above.)

(3) we start educating the people we work and live around. it doesn't have to be heavy-handed, and our lesson(s) can be jocular & in everyday English.

I don't think a lot of people realize that web pages can appear differently to different "user agents." hell, I've had bosses who didn't understand that.

I've found that if I start with a good sense of humor, and don't go too deep into the details, most people understand what I mean. I've also had the good fortune of seeing the lightbulb go on when someone 'gets' why things don't look identical, and why that's okay.
posted by epersonae at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2001


I decided this was a 2nd post:

as for this 'fanboy' crud...ugh. I can't think of any petty little argument that will derail us quite so intensely. I'm a fan of Zeldman. that doesn't make me a 'fanboy' (um, there's one rather obvious problem with that for me...).

obviously, some people will take their adoration of someone who has stature in their profession or hobby a little too seriously. and some people will over-react to their perception that someone is too...cool, famous, revered, whatever.

some people throw themselves into enthusiasms - and some people get enthusiastic about mocking those people.

I find both sides tiresome...the way I found my ex-boyfriend's disdain for people who got into Ren & Stimpy after it got popular to be tiresome.

can we all just get over ourselves?
posted by epersonae at 4:41 PM on December 17, 2001


besides, if I'm a fanboy for anyone, it's joeclark. I think he's dreeeeamy. :)
posted by epersonae at 4:44 PM on December 17, 2001


Mikhail: It was just saying that your post used acronym tags for every "WaSP", that's all. The w3 page is a good example, they should fix that.

You've pretty much got my point, yeah. WaSP helped polute the web with code that wasn't obeying standards which is a textbook definition of hypocrasy. The intention of the WaSP code was to selectively hide or reveal a message for older browsers. They managed to bind content and style once again. It's sad.

WaSP can't be responsible for the type of fans they attract. That's just my personal annoyance and I don't hold it against WaSP.

epersonae: Kebabs are natures perfect food, aren't they? I mean you have the vegetables, the hummus, the falafel - I'm plump after lunch - why, just look my profile. Back in the 50s er, enough putting it off. I'm not sure exactly I should say. Don't use "x" as a multiplication symbol. Don't use PHPNuke as it's crufty. Do define acronyms and abbreviations and use title="" to describe link destinations and not just to make quips (eh, metafilterians?). Use H1 and paragraphs to express the logical structure of your document. Don't use H1 as the title of your document only to have h2s for each section. The idea is that H1 should appear several times down an average document (as a general rule, use H1s for chapter titles, not for the name of the book). I don't have a list, really, but I can recogise mistakes. Got a site?

[just seen your post - response sometime soon]
posted by holloway at 5:16 PM on December 17, 2001


OH FUCKING CHRIST I SPELT HYPOCRISY WRONG.

that's it. I hate myself. I'm going home.
posted by holloway at 5:18 PM on December 17, 2001


holloway? holloway?

y'know, I don't see those suggestions as being anything different from what I am doing, or at least trying to do. (so what's the h# for the title of the book, then?)

and there's always been something about falafel that bothers me. perhaps I'm too much of an american that way. the texture is all wrong.

-------------------------------------

maybe I'm dense, but I couldn't find a way to drop Zeldman a line directly on his site. one presumes anything at zeldmandotcom, but one has been wrong before.

quote:
(Note to Scott Andrew, who said, “If you don’t want press, you don’t issue a press release.” We agree. We did not issue a press release. We changed the front page of webstandards.org, and the press and the community noticed.)

but totally changing the look of your home page is just as dramatic as issuing a press release, if you're doing your job properly and making your home page worth the effort. (I changed our home page today & had 2 comments from internal folks w/in 2 hours - with no announcement.)

if y'all meant to gather no particular attention, a gentle .ahem { background-color: #subtle; border: faint } with a shorter version of that statement - perhaps linked to the longer - would have been just as effective w/out being so melodramatic.

as it is, one wonders whether the WaSP is having a Mariah Carey (was it she who had the nervous breakdown?) moment. and Mariah Carey moments draw the John Teshes of one's profession.....

wow. I'm being ultra-verbose today. and yet, somehow getting lots of work done.
posted by epersonae at 5:45 PM on December 17, 2001


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