The King of Web Standards

In BusinessWeek, senior writer for Innovation & Design Jessie Scanlon has just published “Jeffrey Zeldman: King of Web Standards.” By any standards (heh heh), it is an accurate and well researched article. By the standards of technology journalism, it is exceptional. It might even help designers who aren’t named Jeffrey Zeldman as they struggle to explain the benefits of web standards to their bosses or clients. At the least, its publication in Business Week will command some business people’s attention, and perhaps their respect.

Avoiding the twin dangers of oversimplification that misleads, and pedantry that bores or confuses, Scanlon informs business readers about the markup and code that underlies websites; what went wrong with it in the early days of the web; and how web standards help ensure “that a Web site can be used by someone using any browser and any Web-enabled device.”

Scanlon communicates this information quickly, so as not to waste a business reader’s time, and clearly, without talking down to the reader. This makes her article, not merely a dandy clipping for my scrapbook, but a useful tool of web standards evangelism.

Contributing to the article with their comments are Jeff Veen, manager of user experience for Google’s web applications and former director of; design director, author, and grid-meister Khoi Vinh; and Dan Cederholm, founder of SimpleBits and author of Bulletproof Web Design. Dave Shea’s CSS Zen Garden features prominently as well, and rightfully so.

A right sexy slide show accompanies the article.

And lest a BusinessWeek article lull us into complacency, let us here note that the top 20 blogs as measured by fail validation—including one blog Happy Cog designed. (It was valid when we handed it off to the client.)

[tags]design, webdesign, standards, webstandards, webstandardsproject, WaSP, zeldman, jeffreyzeldman, veen, jeffveen, simplebits, dancederholm, bulletproof, khoivinh, subtraction, wired, hotwired, nytimes, happycog, zengarden, css, csszengarden[/tags]

46 thoughts on “The King of Web Standards

  1. Thanks, Chris. Thanks, Mau.

    Chris, I wrote for The Washington Post and the Baltimore/Washington City Paper, mostly (but not entirely) concerning music. I was mostly a musician at the time, and DC was exploding with go-go and punk.

    Looking back, it seems that when I’ve been passionate about a scene, I’ve ended up writing about it — whether “it” was web design, or web standards, or an explosive new music scene.

    Not too much of the local scene I wanted to cover got into The Washington Post, but I consoled myself by thinking that I was writing for the The Washington Post.

  2. “Today, most sites are standards-compliant”

    The only part of the article I don’t agree with.

  3. The only part of the article I don’t agree with.

    An overly optimistic assessment, to be sure. On a more positive note, many “web 2.0″ sites are built with standards as a matter of course—although not always in ways that honor the spirit of standards (i.e. not all such sites place sufficient importance on semantics, accessibility/ portability, and usability).

  4. Excellent write up. You’re the reason I’m still working on the web, Jeffrey. Thank you. BTW, when are you guys bringing AEA back to the South? AEA:ATL rocked, and I am sure I could convince my boss into letting me attend another. Don’t forget about us! :D

  5. Excellent article. I hope it does open some minds of the head honchos that read it. On a side note, How far along is the Web Design Survey from this past April from ALA? I’m curious to see the results.

  6. Congrats! Watched this go live yesterday with a big smile on my face. (Did have a bit of a chuckle over Jessie promoting you from “Godfather” to “King”. Clearly, it’s good to be the king.)

  7. Which website did Happy Cog design? I don’t want to point a finger, I just want to go see what it’s like.


  8. Thanks for all, don King, you’re the man who made me discover the web standards, make sites using them, and create a web company based on web standard based websites (3 years living…). Just don’t stop !

  9. All hail the king!

    Mr. Zeldman, thanks for being a sound voice of reason all these years. What would the Web look like today without Web Standards? So glad we’ll never have to find out.

  10. Jeffery – Great article man, all the work you have done, Dan C., Eric M. and Dave S. and many, many more have done, have absolutely have given me a new career and gotten the Dreamreamer monkey off my back. My client’s sites all kill it in the SEs and clients are now seeing the comments from users who are now enjoying their content on devices. The clients are starting to see the light. You, WASP and all the pioneers deserve all the respect and cudos you get. I hope Happy Cog continues to do the best work and only what they want to touch.
    Thanks Man.

