IT IS NOT “IRONIC” when an article about web standards is published in an online magazine formatted in Flash, or PDF, or some other non-HTML format. It is not “ironic” when an article on responsive design appears on a website that is not responsively designed. It is not “ironic” when an article on three essential principles of usability appears on a website that violates all three principles. It is not “ironic” when an article bemoaning the overuse of “Share” buttons appears on a website that overuses “Share” buttons. It is not “ironic” when an article advocating long form reading on the web gets chopped into multiple pages that discourage reading for the sake of a few ad views. It is not “ironic” when an article about microformats appears on a site that does not use microformats. It is not “ironic” when an article advocating HTML5 appears on a website formatted in XHTML. It is not “ironic” when an article about web accessibility appears on a website that suffers from serious accessibility problems. It is not “ironic” when an article about the importance of proper semantic markup appears in a magazine whose markup would make a goat cry. It is not “ironic” when an article about progressive enhancement and unobtrusive scripting appears on a website that fails if the user disables JavaScript.

It is publishing. It is humanity. It is the vanguard of ideas clashing against the rearguard of commerce. This is not new. This is all to be expected. We must stop raising our eyebrows and chuckling at it. We must decide to accept the world as it is, or to roll up our sleeves and help.

47 thoughts on “OFF MY LAWN!

  1. Couldn’t agree more. I’ve wondered for a long time how so many ux folks get away with having sites that neglect just about every ux principle their is. I guess it’s just a case of the shoemaker selling all of his good shoes to customers and having none left for his family. Still. We can do better.

  2. “We must decide to accept the world as it is, or to roll up our sleeves and help.”

    Reminds me of what our community used to be like from 2000-2006ish.

  3. We must stop raising our eyebrows and chuckling at it. We must decide to accept the world as it is, or to roll up our sleeves and help.

    Do those two things have to be mutually exclusive? Can’t we recognize the humor in these situations, and also roll up our sleeves and pitch in by doing our best to create usable/responsive(adaptive)/pleasurable/semantic/progressively enhanced/awesome work?

    A semi-rhetorical question, but respond if you like.

    In full disclosure, I work for Happy Cog and agree with (almost) everything Jeffrey says about most anything.

  4. Websites are built on the conventions and ideals at a moment in time to survive content of the future. Sites themselves can’t be held accountable for shifts in thought conceived after they are built.

    Look at A List Apart with a doctype of XHTML 1.0 Transitional. It has done an amazing job of surviving to serve the concepts of today although it does not implement them itself.

  5. I’m still trying to wrap my head around the metaphor of the goat crying over bad markup. Is it because they’re happy to eat anything?

  6. It’s so much easier to sit back & be sarcastic & snarky, especially when responses are limited to 140 characters.

    But every time I read “an article about the importance of proper semantic markup appears in a magazine whose markup would make a goat cry”, I see opportunity. I know the site you’re referring to & you’ve shared some of your personal feelings about that site with me. But that site is so heavily trafficked that rather than sitting back & bitching about it, I see opportunity for change. Let me at it, I say.

    I just wish I heard more designers & developers saying “Let me at it!” too.

  7. Actually, it *is* ironic.

    “a state of affairs or an event that seems deliberately contrary to what one expects and is often amusing as a result”

    The context (where/how it appears) of the message plays a role. If that context is obviously contrary to the message, indeed, it can be amusing. Don’t tell me when I can and can’t laugh.

    Your underlying argument however, is valid. If the of discussion of the article topic can’t get passed the irony, then it doesn’t serve a useful purpose.

  8. It is ironic when people write about the ROI of content do not use subheads and ignore the concept of scannability.

  9. Here here.

    The irony is there and can be appreciated for what it is, but the difference is in what you do when you come across it:

    1. Roll up your sleeves and help


    2. Send Jeffrey Zeldman a snarky email pointing out how ironic it is that A List Apart should publish an article advocating responsive web design when their website is fixed width, even though they can’t be reasonably expected to redesign their site whenever they publish a new approach, and even though they probably have a responsive redesign going on anyway, and even though the staff are out there with their sleeves rolled up making things while you’re writing your email.

  10. Not to be a troll, but why do you put the word “ironic” in quotes? You’re using in its native/intended context.

    Each if the conditions you’re describing are the definition of irony. So they’re not “Ironic”. They’re simply ironic.

    Or is there an even deeper meaning that has escaped me?


  11. “Rain on your wedding day” is not ironic. All of the things you describe are, in fact, ironic. Has someone hit a nerve that prompted this outburst of what is and is not ironic?

  12. Do these people also consider it “ironic” that articles about web design are published in books, on paper? So silly.

    I am just pleased that such a wealth of high quality information about the latest techniques is available to our industry for free. Keep on keepin’ on, Jeffrey.

  13. “Irony” is a dish best served cold. Irony about a non-responsive article on responsive design is premature. Irony about Flash is not. Let irony be and embrace our appreciation of it. It is this appreciation that distinguishes the cutting-edge and the forward-looking from the misguided.

  14. Unlike almost anything mentioned by Alnis Morissette, it actually is ironic, whether that was the intent or not.

    I agree, we should all be prepared to roll up our sleeves and help. The problem I have at the moment is convincing potential clients that there’s any difference between sites thrown together using WYSIWYG editors and proper semantic markup. These people generally have budgets of no more than 20 hours of my time, which they think is perfectly adequate.

