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White Dudes Making Web Sites
October 18, 2007 7:48 AM   Subscribe

In April 2007, A List Apart and An Event Apart conducted a survey of people who make websites. Close to 33,000 web professionals answered the survey’s 37 questions, providing the first data ever collected on the business of web design and development as practiced in the U.S. and worldwide.

I thought the demographics data was the most interesting. The homogeneity of the "web 2.0" crowd comes up often: What it's like at Web 2.0, The Best and the Worst of the Web 2.0 Summit, Is Web 2.0 Really the Wisdom of the Crowd?, The Future of White Boy clubs.
posted by chunking express (47 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
The discussion sections at the end of each chapter in the survey are also pretty interesting to read. They seem to have put a lot of thought into how they would improve the survey next year: It sounds like they worded a lot of questions poorly, perhaps shifting the results some what. Designing a proper survey looks to be hard work.
posted by chunking express at 8:04 AM on October 18, 2007


So is the data only available as a downloadable file? These people design websites, right?
posted by doctor_negative at 8:13 AM on October 18, 2007 [4 favorites]


There is a PDF as well. It's actually nicely laid out. There is a giant blue button that says "Download the Survey Findings" that links to a PDF.
posted by chunking express at 8:17 AM on October 18, 2007


Gender Diversity and Web Conferences.
posted by chunking express at 8:19 AM on October 18, 2007


I looked past “giant blue button” at first, too. When I look at a page like this, I scan for charts first, then hyperlinks.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 8:50 AM on October 18, 2007


I am not a number, I am a standard deviation from the mean.
posted by blue_beetle at 9:28 AM on October 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


I looked past “giant blue button” at first, too. When I look at a page like this, I scan for charts first, then hyperlinks.

I had trouble finding the results as well, and when I did see the big button, I assumed it was the same raw data linked below. Only when I moused over it did I realize it was a PDF.

The gender difference is really surprising, but I guess this counts for anyone who does HTML as part of their job. I mean, I do that but I wouldn't normally consider myself a professional "web designer"
posted by delmoi at 9:49 AM on October 18, 2007


The gender and ethnic bias part is kind of useless. 63% of the respondents don't think they were discriminated against by gender, but 82% were men. 70% don't think they were discriminated on the basis of race but 84% of the respondents were white. It would be more interesting to see the responses of women and minorities specifically. It's interesting that at least 14% of white people think they were racially discriminated against.

I'm surprised by the salary range, I expected people to be making more money, especially given their locations, and their age.
posted by delmoi at 9:57 AM on October 18, 2007


I don't really understand the last link.

I'm not a racist, so other than treating blacks, hispanics, etc, with the same common courtesy I do everyone else, what's a white guy to do, and why is it so important to promote diversity?

I find the idea that conference organizers would actively try to keep some kind of 'white-males-only' speaker policy pretty hard to believe. (Why? What benefit is there?) From what I understand, speakers are chosen based on the relevance and importance of their talk, so it's much easier for me to see this as simply a case of a someone's application being rejected (for being not as good as the others) and then having them falsely believe that they are being discriminated against.

Believe me, I'd love to have more diversity in the industry as well (WWDC was the biggest sausage fest I've ever been to) but what am I suppose to do as an individual? Go see a non-white-male speaker session, even if his session doesn't interest me, but because they are a non-white-male? Give some sort of preferential treatment to non-white-males? Affirmative action is suppose to help those who suffer from discrimination, but as far as I can tell there is no discrimination happening, the make-up of the industry just tends to favor geeky white guys, for whatever irrelevant reason.
posted by patr1ck at 9:57 AM on October 18, 2007


Go see a non-white-male speaker session, even if his session doesn't interest me...

Gah, that was suppose to be the ambiguous "their", of course.
posted by patr1ck at 10:05 AM on October 18, 2007


So long as diversity is defined by how many different skin tones or varied gentalia are present in a room, progress is a long way off. And there's a kind of creepy assumption behind all the diversity hooha: that being Other automatically makes you exotic and outside the norm. Tell us of your outsider views, oh person of color/marginalized woman!

In the web world, real diversity would be encouraging people to present on why designing with tables is actually okay or to question any kind of prevailing design aesthetic. Real diversity is about who people are, how and what they think--the things they do.
posted by gsh at 10:43 AM on October 18, 2007 [3 favorites]


I can't get the PDF to load. Anyone care to share the gender data as a simple percentage?
posted by mathowie at 10:54 AM on October 18, 2007


In the web world, real diversity would be encouraging people to present on why designing with tables is actually okay or to question any kind of prevailing design aesthetic.

