Zeldman's DWWS: Two Years Later
When Jeffrey Zeldman’s Designing With Web Standards was published just over two years ago, it created a small shockwave through the design community. Suddenly, the push behind “web standards” went from a small movement of early adopters to a full-fledged religion that finally had its own bible.
Zeldman is often credited with bringing standards into the limelight, and rightly so. His early preachings, influential blog and seminal redesign for A List Apart hammered away at the benefits of XHTML and CSS to anyone who would listen. Quickly, site after site took up the standards banner, said to hell with tables, and ventured into the muddy waters of browser bugs with only the leaking shell of CSS support as their means of site construction.
Designing With Web Standards became the tipping point. After its release, word spread fast. Blogs everywhere linked to the Amazon page, where it became a bestseller, outselling other web design books hand over fist. Not because it was brilliantly written—which it is—and not because it contained so much information—which it does. Rather, DWWS was the voice of reason. It finally put into words what was bugging so many developers: Why were tables used for design? Were all these font tags really necessary? Why was there a <center> tag and an “align” attribute?
Reading DWWS for the first time was akin to taking the red pill. The false Matrix of bad development practices was peeled back, and the idea that content could be elegantly separated from design was the truth we had been waiting to hear.
Today, the book is still fresh. The only evidence that the writing is older than yesterday are the references to dated browsers and the idea of hybrid designs (using a few structural tables with CSS for visual formatting). The concepts Zeldman evengelizes still ring true. Content, spresentation and behaviour should be separate. Validation does matter. Accessibility is important. The box model problem is ridiculous.
Designing With Web Standards remains at the top of everyone’s recommended list for a reason. It encapsulates exactly what designing with standards means, why it’s important and how to implement future-proof markup techniques. To a person wanting to understand the best way to develop a site, it’s still the first book I’d put in their hands.