This year more than ever, Blue Beanie Day matters

Donald Trump mocks reporter with disability. Photo: CNN.

AT FIRST GLANCE, November 2016 has bigger fish to fry than a small, cult holiday celebrated by web developers and designers.

Each day since November 8, 2016 has brought new, and, to some of us, unimaginable challenges to the surface. Half of America is angry and terrified. The other half is angry and celebrating. At a time like now, of what possible use is an annual holiday celebrated mainly on social media by a tiny posse of standards- and accessibility-oriented web developers and designers?

From Blue Beanies to Black Hats

Many web developers have “moved on” from a progressive-enhancement-focused practice that designs web content and web experiences in such a way as to ensure that they are available to all people, regardless of personal ability or the browser or device they use.

Indeed, with more and more new developers entering the profession each day, it’s safe to say that many have never even heard of progressive enhancement and accessible, standards-based design.

For many developers—newcomer and seasoned pro alike—web development is about chasing the edge. The exciting stuff is mainly being done on frameworks that not only use, but in many cases actually require JavaScript.

The trouble with this top-down approach is threefold:

Firstly, many new developers will build powerful portfolios by mastering tools whose functioning and implications they may not fully understand. Their work may be inaccessible to people and devices, and they may not know it—or know how to go under the hood and fix it. (It may also be slow and bloated, and they may not know how to fix that either.) The impressive portfolios of these builders of inaccessible sites will get them hired and promoted to positions of power, where they train other developers to use frameworks to build impressive but inaccessible sites.

Only developers who understand and value accessibility, and can write their own code, will bother learning the equally exciting, equally edgy, equally new standards (like CSS Grid Layout) that enable us to design lean, accessible, forward-compatible, future-friendly web experiences. Fewer and fewer will do so.

Secondly, since companies rely on their senior developers to tell them what kinds of digital experiences to create, as the web-standards-based approach fades from memory, and frameworks eat the universe, more and more organizations will be advised by framework- and Javascript-oriented developers.

Thirdly, and as a result of the first and second points, more and more web experiences every day are being created that are simply not accessible to people with disabilities (or with the “wrong” phone or browser or device), and this will increase as  standards-focused professionals retire or are phased out of the work force, superseded by frameworkistas.

#a11y is Code for “Love Your Neighbor”

This third point is important because people with disabilities are already under attack, by example of the U.S. president-elect, and as part of of a recent rise in hate crimes perpetrated by a small but vocal fringe. This fringe group of haters has always been with us, but now they are out of the shadows. They are organized and motivated, and to an unmeasured degree, they helped Donald Trump win the White House. Now that he’s there, people of good will ardently hope that he will condemn the worst bigots among his supporters, and fulfill his executive duties on behalf of all the people. I’m not saying I expect him to do this today. I’m saying I hope he does—and meantime it behooves us to find ways to do more than just hope. Ways to make change.

One small thing designers and developers can do is to make accessibility and usability Job 1 on every project. And to take a broad view of what that means. It means taking people’s messy humanity into account and designing for extreme ends of the bell curve, not just following accessibility authoring guidelines. (But it also means following them.)

In doing those things, we can love our neighbors through action. That—and not simply making sure your HTML validates—is what designing with web standards was always about.

On November 30, I will put on my blue hat and renew my commitment to that cause. Please join me.


Also published on Medium.

Diversity and Web Standards

ON THIS year’s Blue Beanie Day, as we celebrate web standards, we also celebrate our community’s remarkable diversity—and pledge to keep things moving in a positive, humanist direction.

Racism, sexism, misogyny and other forms of foolish, wrongful pre-judging have no place in our beautiful community. As hard as we work to make sure our websites work for everyone, let’s work twice as hard to be certain we are just as open-hearted and welcoming to our peers as our designs are to our users.

Blue Beanie Day Tees & Hoodies

Blue Beanie Day tee shirt

JUST IN TIME for Blue Beanie Day 2014, I’ve teamed up with our friends at Cotton Bureau to bring you Blue Beanie Day Tees and Blue Beanie Day Hoodies. For sale at cost (no profit). Hurry! Only 14 days left to buy:

The eighth annual Blue Beanie Day in support of web standards will be celebrated around the world on November 30, 2014.