A. Fucking. Men.

Anyway, the vast, vast majority of websites are made by people who would not have even known this survey was going on. So this really tells us not so much about "the people who make websites" as it does about the extremely vocal and cliquish people who make websites and like to think of themselves as bleeding edge aesthetes.
posted by lodurr at 11:12 AM on October 18, 2007 [2 favorites]


... but as far as I can tell there is no discrimination happening the make-up of the industry just tends to favor geeky white guys, for whatever irrelevant reason.

Maybe the reasons the Web 2.0 crowd is so white & male doesn't matter to you, but it might matter to people who aren't White Dudes and are trying to enter that industry. You have the freedom to say "there is no discrimination happening" because you'll never ever have to face it. You can't argue that building Web Sties is a "geeky white guy" thing when people do this stuff all over the globe. Do you think people in India aren't using AJAX and Prototype and Drupal and whatever else?

One story: I worked with a girl (Janet) who used her Chinese name when applying for software jobs because it didn't give away the fact she was a girl. Even then she was concerned that people would still skip over her resume because her name was "too" Chinese. Even if her perception was totally off, if no one makes any effort to correct that, other Chinese Girls might not waste their time getting into Computer Engineering in the first place.

Anyone care to share the gender data as a simple percentage?

82% of the people that hang out at A List Apart are Men. 86% are white.

And Lodurr's point bears repeating. The way this survey was sampled was to ask A List Apart readers to take it. And it was linked to by sites that normally link to A List Apart. This really is a look at the Web 2.0 crowd, not the Web Design industry in general, hence all the Web 2.0 links I tossed in.
posted by chunking express at 11:22 AM on October 18, 2007


I attended last week's Consumer Forum in Chicago, sponsored by Forrester Research. The "MCs" for the event were both women, Carrie A. Johnson and Christine Spivey Overby. Christine Hefner, Charlene Li and Christina Norman presented at the keynote level. Another panel was facilated by Shar VanBoskirk.

Not only did women make up a good third of the presentations I attended, but I would say that their subjects were certainly the most compelling.
posted by grabbingsand at 11:40 AM on October 18, 2007


chunking express: I think dr_negative's point was the irony that these "state of the web" (their term) designers would include their supposedly cool and important survey results in a static, long download time, proprietary-format document rather than a nice db-driven interactive design. Which document has choked on me both times I have tried to open it, incidentally.

And, on the off chance that wasn't dr_n's point, then I'd like it to be mine.
posted by aught at 12:58 PM on October 18, 2007


Actually the sooner people who design with tables can be made an oppresed minority the better, IMHO.
posted by Artw at 1:04 PM on October 18, 2007


... proprietary-format document ...

PDF is not a proprietary format.
posted by me & my monkey at 1:12 PM on October 18, 2007


Maybe the reasons the Web 2.0 crowd is so white & male doesn't matter to you, but it might matter to people who aren't White Dudes and are trying to enter that industry. You have the freedom to say "there is no discrimination happening" because you'll never ever have to face it. You can't argue that building Web Sties is a "geeky white guy" thing when people do this stuff all over the globe. Do you think people in India aren't using AJAX and Prototype and Drupal and whatever else?

No, of course not, and I wasn't trying to argue that. I think you're misunderstanding my post. I wasn't trying to defend any wrong-doings, I was trying to point out that I've never seen any wrong-doings at all. I'm asking for proof that there's something wrong the industry in general. The only thing I've ever seen (again, as a white guy) is occasional bits of anecdotal evidence. I've never even heard of a girl not getting a job or interview just because she was a girl, or resumes with chinese names not being consider. Sorry, maybe I live in a bubble. It's just that the Factory Joe writer talks like this is some kind of vast conspiracy but stops short of both providing conclusive evidence it exists OR proposing solutions.

So my questions, put simply, is as follows: Is this really a problem and if so how does one address it?
posted by patr1ck at 1:14 PM on October 18, 2007


I attended last week's Consumer Forum in Chicago, sponsored by Forrester Research. The "MCs" for the event were both women, Carrie A. Johnson and Christine Spivey Overby. Christine Hefner, Charlene Li and Christina Norman presented at the keynote level. Another panel was facilated by Shar VanBoskirk.

Nothing to be proud of. Corporations call them consumers, carnies' game booths call them marks, but it's the same idea.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 1:42 PM on October 18, 2007


Are you talking about the presenters, or the attendees? Because I think the more accurate term for the presenters in that metaphor is "shills."
posted by lodurr at 5:00 PM on October 18, 2007


I'm talking about how when I see a business conference called "Consumer Forum" the topic of discussion is probably how to best separate the marks from their money by any means you can can away with. Reading the description tended to confirm my view.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 5:39 PM on October 18, 2007


I get it. Thought you were doing something else.
posted by lodurr at 6:52 PM on October 18, 2007


The gender and ethnic bias part is kind of useless. 63% of the respondents don't think they were discriminated against by gender, but 82% were men.

