It's that time of year again. When web geeks get even more geeky. When standardistas pat ourselves on the backs. When I take to my all–too–comfortable soapbox to preach the good word about web standards.
It's the 3rd annual International Blue Beanie Day to promote web standards and accessibility!
Get Your Beanie On!
You've got all day today (November 30, 2009), to show your love and support of the semantic, accessible web:
- Make the commitment today — and every day — to develop and design with web standards.
- Get your mitts on a blue beanie (black or gray will do in a pinch).
- Take your picture with said blue beanie.
- Add your gorgeous blue-capped mug to the Flickr Blue Beanie 2009 pool.
- RSVP to the 3rd Annual Blue Beanie Day on Facebook.
- Switch your Facebook profile photo to your new blue beanie picture. Why not your Twitter avatar too? Hell, do it everywhere (you know you are already wasting time on your social networks anyways).
- Tell the world you support web standards.
Lazy Bums Like Me
If you're pressed for time, as I was this year, you can skip steps 2 and 3 above. The always humorous and humbly talented Kevin Cornell designed a blue beanie in Photoshop you can download and add to any photo.
Couldn't be easier. No excuses. Go get #00f.
Web Standards Apathy
Though I've been a standardista for years, last year was my first time participating in Blue Beanie Day.
The event is a nice bit of geeky fun. And I wasn't just poking fun at myself in the intro to this post: the day is also, for some standardistas, a chance to feel superior and self-important for drinking the web standards Kool-Aid (not that there's anything wrong with that).
What this day really is about … what it should be about … is eliminating Web Standards Apathy.
For those of us who sit in our web standards towers, we see those sites built using
<table>s for layout and drowning in other presentational markup and we judge. Tsk, tsking the douchebag designer who hasn't realized it is 2009.
But is it even about douchebag designers? No. Web Standards Apathy is alive and well across today's web.
It's the small and successful design agency here in Albuquerque that peddles
<table>-based designs to local businesses. It's the freelance designer who doesn't have the time to think about semantic markup and just wants to get the job done and get paid. It's my Fortune 500 employer who gives hundreds of thousands of dollars to design agencies that don't care about web standards.
And that's just the picture I see every day.
Last year, Opera released its MAMA study findings. Among the results, only 4.13% of web sites crawled passed W3C validation. Only 4.13%!
- 36.79% of respondents always validate their markup; 32.50% frequently do so.
- Only 10.29% of respondents use
<table>s for layout
- 30.63% of respondents don't use any presentational markup
I can't help but question if these findings reflect the web as a whole (they don't) or the habits of standardistas who completed the survey (they do).
I don't need to preach to the converted. I want to talk to those folks suffering from Web Standards Apathy.
Standardista, Not Snob
Unfortunately, as I've discovered, preaching can result in the opposite of what one intends. Sometimes, preaching sounds self-righteous. Sometimes, pedantic. Sometimes, offensive.
No wonder some standardistas get a bad rap as snobs. And no wonder some efforts to promote web standards fall on deaf ears. The people doing the promoting are so used to talking amongst ourselves in our towers that we've forgotten what it was like before we knew better.
The key is to find out why some people are apathetic about web standards. It is because they are tied to a legacy CMS that generates presentational markup? Is it because the classes they took didn't even talk about web standards and required FrontPage? It is because they struggle with understanding floats and are embarrassed to ask for help?
The reasons are infinite and varied. And those reasons are just as important to the discussion of web standards as the standards themselves. Without knowing the why, it is unlikely Web Standards Apathy can ever be conquered completely. But if we take the time to ask, to talk … not judge, not alienate … we bring people into the discussion, which makes being apathetic rather difficult.
And isn't that the point?
My End of the Bargain
So, in addition to promoting Blue Beanie Day, I'm making a commitment to myself, my community and my industry to engage with people who don't use web standards. These designers are just as intelligent and talented as anyone else, and they deserve to be part of the conversation.
I'm also making a commitment to embrace balance when it comes to web standards. In my ideal world, every site would use valid, semantic markup. Every site would use semantic CSS for presentation. Every site would be usable in all devices by all users. But idealism is another one of those things that starts to sound snobby when one doesn't factor in reality.
It isn't always possible to follow web standards to a "T" That doesn't mean the designer doesn't support or understand web standards. It means the designer has constraints she must work around, and she, too, deserves to be part of the conversation.
Blue Beanie Day Goodies
While I wait for the next opportunity to put my conversation commitment to the test, here are some of my favorite web standards resources:
- Opera Web Standards Curriculum
- WaSP InterAct Curriculum
- Web Standards: Where the ROI Is
- Developing With Web Standards — Recommendations and best practices
- Web standards checklist
And a bunch of new books are available that would make any standardista happy (hint, hint):
- Designing with Web Standards (3rd Edition)
- Developing with Web Standards
- Handcrafted CSS: More Bulletproof Web Design
Of course, let's not forget my Microformats Made Simple (this post hasn't had nearly enough shameless self promotion in it).
Check out these resources and educate yourself. Figure out what you can do and what you can't. For what you can't do, understand why. And then, get in the conversation. I'll be waiting for you.