Do you remember? it was just three years ago or so. There were parades and brass bands. Many large Web sites were, at long last, making the switch to Web standards. For example, the Web designer Douglas Bowman was announcing the launch of the XHTML, CSS, Validated Wired News Web site. That was great! That was a time of joy and feast. Groups like WASP or MACCAWS, Web professionals who believed in Web standards, who fought for them, were chanting the promises of better days, of a delightful rising sun on the horizon.
And where are we now?
Recently, the unparagoned Joe Clark has published an article about companies which have recently decided to redesign their Web sites and somehow failed.
A failed redesign is a Web page created from scratch, or substantially updated, during the era of Web standards that nonetheless ignores or misuses those standards. A failed redesign pretends that valid code and accessibility guidelines do not exist; it pretends that the 21st century is frozen in the amber of the year 1999. It indicates not merely unprofessional Web-development practices but outright incompetence. For if you are producing tag-soup code and using tables for layout in the 21st century, that’s what you are: Incompetent.
What this reminds us, is that redesigning a Web site is not only a question of using XHTML and CSS, but using them in the appropriate way thinking about semantics, accessibility, internationalization, etc. In Jazz, you could put together the best jazz cellist and pianist together and still end in a monstruous cacophony. They have to be in harmony, they have to get their improvisation right. In Web design, you can improvise, you can create, but you have to be in harmony if you don’t want to turn your blue note cave into a business catastrophe.
But that’s not all! It’s not enough to get it right once, to give one enjoyable jam for the audience… You have to give a good performance every. single. night. Oh! Of course a little quack, sometimes might not be such a problem, it will just remind that we are all humans. But a continuous sequence of quacks only shows your impressive ability to impersonate a gaggle of ducks.
Jeffrey Zeldman, in his talk about Designing with Web Standards, had a list of Web sites which, a few years ago, had finally decided to go live with a new design, with an exciting redesign. They were examples of companies which had made the switch to Web standards. Trumpets in the sky, we could hear them.
|Note 1: These results have been collected during January 2006, and they may change in the future.
Note 2: The homepage is a poor indicator of the validity of a whole Web site.
Is there hope?
Never Stops The Music
Making a valid, accessible Web site is only the beginning of the music. Most sites, good or bad, are living things: pages are added, content is updated, reorganized sometimes. It’s unlikely that it will be kept as is, clean and polished, unless you put a continous quality process in place. Just keep the music flowing.
Unlike in Jazz, it doesn’t really take greatness to always play Web Design right: it’s okay to make mistakes, because it’s always possible to come back and fix the mistakes. And with a little discipline and a few good tools, it gets really trivial.
The LogValidator is a tool which might help in this task. It’s simple, it’s extensible to one’s own needs and it can be tweaked to meet the internal requirements of any company. How? Just read Making your website valid: a step by step guide and Web Standards Switch.
There are wonderful things in real jazz, the talent for improvisation, the liveliness, the being at one with the audience.
There are wonderful things in real Web design, the many ways to convey information, the being at one with the readers… and the fact that a failure can always be worked upon and fixed.