It's In Your Job Description
The web is barely ten years old but technological revolutions keep coming. As a web professional, it’s in your job description to stay current with new technology.
I’ve been thinking about this awhile, and even started to write about it some time ago, but Roger Johansson beat me to it with his post “A web professional can never stop learning.” I’m not going to rehash and re-quote his sources except one from Andy Clarke:
Those people still delivering nested table layout, spacer gifs or ignoring accessibility can no longer call themselves web professionals.
I could not agree more. I know too many designers mired in old-school, inaccessible, error-prone practices who are either too proud to change their ways or too ignorant to learn superior methods to this web madness.
As evidenced by the insurmountable pile of digital trash on the web, there are many active members of the developer community who never moved past 1995. And like Andy Clarke said, they can no longer be considered “professionals.”
In almost any professional industry, there is a cycle of continuing education. Pharmacists and doctors spend years in school, but medical information becomes so quickly outdated that the pharmaceutical sphere has spawned a multi-million dollar sub-industry for continuing education. Tax attorneys have to be educated on new laws. Morticians attend seminars for new technology and best practices. Lawyers. Programmers. C-level executives. All have dedicated trade shows, seminars, classes, websites and more to provide current, relevant trade information.
Web developers are blessed with a community that likes to give away knowledge. Google counts 257,000,000 results for “CSS,” 543,000,000 for “web standards” and 27,900,000 for freaking AJAX. There is no excuse not to be informed.
I am not very good in Flash, but I understand its purpose and can create basic websites. I have no idea how to write AJAX, but I understand its relevance to current development trends and will probably nick a script or two when I need something. I haven’t put XSLT to commercial use yet, but you can bet I’m ramping up for the time a client requests it.
No one expects someone to know everything. But peers and clients do expect you to know best practices in the industry and wield them with competence. Clearly, standards-based design is a best practice over table-based design. Clearly, Flash has come a long way since 15 fps defaults and intro screens. Clearly, XML and XSLT are transforming the way we create, distribute and access information.
We’re in for a bumpy ride if the development community does not embrace change. The web is scarcely ten years old and we’ve left enough debris in our wake.