WaSP InterAct is a “living, open web standards curriculum.” Put together by an amazing group of dedicated educators and industry experts, the curriculum is designed to teach students the skills of the web professional—and ease the burden of colleges and universities, struggling to develop timely and appropriate curricula for our fast-moving profession.
Schools that teach web design struggle to keep pace with our industry, and those just starting their curricula often set off in the wrong direction because the breadth and depth of our medium can be daunting. The WaSP InterAct curriculum project seeks to ease the challenges schools around the world face as they prepare their students for careers on the Web. … Its courses are divided into six learning tracks that provide students with a well rounded foundation in the many facets of the web design craft.
The group offers its resources to all who need them (to reuse adapt), and it seeks your content and ideas.
Yesterday, before publicly announcing it, developers from Microsoft called me and others to let us know that IE8’s version targeting will now work the same way other browsers work, i.e. advanced standards support will be on by default. Some people will say Microsoft caved; others, that they listened to public opinion; some may even buy the company’s own explanation, which is that, given a company-wide reorientation away from proprietary winner-take-all competitiveness and toward interoperability, “web standards by default” takes precedence over “supporting all those badly made websites that were created specifically to work in IE.”
“Having the ability to lock your site to a particular browser version is fantastic for ensuring that your site will be usable well into the future, but does it undermine the concept of progressive enhancement?” – Aaron Gustafson, A List Apart Issue No. 251, January 21, 2008.
“We say forward-compatible development is the mark of a professional because that’s what the profession demands. With the advent of version targeting, that need may simply evaporate, rendered not wrong but moot.” – Eric Meyer, A List Apart Issue No. 251, January 21, 2008.
“Standards-aware developers, by their very nature, will object to adding a line of unnecessary markup to their documents just to get one single browser to behave as it should by default.” – Jeremy Keith, A List Apart Issue No. 253, February 19, 2008.
“Version targeting shakes our browser-agnostic faith. Its default behavior runs counter to our expectations, and seems wrong. Yet to offer true DOM support without bringing JScript-authored sites to their knees, version targeting must work the way Microsoft proposes.” – Jeffrey Zeldman, A List Apart Issue No. 253, February 19, 2008.
“On 16 February, Web Standards Project Members Faruk Ate?, Porter Glendinning, and I got together with Chris Wilson, Platform Architect for Internet Explorer to talk about IE8’s proposed default version targeting behavior of having to opt-in to the browser’s new standards mode.” – Aaron Gustafson, The Web Standards Project, February 24, 2008.
“We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can. This decision is a change from what we’ve posted previously.” – The IE Blog, March 3rd, 2008.
“In keeping with the commitment we made in our Interoperability Principles of being even more transparent in how we support standards in our products, we will work with content publishers to ensure they fully understand the steps we are taking and will encourage them to use this beta period to update their sites to transition to the more current Web standards supported by IE8.” – Microsoft.com, March 3rd, 2008.
“This was a very complex issue and I fully understood and had come to accept Microsoft’s earlier decision to break with convention and not automatically opt sites in to the new engine, but I have to say I’m glad they’ve reversed that decision. In the end, this does put more pressure on them to get the word out about how version targeting can prevent a recurrence of the issues that came about when IE7 released, but, personally, I feel their product (and the web at large) is better for it. ” – Aaron Gusatfson, The Web Standards Project, March 3rd, 2008.
For most of the past seven years, the DOCTYPE switch stood designers and developers in good stead as a toggle between standards mode and quirks mode. The switch enabled browsers to accurately support the work of responsible designers who cared about accessibility, findability, and lean, semantic markup. It also enabled those same browsers to support the old-fashioned, table-driven junk markup your grandpappy writes.
But when IE7, with its tremendously improved support for standards, “broke the web,” it revealed the flaw in our beloved toggle. The quest was on to find a more reliable ensurer of forward compatibility. Is version targeting the answer?
In Issue No. 251 of A List Apart, for people who make websites, Aaron Gustafson of The Web Standards Project and ALA describes the workings of and logic behind version targeting, a proposed replacement to the DOCTYPE switch. It’s an idea whose simplicity you may admire immediately; or you may, at least initially, want to run screaming in the opposite direction.
That’s how ALA‘s Eric Meyer felt, when he first previewed Aaron’s report. So did I. But we came around—and in “A Standardista’s Journey,” the companion piece to Aaron’s article, Eric explains how his thinking about version targeting evolved.