If you read the second half of the PDF (or did what I did initially and ran the Excel data through a pivot table) you'd find 22.3% of women respondents say gender prejudice slowed their career progress.

Pivot tables -- know them, use them, love them.
posted by dw at 8:29 PM on October 18, 2007


And Lodurr's point bears repeating. The way this survey was sampled was to ask A List Apart readers to take it. And it was linked to by sites that normally link to A List Apart. This really is a look at the Web 2.0 crowd, not the Web Design industry in general, hence all the Web 2.0 links I tossed in.

I'm not "Web 2.0" and most of the people I know who read ALA are not "Web 2.0." It's a stupid cliche that is all about gradients, pastels, and stupid things done with AJAX.

The sorts of people who read ALA are people who care about web standards, which have been around since long before "Web 2.0" because the Buzzword O' The Year. Do "Web 2.0" sorts read it? Of course. But I'm not exactly seeing Meyer or Zeldman or Holzschlag as "Web 2.0."
posted by dw at 8:36 PM on October 18, 2007


dw, I'm sorry I hurt your feelings by saying people who read ALA are the Web 2.0 crowd. If you pick a label for that clique and its readership i'll add a tag for it to this post. My only point was that this survey doesn't represent the industry as a whole based on how it was sampled.
posted by chunking express at 9:07 PM on October 18, 2007


Why not "standardistas?" It's the term many of us use, tongue firmly in cheek.
posted by dw at 10:12 PM on October 18, 2007


Speaking of which, Eric Meyer's on diversity -- he falls into the women and brown dudes should just show up more often camp. Zeldman's comment in the thread was from the opposing side, that getting more women and minorities out was a worthwhile endevour. (So patr1ck, Meyer's probably articulates your position, and Zeldman has a counter argument of sorts.)
posted by chunking express at 5:02 AM on October 19, 2007


Wow.. The fact that I appear to earn more than what 95% of ALA readers earn (and yes, I am slap bang in the middle of the demographic in other ways, and I'm just a developer) confirms to me what I've always thought - that they're a bunch of weenies, and that employers don't give a toss about 'web standards'.
posted by dickasso at 5:45 AM on October 19, 2007


Web standards are a good thing. Slavish devotion to web standards is a silly and counter-productive thing.

I like "standardistas", mostly because it implies one or more of several interesting things about people who self-apply the term:
  1. They're leftists (or at least have a sympathetic reading of the Sandanista period)
  2. They're historically ignorant, and (possibly) don't understand that "Sandanista" would be read as a slur by most educated Americans
  3. They have a sense of humor about their obsessions (more so than font freaks, at least)
  4. They really, really like people to think they're cool
posted by lodurr at 6:05 AM on October 19, 2007


Re. "women and brown dudes should just show up more often": What a silly, silly idea. For them to show up, they have to know there's a party. For them to want to show up, they have to believe they're actually wanted. (Showing up otherwise would be rude.)

It betrays a stereotypically net.libertarian disregard for the value of others' perspectives. Not an attitude I'd want in someone I was paying to do design.
posted by lodurr at 6:09 AM on October 19, 2007


(I'm kind of a "standards fellow-traveller", myself: I stick to them only insofar as it's easy to do so. Most of the designs my company produces can't be done very well without tables, though, and I won't be convincing the designers to change the way they design until I can give them a better reason than "it would be easier to follow this set of rules you don't care about and which don't have an impact on you if you didn't do things that way you've always done them.")
posted by lodurr at 6:12 AM on October 19, 2007


that they're a bunch of weenies

DUDE. STANDING RIGHT HERE.
posted by dw at 7:55 AM on October 19, 2007


I'm kind of a "standards fellow-traveller", myself: I stick to them only insofar as it's easy to do so.

What if it was:

I'm kind of a "best practices fellow-traveller", myself: I stick to them only insofar as it's easy to do so.

Would you hire them as a coder?

There's stuff I don't do with standards, but I stick to most of it, because I can, and because it provides a certain level of "future-proofing." And also, because I believe in web accessibility and have to deal with Section 508 since we get federal money.

I have a sense that in a few years NFB v. Target is going to have coders and designers running scared from the lawyers.
posted by dw at 8:08 AM on October 19, 2007


I guess I don't follow your question. Is it, "would I hire someone who identified himself as a best-practices fellow traveller"?

Sure, maybe. It would depend on what they meant by that.

Because "best practices", in my experience, is code for "this is the trendy way to do stuff." That is, they're rarely really "best" practices.