  15. I think all the sharing, opinions, and comments from fellow peers is helpful especially in 140 characters. I think Jeffery’s point here is the “attitude” it which they’re given. Everything he listed that people find “ironic” wether they be ironic or not is not the question its how we surface the information. Do we share to help improve or ridicule. Suggestion: Think before you share.


  16. right on! I cant agree more!

    and i like to add that, for example publishing something on accessibility on a site made up off flash and is more then 2 years old is not only not ironic, but a good way to address the right people to start to think about this issue! those who read the site and who probably would not usually see this opinion and those who run the site.

    good thinking!

  17. and i should add: this should be a marketing 101! Always advertise to the audience you want to reach!
    getting people to understand web standards is nothing else then advertise them!

  18. Great post,

    I just believe that until web designers and developers will not implement all the responsiveness and accessibility, they will be struggling to get decent jobs and progress in their careers. I cannot believe that if people chose this filed of craft, and at the same time are ignoring these “simple” rules. You just simply have to listen and take an example from people like Jeffrey Zeldman, Ethan Marcotte, Andy Clarke, and the web will be even better place.

  19. This irony you speak of happens everyday it is native to our lives. The web is no different. The social force of informational change is is much slower than the technological push that makes this possible. Something I don’t think about.

  20. I think it’s funny. But it does get old. And I think that anyone who whines enough about these things when we’re in a transition phase, clearly doesn’t see the evolutionary aspect of the web.

  21. Well said bud.

    There’s nothing syntactically correct about the world or the human race is there. Most people don’t have the tidy minds, the anal attributes most standards practitioners put to good use, on a daily basis. Most ordinary developers get bored far to quickly with the form of standards and never get to the hallowed ground, “the substance” it can create.

    Its chaos on chaos with a few lifeboats of standards practitioners in a sea of hack and slashers who are happy if it works on all browsers, well thats good enough! right! who cares if the br doesn’t have a slash in it. It works so lets roll with that.

    The Pragmatism of commercially tightening budgets, millions of self prostituting web designers working from home, so often out weighs the more inspired ambitions of the practitioners of full web standards.

    I think for the most part most of the message standards has been about the “form” rather than the “substance”, at least from a developer perspective.

    Much more of the “How to” rather than the “Why to” over the last 10 years – I think its the failure of the developer to convince the client to go down a full web standards path, primarily because they themselves don’t fully believe or understand the “substance” of the outcomes for a business, if web standards are implemented properly.

    If only web pages really really broke badly if they didn’t use standards, then everyone would fall in line.

    Maybe all the worlds browsers need to stop supporting hack and slash methods, completely. That would create millions of pain bodies around the world, but ultimately the web would become better implemented.

    That said why would anyone want a web that didn’t tolerate human mistakes, human error, educational gaps and inequities.

    Socially you could argue the web is a more inclusive place, because it enables anyone who can patch together some terrible html to get a real world outcome on a screen and their journey begins and so does their empowerment.

  22. We also never will attract fresh blood to the field of user experience if we are seen as quick-to-judge, snarky, or elitist. There will undoubtedly be new, innovative techniques out there that exploit (in a good way) the current spec. A humble attitude of learning and sharing is the way to go.

  23. Jeffrey is perfectly illustrating what I like to call “smelling our own farts” in the advertising world that I’m primarily a part of.

    So many of my more traditional advertising colleagues love to bemoan this campaign or that idea at length because it just doesn’t cut the standards that would have blown the world away if only they had done the work. In the end, it does nothing but cause a big stink and, as Fat Bastard once said, “Everybody loves their own brand.”

    If these ad guys would stop pontificating all the time and maybe put those brilliant ideas of theirs to work to make something that trumps all their intellectual farting, perhaps the industry would be in a better place.

    That’s how I interpreted this article. And I’m right with you, Z.

  24. Indeed many of those examples are actually ironic. However I recently got caught out griping about some site that I felt didn’t really earn the admiration it was garnering. Afterwards I felt like an ass for bitching instead of really looking into what the site was all about. So in other words, yeah we can sit around and criticize the ephemeral or inconsequential but there’s probably better things to be doing with our skills and insights.

  25. Amen.

    I hope we all remember to thank those that do roll their sleeves up and pitch in. I’ve seen (far too often) those who are part of an “exclusive” community of professionals look down upon and scoff at the work of earnest people that are putting forth that very help called for. It would be much better, more inclusive, supportive, and human(e) community as a result.

  26. What about someone ranting for 20 minutes about the evils of Flash and how it should be abolished completely from the web? The rant of course being delivered via embedded Flash player. Ironic no?

  27. This I believe mostly happens because people are just blindly publishing content to get page views without caring about rules and other things..They only care about SEARCH ENGINES [read keywords] and nothing else

  28. Oh common, give me a break. We will never find that UI design talent if we assume web trends. We need drivers who drive this change. And I strongly feel that a humble learning efforts and the inner inclination to sharing it is what will make the difference. Btw, I enjoy reading your blog and you can count me in zeldmans fans in Russia.:)

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