A Blog Not Limited

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The State of the Web: Survey Results

Jan 07, 2009

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A few weeks ago, the folks from Web Directions and Scroll Magazine launched The State of the Web 2008, a new (hopefully annual) survey to help collect data about the industry and its professionals.

The results are now in.

Findings & Analysis

In addition to the straight-up results, there is also a detailed analysis and a summary analysis.

Interesting to Me

A few of the findings surprised me:

  • Three percent of respondents never validate their sites while 70% frequently or always do.
  • Ten percent of respondents say they use <table>s for layout, while over 90% use CSS.

Based on my personal experience, I would've guessed the percentage of folks who don't validate would be much higher. There isn't a day that goes by that I don't encounter invalid web sites, and I can't tell you the number of folks I've talked to who think validation is unnecessary.

Same with using <table>s for layout (which I already ranted about).

But I'm sure the respondent pool is reflective of a relative minority of professionals. Those folks who don't validate or rely on <table>s probably won't take the survey. In fact, they probably didn't even know about the survey.

This seems to be a common "problem" in our field. The people who are invested in standards are the ones who seem to shout the loudest, attend and/or present at the major conferences, take these surveys, etc.

But the people who need to be convinced and educated about standards aren't. They are likely blissfully ignorant, cranking out invalid, <table>-based sites and charging clients an arm and a leg for them.


What surprised me the most (in an entirely unpleasant way) were the findings for use of HTML elements:

  • Seventeen percent use <b>
  • Fifteen percent use <i>

Seriously? Someone please explain this to me.

Update: 1/8/2009

And, thankfully, someone did.

My friend and esteemed colleague Virginia Debolt explains how and why she (a member of the WaSP's Education Taskforce) sometimes uses <b> and <i>:

There are times when I need a presentational effect that does not involve emphasis or strong. I don’t want to give the impression that the marked up text should be more important or in any way distinct. I just want a presentational effect that will be apparent to the majority of users and won’t confuse users with assistive software. If I don’t have control over the CSS for a site, and I write for a lot of sites where I do not, then how can I achieve benign presentational effects like bold or italic without using <b> or <i>? Em and strong have semantic meaning that I may not want to attach to text. Therefore, I may resort to bold and italic for appearance sake.


One finding that made me quite happy is 33% of respondents say they use microformats in their markup. I would've guessed the number would be lower, so that is a pleasant discovery.

But along with this sorta positive data, comes the reality: 18% of respondents didn't know what microformats are. Even though this is a comparatively smaller percentage. It still concerns me.

At the same time, it reinvigorates my own commitment to spread the good word about microformats with my Getting Semantic With Microformats series (for which I'm working on a few more articles). And I'll be doing a few presentations on microformats this year. Every little bit helps (I tell myself).


As Mark Twain wrote:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.

So take some time yourself to review the results and analysis, and then draw your own conclusions.

And even though data and statistics can be easily misinterpreted and skewed, do not mistake my pragmatism for cynicism. I believe the more information we have about our industry, the more it helps us as professionals.

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Virginia's Gravatar

Virginia opines:


I put a few thoughts about your question re bold and italic at my blog today.

Your question about validation brings up one of my pet peeves. Code from outside sources, e.g., Amazon widgets, often won’t validate. I may spend hours getting my pages to validate, but the minute something like this gets slapped on a site, there goes the validation. I’d like to see some group such as WaSP campaign to get outside vendors and widget makers to supply valid code for their goodies.

Emily's Gravatar

Emily responds:


@Virginia - Thanks so much for that explanation. I hadn’t even considered assistive software in the equation (shame on me), much less sites that don’t support CSS (I think because I’m too much of a snob to use them; again shame on me).

I’ve updated my post to include the info from your post.

You’re awesome :)

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Emily Lewis

Yeah, that would be me: .

I'm a freelance web designer of the standardista variety, which means I get excited about things like valid POSH, microformats and accessibility. I ply my trade from my one-person design studio in Albuquerque, New Mexico 87106 USA.

A Blog Not Limited is my personal blog where I pontificate about web design, web standards, semantics and whatever else strikes my fancy. Head on over to Emily Lewis Design if you'd like to see my work or, even better, hire me.


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