Microsoft is on board to support version targeting in IE8; they hope other browser makers will do likewise. The Web Standards Project worked with the Redmond company to forge this new path in forward compatible design. It’s with Microsoft’s consent that we unveil version targeting in this issue. In a future issue, we’ll discuss the implications for scripting.
Jeremy Keith’s “Year Zero” beautifully explains why the W3C needs our backs, not our bullets.
The W3C is maddeningly opaque and its lieutenants will sometimes march madly into the sea, but it is all that stands between us and the whirlwind.
Slow the W3C will always be. Slow comes with the territory. If you glimpse even a hint of the level of detail required to craft usable standards, you’ll understand the slowness and maybe even be grateful for it—as you’d be grateful for a surgeon who takes his time while operating on your pancreas.
But the secrecy (which makes us read bad things into the slowness) must and will change. To my knowledge, the W3C has been working on its transparency problems for at least two years and making real change—just very slowly (there’s that word again) and incrementally and hence not at all obviously.
Key decision makers within the W3C intend to do much more, but they need to get their colleagues on board, and consensus-building is a bitch. A slow bitch.
If designers and developers are more aware of the problems than of the fact that the W3C is working to solve them, it’s because the W3C is not great at outreach. If they were great at outreach, we wouldn’t have needed a Web Standards Project to persuade browser makers to implement the specs and designers and developers to use them.
Designers sometimes compare the slow pace of standards with the fast pace of, say, Flash. But it is like comparing the output of the United Nations to the laws passed by a small benevolent dictatorship. When a company owns a technology, it can move fast. When a hundred companies that mistrust each other need to agree to every detail of a technology that only exists insofar as their phones and browsers support it, surprise, surprise, the pace is quite slow.
The W3C is working on its speed issues, too. It’s been forced to work on them by outside groups and by the success of microformats. But detailed interoperability of profound technologies no company owns is never going to happen half as fast as we’d like.
You want instant gratification, buy an iPod. You want standards that work, help. Or at least stop shouting.
[tags]w3c, standards, webstandards[/tags]
DWWS Facebook group
A few days ago, Douglas Vos of Dearborn, Michigan, created a Designing With Web Standards group in Facebook just to see what would happen. Don’t get me wrong: It’s not like he started a group about moss formations or watching paint dry. Doug has read both editions of the book twice, and is a big fan of standards-based design. He started the group because he was interested in web standards and he wanted to understand, from the inside, how such groups function and grow in Facebook.
At this moment, the group has 422 1,142 members, seven wall posts, eleven discussion topics, three photos, one video, and two links. I wrote a post there today about my upcoming web standards talk at BusinessWeek.
I am curious whether the new group will become a passive affinity group or something more.
By passive affinity group, I mean the kind of group people join to show they belong—and then don’t do much, if anything, once they’ve joined. For instance, hundreds of thousands of people joined a Facebook group in support of the monks’ protest in Burma. Everyone who joined supports free speech and democracy, but only a tiny handful of group members create content or begin initiatives. For the few who are active, membership in the Burmese monk support group is an act of political and spiritual engagement. But for most members, it’s passive. This is true of all social groups (online and off) and nearly all human activities.
If people who incorporate web standards in their work join the DWWS Facebook group as an act of affinity, that’s fine and dandy, and it will be in some small way a measure of the progress of web standards as a movement or discipline. But the group could do more. Much more.
For instance, the group could track large-scale conversions to web standards and accessibility among corporate or government websites. It could also track backsliding, such as the infamous British Disney site, redesigned for standards compliance and accessibility by Andy Clarke at the beginning of the 2000s, and then redesigned back to tables and cruft by a successor web agency.
The group could track which schools and universities are using Designing With Web Standards and other “web standards” texts in their design or web curricula.
The Web Standards Project used to keep track of such things when I was running it, and I used to keep track of them here, as well; but I can’t do it any more, and The Web Standards Project doesn’t seem to be doing it either (probably because The WaSP is busy with other activities).
Maybe that’s where you come in.
It’s just a group on Facebook, but it could do some good.
[tags]dwws, designing with web standards, facebook, zeldman, books[/tags]
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 Hotwired.com; NYTimes.com design director, subtraction.com 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.