Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

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.

Graphic design and web development are elastic, evolving industries. It seems every few years some great new technology comes along and it is our responsibility as professionals to at least understand it if not outright embrace it. In 1995, JavaScript entered our world. In the late 90s, Flash began exploding everywhere (God help us). In 2001, the concept of standards and CSS was given the spotlight. In 2004, AJAX hit the street running and shows no sign of stopping. In the next two years, I imagine XSLT will really come out of obscurity.

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 Pharmacists and doctors spend years in school, but medical information becomes so quickly outdated that the pharmaceutical sphere has spawned a multi-million dollar sub-industry for continuing education.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.

commentary + criticism


wrote the following on Thursday November 17, 2005

nuff said.

I have had 6 meetings in the last 2 weeks explaining every aspect of my new design at work. I work for a college and by law your site has to come up to a standard yet people still don’t get it.

I agree that if you can’t keep up you lose your title. How many companies still sell table based designs for ££££s… shocking really.


wrote the following on Friday November 18, 2005

I do a lot of freelance work through a placment company, so I meet designers, art directors, and multimedia artist of all varieties. And what you say sounds good, and is correct seven ways to sunday, but the sad truth is most designers are happy in their ignorance.

There is something to be said about being a specialist I suppose, but to me some things are obvious. For example, if you are a print designer, why don’t you know InDesign yet? If you consider yourself a Photoshop specialist, why aren’t you using adjustment layers?

I just don’t understand people who don’t furthur thier craft.

Chris Griffin

wrote the following on Saturday November 19, 2005

As unfortunate as it is, there is still plenty of money to be made being a 1995 designer due to the ignorance of the clients.

All most clients want is a website, whether it be in nested tables using spacer gifs or using XHTML/CSS that is 508 compliant.

I think the problem mostly resides within the schools teaching students the old school way because they don’t know any better.

I recently dropped out of the Art Institute of Portland, it was a good school in some sense but not in others but that’s whole different story.

An adjunct instructor (usually means a part-time teacher that is still employed in their industry) was helping me register and we were talking. I told him I design standard compliant websites and I don’t bother using tables.

He told me that was a mistake because 90% of the world still uses IE and when IE starts embracing web standards he will.

That has got to be the lamest excsuse I’ve ever heard, and it was coming out of an instructor’s mouth. Think about it, if we sat back and just waited for technology to catch up we’d still be in the dark ages.

My case and point: HDTV, if the FCC (or whoever regulates this) didn’t step in and put a 2007 mandate for TV companies to go digital, TV and Cable companies would of slowly evolved to Digital.

My point, You can’t expect once you leave school to stop learning. If you sit around and wait for technology it will never evolve because nobody is pushing the envelope. We especially can’t wait for MICROSOFT, that’s what they want – Control.

Sometimes I wish there was a Federal agency regulating web standards and then we wouldn’t have this problem, but then I think again. Do I really want a gov’t agency controlling the internet? no way

James Thomas

wrote the following on Sunday November 20, 2005

“All most clients want is a website, whether it be in nested tables using spacer gifs or using XHTML/CSS that is 508 compliant.”

Sadly, that’s true… but one day, clients won’t be so ignorant.

Here’s an interesting story. I brought my first gen iPod to work this past week. It endured criticism from all of my coworkers. It was called “old”, “ancient”, an “artifact”, etc.

“This iPod is from 2001. If you’re still using tables for layout, it’s more recent than your skillset by 8-10 years.”

... and the room fell silent.


wrote the following on Monday November 21, 2005

I think that over time, more clients will become better educated (which I have already written about), but for the time being most people don’t even care what CSS means.

That being said, it’s not the client’s responsibility to know anything about web standards, CSS, Web 2.0, AJAX, JavaScript, accessibility or any other facet of the technical side of web development. It is the web developer’s responsibility to know current trends of the industry, best practices and the future of the web so he/she can produce online media that is the best value to the client.

Some clients do know. I have one who is very aware of CSS and demands all projects be delivered as valid XHTML docs (like I’m going to argue with that). But most could care less, and I’m OK with that, because I am confident that I am delivering the most current and future-ready product I can.

Daniel Schutzsmith

wrote the following on Tuesday November 22, 2005

“Flash has come a long way since 15 fps defaults and intro screens”

Wasn’t it 12 FPS? Anyhoo, I completely agree with you and everyone else commenting so far. I find it extremely frustrating to sometimes come across a peer that is still using tables and Flash 4. I understand that many people get used to the first way they learned a concept, but you gotta grow with technology. A good comparison is how InDesign is taking over the print world and beating out the old dinosaur Quark. They’re are still many old school print designers who are working on a mac classic OS 9 because “that’s the best version of Quark”! Yikes!


wrote the following on Thursday November 24, 2005

I agree totally. I had to make a layout change to a site I built three years ago – it was all nested tables. I took a deep breath and recoded the presentation in full CSS/XHTML maitinaing the look and feel. The client thought it looked perhaps a little “cleaner” but didn’t notice the dramatic change – simply because there wasn’t one to the casual observer. Ionly billed him for the additional work he required and not the full day it took to rebuild it – simply because he probably wouldn’t perceive any value in the work . Sigh…


wrote the following on Thursday December 8, 2005

I think that I may be completely ignorant in the way of Web Standards, but I have a question for all of you. I have built three sites using all css that validated perfectly. The problem was, whenver they were viewed using Safari, everything was screwey. I ended up losing a few jobs because of this. I, sadly, reverted back to tables just to keep the containers where they belong. While using css to align sections, I found that every browser treated the code differently. Therefore, I had to constantly be finding workarounds, where with a simple table layout I did not. Is there a solution to this? Do I just not know enough hacks? What is the reason for using css to align containers versus tables?

Thanks. Lucy