For example, in some organizations, and more to the point to some organizations, "best practices" would include stuff like rigid requirements analysis processes involving multiple stages of review prior to anyone ever coding anything. (Which might be appropriate for some kinds of project, but clearly isn't appropriate for all.)

Put another way: "Best practices" rarely denotes anything that's objectively true, and often constitutes a matter of personal prejudice.
posted by lodurr at 8:30 AM on October 19, 2007


Eric Meyers has two posts up on the survey: background on how it was all done, and some thoughts on the gender results.
posted by chunking express at 8:42 AM on October 19, 2007


Put another way: "Best practices" rarely denotes anything that's objectively true, and often constitutes a matter of personal prejudice.

I would agree to a point. If you have a good grasp on best practices, you should be doing things in a way that reduces future nightmares. Best practices should be universal standards, not ossified and localized rules.

But standards aren't perfect. One question I ask of job interviewees is "Can you explain how you'd code a call back to the database to reduce the risk of a SQL injection attack?" And there's really no one answer that is the "perfect best practice," besides "Don't pass through raw SQL." But that one principle -- don't give raw SQL to the DB -- can be addressed in a lot of ways. It ends up being a good insight into what they've done and how they think. But I'm not out for the perfect answer here.

And standards are the same way. I don't care if people have memorized every page on the W3C site and even can cite chapter and verse of the draft recommendations. What I care about is whether they know how to apply them effectively. The best standardistas I know temper their idealism with a healthy measure of pragmatism. With 30+ different kinds of browsers floating out there, you have to be pragmatic.

But doing layout with tables is like using your shoe to drive a nail. It works, but it's not what it's meant for.
posted by dw at 11:59 AM on October 19, 2007


... like using your shoe to drive a nail.

...only if there had been a shortage of hammers for ten years and rsthere was a glut of shoes specifically designed to drive nails.
posted by lodurr at 12:45 PM on October 19, 2007


Actually, as I think about iit, it's as though for ten years the only lumber you could get was this wack shit that would only let you pound nails into it with shoes. That's a little better.
posted by lodurr at 12:50 PM on October 19, 2007


On perception and evidence.
I do want to talk about bias, perceptions of bias, and how you can have bias without having evidence of bias — if “evidence” is defined solely as “compensation.”
posted by chunking express at 1:11 PM on October 19, 2007


#“Most of the designs my company produces can't be done I can’t do very well without tables…”

Fixed that for you. Also, if your designers are worth their Wacoms, they ought to understand how to create a design that works within the constraints of the WWW as a medium, just as they should with a design intended to be produced on a four-color press. If they don’t understand this, then yes, you should be convincing them to change the way they design.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 11:18 AM on October 22, 2007


Yeh, you know what? We don't have time for that kind of pointless snobbishness. We've got work to do. A slavish devotion to standards adds no value for our clients.

I'm all about working within the WWW "as a medium." I just don't believe that the medium is specified in Berne.
posted by lodurr at 11:57 AM on October 22, 2007


Maybe I do have time for this sort of pointless snobbishness because I’ve eschewed ancient, unmaintainable practices for web development. I’m several times more productive with pure CSS layout than anyone I’ve seen (including myself) who’s using traditional table-based designs.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 12:59 PM on October 22, 2007


For what it's worth, my experience is nearly the diametric opposite: Tables are very solid, behave predictably across platforms and browsers. Postitioned divs are finicky and require lots of unstable workarounds in order to get stable and predictable performance across browsers and platforms. So tables are very much the quicker solution in my experience.

BTW: Maybe you're more productive, maybe not, but that message sure looked like preaching to me. (After all, what is "fixed that for you" if not a pretty transparent encoding of "nyah, nyah, you're wrong and I'm right"?) I have a very, very low tolerance for tech macho bullshit, and my nostrils are full of that smell right now.
posted by lodurr at 1:11 PM on October 22, 2007


lodurr, your statement was that the designs you work with “can’t be done” using CSS-based layout. My restatement of your assertion is simply more correct: you can’t make the layout work without tables. From my POV, it’s more tech-macho to say that something cannot be done, when the fact is that you simply don’t have the ability.
posted by breaks the guidelines? at 1:31 PM on October 22, 2007


chunking express - that genderlink thing with the age variance is pretty interesting, thanks for that.
posted by Artw at 2:00 PM on October 22, 2007


breaks the guidelines?, please don't play the bullshit out of context games with me: I said "can't be done very easily." (The biggest bullshit part of it is that you could have easily dealt with the "very easily" part, but you chose not to quote it this time -- I wonder why.)

From where I'm sitting, it looks like you were just taking the opportunity to assert the potency of your CSS gung fu. In other words: Tech. Macho. Bullshit.
posted by lodurr at 5:20 PM on October 22, 2007


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