Letter of the Month

Hi Jeffrey,

Back in 2004 we had been running Headscape for three years. Things were going well but personally I was a little dissatisfied with my career. I just wasn’t as excited about the web as I had been and was lacking a new challenge and direction.

Anyway, we won a new client that was particularly concerned about accessibility and so I realised I had to brush up my skills in this area. I decided to see if I could find a book on the subject. Bizarrely I ended up buying Designing With Web Standards. I am not sure why I thought it was going to be about accessibility but for some reason I did. Anyway when it arrived from Amazon I quickly discovered that although it did touch on accessibility it was about so much more.

I remember what I now refer to as a pivotal moment in my web career. I was sitting in bed reading your book. I knew nothing really about CSS (other than for setting fonts/colours and I couldn’t see what was wrong with the old way of doing things). However as I read, it was like a slow realisation. I remember vividly turning to my wife and saying “This book is amazing. I am going to have to relearn everything I know about building websites”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand the enormity of what you were suggesting was overwhelming but on the other hand it was just the injection I needed in my own career.

I reached the end of the book and made a decision. I was going to move the whole of Headscape across to standards based design. Not only that was I was going to do it as soon as possible. By 2005 we had made the transition and have never looked back.

So far this is probably not dissimilar to other stories you have heard. However, it doesn’t stop there. I obviously started to follow your blog and you mentioned you were coming to speak in the UK at @Media 2005. For me this was too good an opportunity to miss. I wanted to see this guy who had turned our business upside down. Myself and my cofounders at Headscape booked on the conference.

I had never attended a conference before. In fact I had never spoken to another web designer outside of those I had worked alongside. It is therefore hardly a surprise that @Media blew me away. Yourself and the other speakers were so inspirational. In particular I remember Jeremy Keith’s amazing talk on Javascript.

However, the moment that changed everything for me (yes again) was right at the beginning of the conference. Patrick asked various bloggers in the audience to stand up as he mentioned each of their sites. I was overwhelmed by the sense of community and the knowledge in the room. It left me desperate to be apart of that. I left the conference and started building the very next day.

I guess my point is this. If I hadn’t bought your book by accident we would never have attended @Media and if I had never done that I would never have founded Boagworld has transformed Headscape and brings in approximately 90% of our new business. You have helped our business grow, reinvigorated my own passion for the web and allowed me personally to do things (such as travel the world) that I would have only dreamed of.

That deserves my thanks.

Thank you.

Paul Boag [Web Strategist, Broadcaster, Author & Rabble Rouser]

By L. Jeffrey Zeldman

“King of Web Standards”—Bloomberg Businessweek.

Author, Designer, Founder. Employer Brand at Automattic, Inc. Publisher, A List Apart & A Book Apart. Ava’s dad. Pete’s brother forever. He/him.

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