  11. Brian Artka asked:

    How far along is the Web Design Survey from this past April from ALA? I’m curious to see the results.

    The analysts finished crunching the numbers and presented their report at the end of July. Now it’s up to us to turn that report into a discussion with the web design community.

    This means, among other things: writing what we learned and what we still don’t know; converting hundreds of computations into a series of beautiful and easy-to-understand charts and graphs; and formatting the report as an accessible PDF (the PDF will be free of course).

    We’re thinking this work will be finished soon after An Event Apart Chicago, and will appear in A List Apart No. 245.

    Chris Harrison asked:

    when are you guys bringing AEA back to the South?

    Hopefully in early 2008.

    Jeg asked:

    Which website did Happy Cog design?

    See our portfolio.

  12. >>”….It might even help designers who aren’t named Jeffrey Zeldman,”

    (Starts to wipe the words ‘I am Jeffrey Zeldman!’ off the the plain white t-shirt!)…oh, you mean having the name doesn’t help?! ;)

    Hey, it’s good to see you get respectful reCOGnition on a site like Business Week (bit of a different place to see your name pop up on the Web!)

  13. That article was really encouraging, and made a great case for validation and standards in general.

    Then I made the mistake of reading the comments on that BugLeak post… there is no hope.

  14. Whenever I refer to Jeffrey in articles or emails to colleagues concerning Web Standards, I use my own monicker for him:

    The Webfather.

    So pop quiz: in a movie about the web, who would play Zeldman?


  15. Like we didn’t already know you were a hunka hunka burnin’ love. Sometimes, the love comes back. Here’s hoping you’re basking in its much deserved (and hard earned) glow.

  16. Steve Frost: I just knew someone was going to point that out. The current BW slideshow template is tied to an old, old production tool that’s rightfully earmarked for the dumpster. Look for new format(s) and design(s) in the coming months.

  17. Congratulation, its a great achievement and hope many more to come ! gr8 article by the way just cleared my concepts on the history of the movement !

  18. Congrats Jeffrey on the article, I read it and would have to agree. You certainly are the King in my book as I have learned a lot from not only reading and learning from others in the industry, but mainly from you, your books and reading your site.

    I try every day to teach others the benefits of web standards and try to spread the word myself, trying to do a small part that you have done such a great job in doing. Keep up the excellent work, I’ll be a faithful follower!


  19. I’m going to frame this article. Great job, I only hope that others will see the light as businesses and consumers alike need to export more from the web.

    AEA Chicago can’t come soon enough. I was thinking when you arrive you should walk through the conference halls screaming “The king is here!”

  20. Jeff, Dave T here
    Cast your mind back to that skinny Liverpudlian who shared a studio with you in Wash DC 1986. I’m still makin music jeff, slowly gettin better.
    Cheers mate

  21. Scanlon is a great technology reporter…the stuff she writes has the ring of truth, not the dull thud of having written the story before picking up the phone for some fill-in quotes.

  22. Great write up; congrats! Always been my hero :) I’m just peeved they quoted Google so much. They’re missing a doctype on their home page, along with 49 other validation errors. And they’re supposed to ‘get it’???

  23. I don’t know if they will post the comment, but here’s what I said. My rebuttal to Mr. hammond and his vast wealth of web standards knowledge.


    You ooze too much machismo for a 20-year-old. So where is your greatness and your books and article? Appearances at the best conventions and meet-ups? Where is the “Fantastic Portfolio of a 20-year-old Prodigy?”

    I bet it was you that started your path down the road to what you know today, right? You were born, came out, and started admonishing everyone for their lackadaisical knowledge of all things web.

    Quit trying to be the ultimo-standardista, it makes you look like even more of a jerk, no more than your current comments are.”

    Keep on trucking Jeff. I’m always reading your stuff. :)

  24. Thanks Zeldman
    Question : Which One Google :)
    a)Zeldman : Google
    b)Molly : Google
    c)Matt : Google

    Answer : (a) Zeldman Favorite

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