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Vincent Flanders apparently thinks ‘standards’ is a dirty word. Vincent takes WaSP member Douglas Bowman to task for not including a link to the finished work in his post about a table-free redesign of Microsoft’s home page. He has a point. That is, until he flies off into bizarro world by critizing Douglas for ‘linking’ the topic of table-free web design to web standards.

Vincent apparently thinks Douglas is trying to say that web design is ‘about’ standards, that standards an end in themselves. The end-all, be-all of web design.

Quite understandably, Vincent objects to that view. He throws out a quote of his (actually, it’s a quote of him quoting Jared Spool) explaining that businesses don’t give a rat’s backside about ‘usability’, ‘design’ or other buzzwords. Businesses care about things like revenue, expenses and ‘shareholder value’ (a weasel-word itself if ever there was one).

There’s just one problem: Douglas never said web design was ‘about’ standards. In fact, the word ‘standards’ appears exactly once in Douglas’ article. What Douglas wrote was ‘graph after ‘graph detailing the bandwidth and storage savings and reduction in development time and complexity his table-free redesign would achieve if adopted by Microsoft and how those benefits translate to reduced costs and reaching more customers more effectively. In short, how tableless design can help accomplish exactly those things that Vincent agrees are important to business honchos.

And what else would Douglas be writing about? He’s a WaSP, after all. We aren’t here for religious reasons. We’re here because we believe standards have practical value for developers, users and — gasp — businesses alike. That was the pitch when we were founded, that’s the pitch now.

So what’s your point again, Vincent? Using the ‘S’ word once transforms an article on the business benefits of table-free web design into a proclamation that web design is ‘about’ standards? I don’t buy it.

Even if Douglas had pounded the standards drum a bit more, would that have been so bad? If companies were as standards-phobic as Vincent, would they routinely proclaim their ISO ceritifications in their marketing materials as many do? It just doesn’t add up.

A cynic might suspect Vincent of slagging a leading standards advocate and A-list designer in hope of starting a Jakob Nielsen-style crudstorm — and generating Jakob Nielsen-style publicity as a result. But I’m not (quite) that cynical.

So I really want to know: why do some folks go apoplectic when the word ‘standards’ comes up, even when they agree with everything else being said? Just why is ‘standards’ still a dirty word?

(hat-tip: Robert Scoble)

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