Blue Beanie Day is Coming!

A sea of blue hats

ALL IT TAKES is a toque and a dream.

Join your fellow web designers and developers around the world on Saturday, 30 November 2013, as we march in virtual solidarity in support of web standards.

The countdown to this worldwide celebration begins today, with the opening of the Blue Beanie Day 2013 photo pool on good old Read more at the new official home of Blue Beanie Day online,

Chairman’s Message on Sixth International Blue Beanie Day

If the print aesthetic had won—if the technologies supporting that aesthetic, slice-and-dice table layouts and Flash, had continued to reign supreme—our web use would almost certainly still be limited to the desktop, and web content would very likely be constrained to the whims and abilities of a single, aging desktop browser. With no competition, there’d be no reason for that browser’s manufacturers to update it, and no need to improve its standards support, as the browser’s behavior would be taken as a defacto standard. As a result, there would be no HTML5, no CSS3, no point in innovating standard technologies.

Blue Beanie Day – Celebrate You! by yours truly on Cognition, the blog of Happy Cog.

Illustration by Chris Cashdollar for Happy Cog

Blue Beanie Day Haiku Contest, Revisited

IN NOVEMBER, as part of the 4th Annual Blue Beanie Day to support web standards, we announced a web standards haiku contest, with prizes donated by Peachpit/New Riders (“Voices That Matter”) and A Book Apart. Entries were posted on Twitter with the hashtag #bbd4, with judging to follow in December. It should have been easy.

Unfortunately, searches on hashtags only go back a few days. Which means, when Designing With Web Standards 3rd Edition co-author Ethan Marcotte and I sat down to judge your entries, said entries were nowhere to be found.

Not even mighty Google was able to uncover more than a few of them.

We wrote to our friends at Twitter to ask for help, but they were too busy dating supermodels on a pile of money to get back to us. With existing entries sucked into the void formerly known as Twitter search results, and with all those great books to give away and all those eager participants to thank, we have only one choice:

Blue Beanie Day Haiku Contest Phase II—This Time It’s Personal

Instructions follow:

Attention, web design geeks, contest fans, standards freaks, HTML5ophiles, CSSistas, grammarians, bookworms, UXers, designers, developers, and budding Haikuists. Can you do this?

Do not tell me I
Am source of your browser woes.
Template validates.

Write a web standards haiku (like that one), and post it on Twitter right here between today and Friday, December 24th. Entries must be “postmarked” no later than 11:59 PM Eastern. Judging will be held the week after Christmas, with winners announced before the New Year.


Can I re-post the haiku(s) I submitted in November?

Yes, please!

Can I create one or more new haikus?

Yes, of course.

How many entries may I post?

As many as you like. However, you can only win once. (In other words, if you post the best ten haikus, you won’t win ten prizes, you’ll win one.)

I can’t post my entry here. (I’m behind a firewall.)

Unfortunately, posting behind firewalls is disabled on this site. (By doing this, I remove 99% of comment spam.) Try posting from your phone, or from a location other than your current one.

Thanks and Praise

Thanks to our sponsors, Peachpit/New Riders (“Voices That Matter”) and A Book Apart, and to Doug Vos, co-founder of Blue Beanie Day.

Let the haikus commence!

Photo: Luke Dorny

Comments are now closed. Watch this space—winners will be posted soon.

Don’t forget Blue Beanie Day!

The Fourth Annual International Blue Beanie Day in support of web standards will be celebrated this Tuesday, November 30. That gives you just over 24 hours to …

  1. Take a self-portrait wearing a blue beanie (toque, tuque, cap) and upload it to the Blue Beanie Day 2010 pool on Flickr.
  2. Add a blue beanie to your social network avatar on Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, etc.
  3. Write a web standards haiku and post it on Twitter with the hashtag #bbd4 for your chance to win web design books from Peachpit and A Book Apart in the Blue Beanie Day Haiku Contest.
  4. No blue beanie? No time for Photoshop? or to the rescue!

See you on the internets!