Call yourself a Web Professional

Plenty of people have been talking about whether or not those that refuse to adopt web standards in web design should be entitled to call themselves web professionals.

While I agree that those who design should be looking to learn web standards, I also feel that not everyone has the same learning curve when it comes to standards. Some people need more time to learn than others. I especially didn’t like one particular quote from John Oxton (certain words censored):

What I want is HTML that kicks up a royal f*****g stink if it isn’t treated properly. HTML that takes no s**t, with a built in big flashy message (GO AWAY AND LEARN ABOUT ME!) for people who refuse to take the time to learn this super simple language and who refuse to refine their understanding.
I think some people seem to forget that it’s not a ‘super simple language’ to everyone. That quote is like a typical ‘RTFM’ response you’d get on a forum. Don’t slate someone just because they don’t know as much as you. I’m sure you wouldn’t like the same response from someone who knows more about another topic than you.

17 thoughts on “Call yourself a Web Professional”

  1. I am not sure what a RTFM is (an abbr tag maybe?) and you don’t have to like the way I put but I stand by what I say. HTML is very easy to learn. Agreed, mastering it’s finer points can take some time but I am talking about things like learning to use a heading instead of a bold tag, a list instead of a paragraph and a bunch of line break tags.

    Oh and I wasn’t slating anyone who knows less than me but if people absolutley refuse to move from Design view in Dreamweaver (and they are out there) and learn a little about the underlying code, well I’m sorry that’s just plain lazy and I make no apologies.

  2. Hi John,

    Thanks for commenting. I agree with you about those that are too lazy to bother.

    I just think that sometimes those in the know forget that they were not in the know at once stage and that others are still learning at the best pace possible.

  3. I don’t get the point. Who cares about the learning curve? If can’t learn HTML well enough to mark up a page semantically, should they be called web professionals? Do you go to a doctor who says, “I know the new and better way to do things is with this crazy technique called modern medicine but I never got the hang of it, so I’m just gonna stick with what I know.”

    Or an architect who says, “oh, by the way, apparently there are building codes in place now, but they’re just too damn hard and unrealistic, so I’m gonna build your house the way I learned ten years ago, cool?”

    I’m sorry, but HTML happens to be the backbne of the web, and to be considered a professional at anything you need to actually be competent. If someone can’t learn it, they should be a professional in a field they more readily grasp.

    Am I the only one who feels like this is pointing out the obvious?

  4. I know of a (typo)graphic designer who has dived into the realms of Postscript (PS) to come up with a font that actually acts as a program, modifying its appearance everytime it is rendered. But I’m sure he wouldn’t argue other type designers to ditch Fontographer and hand-code their fonts in PS. The same goes for HTML: if your tools work the way they should, why would you try and reach under the bonnet?

    We shouldn’t be lamenting the designer who actually wants to do what he does best, but the programmer that actually decided what code the editor produces.

  5. I agree with both of you. While there are the innocently naive who deserve the benefit of the doubt and a chance to learn (or choose not to if they so wish or do not need to), there are also the stubborn “Dilbert’s boss” type people that can be told repeatedly, but never seem to learn. I have encountered more of the latter than the former and can fully understand the frustration. I mean really, how many times can you show one person how to copy and paste… it gets to a point of mild retardation sometimes.

  6. @ Richard, I see it differently. The use of tables, spacer gifs and what not was the way everyone laid out their web page before web standards came along.

    Some people still use them because they work. Just because there’s a new, better way to do things doesn’t mean everyone should adopt them or else.

    Should we buy the all new dual format, dual layer, dual this, dual that DVD-RW just because it’s better? What if we can’t afford it? What if our current one works? What if the new one seems too complicated to work?

    If web standards are hard for some people to grasp, but tables and spacer gifs still work (not to mention browser inconsistencies requiring css hacks), then shouldn’t they still be allowed to use them?

  7. @ Keith: I think you are missing the point. The argument is that people who can’t write correct HTML are not professionals. They may have a portfolio, and they may be able to sucker people into paying them for work, and they may be able to make websites that look okay in your browser, but they are not professionals. You might call them designers, I call them hackers, but let’s not say that they are people who know what they are doing, because that’s what a professional would be.

    More specific to the tables and spacer gifs point, that was always a hack. It was a misuse of the html specs, and though it worked, that didn’t make it any less of a hack than the hacks used in CSS today. You aren’t a professional for hacking layouts with tables. As for CSS hacks, sometimes it’s a necessary evil, and sometimes it’s sloppy work that could be corrected without hacks.

    Finally, to make a comparison (your dvd comparison is apples and oranges), let’s talk about fire-eaters. What makes someone a professional fire eater? Someone could stick fire in their mouth, and get burned. Does that make them professional? They ate the fire, right? Right. But they did it incorrectly. A professional doesn’t get burned. Likewise, a designer coding websites without doctypes, with invalid markup, with tables for layout, etc. is not a professional. They may be making websites, but they are not doing it correctly.

  8. Tables and spacer gifs were a necessary evil once, otherwise they wouldn’t have been adopted.

    Also, I probably should have brought this up earlier, but knowing HTML on it’s own isn’t enough – even nowadays. You also need to know CSS to design a semantic, standards based design. CSS is harder to learn than HTML.

    Regardless of how easy or hard HTML, CSS, semantics or web standards are to learn, I still don’t think that those who practice web standards are entitled to say that those who don’t practice it are not web professionals. Not yet.

  9. Tables and spacer gifs were a necessary evil once, otherwise they wouldn’t have been adopted.

    What’s your point here? They were a necessary evil once. Chopping off a leg in the case of infection was a necessary evil once in the field of medicine. Are you saying compared to, say, penicillin that’s still a viable option?

    Also, I probably should have brought this up earlier, but knowing HTML on it’s own isn’t enough – even nowadays. You also need to know CSS to design a semantic, standards based design. CSS is harder to learn than HTML.

    That’s a given. How about server-side scripting, client-side scripting, visual and graphic design skills, and a background in effective UI? Oh, not to mention the little things clients tend to expect, too, like SEO techniques, marketing options, and hosting and technical support. Even more the reason why someone who calls themselves a “web professional” should be smart enough to understand the basics of semantic markup.

    I’m sorry, but any “professional” who sticks to design techniques that slow down a site, increase maintenance time, and degrade accessibility because their techniques “worked” ten years ago… well, call them anything you want but I wouldn’t hire them or see why anyone would.

  10. The problem I have is that everything I learned throughout the last 7 or 8 years, I had to UNLEARN because its basically incorrect.

    If you were picking up web design right now, woudln’t you rather learn it properly than be fooled into thinking you were becoming “good at HTML” because it looks good in Dreamweaver [Version], which itself is stuck in whatever year it was released?

    There is NO substitute for reading a manual – Dreamweaver and the like are just shortcuts for people too lazy to find out how to do it properly and I’ll always be on John Oxtons side on this because 90% of the reason that the web is such a mess is because people did exactly the opposite of what people are doing now > learning to do it properly.

    Its about time – maybe we need a ‘compiler’. You wouldn’t write a C++ application and get away with shoddy markup/code would you? Why should HTML be any different? Don’t take this too literally, the validator is good but not good enough. How about HTTP/500 errors if yoru code isn’t up to scratch?

  11. Agreed Richard. Current move to standard was only possible when IE improved on 5.0 and 5.5. CSS adoption was slow, but now we have browsers that can effectively use most (not all) of the standards set by W3C. So why not move on to better ways than Table-Spacer hacks? There are just no excuses (unless its generated by CMS).

    Its been two years now since the web have these new and better techniques to do thing why stay in the past? As for semantically coding HTML, there are no excuse but laziness not to learn it properly.

    I used to teach design students on web design and first requirement is understand what you are doing in Dreamweaver and get a HTML and CSS book. This is not PhotoShop or InDesign, simply because Dreamweaver have not reached the point of perfecting WYSIWYG HTML/CSS. Maybe that will happen in the future but not now.

  12. Okay, we probably shouldn’t label those that don’t practice Web standards as non-Web professionals. They’re just bad Web professionals.

    There are arguments above that people in different trades would still be considered professionals even if they aren’t using the latest, cutting-edge techniques and tools. Zeldman began preaching about standards in 1997, and A List Apart launched its CSS-based layout in February, 2001. These are hardly new or “latest and greatest” concepts.

    A true professional monitors the latest trends in his or her field, evaluates how they may fit, and hopefully experiments firsthand. Almost five years later, this experimentation and honeymoon phase should be over in the professional arena. Using standards isn’t a bandwagon; it’s the wagon we should all be driving in unison.

  13. The problem with HTML is, a whole bunch of wannabe-professionals with Frontpage 2003 earn their money, destroy the prices, quality and the idea behind the net. HTML is no secret, everyone may learn to code with accurate syntax – but they just don’t care.

    “What does this mean, there is no <comment>-tag? How do you do comments in html…

    And RTFM is all I answer to those.

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  15. I always thought the definition of a ‘professional’ is somebody who receives an income from their chosen field, as opposed to an ‘amateur’ who does not.

    Theoretically, skill or quality actually plays no role in determining whether someone is an amateur or a professional.

    There are good and bad in both camps.
    Sad but true.

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