Working together for standards The Web Standards Project

In Molly’s recent WaSP buzz, Web Standards and The New Professionalism she offers:

Today, I want to express that I believe that this new professionalism means taking responsibility for the education of ourselves and each other, and ensuring that reversions like Disney Store UK never happen again.

As part of the WaSP Edu TF, I am here to say that we need more effort in more areas, as a group, as a *New Professional*, as an individual. It is not enough to educate ourselves and each other, though it is a good plan and a start, and not all that new. We need to educate, promote, and advocate change to the educators, schools, and the programs or courses. The state of web related education is sub-standard in most cases. The degrees and training signify little in many cases. A lot of work needs to be done.

Many of us, *Old Professionals* have been involved in mailing lists and online communities advocating standards, accessibility, guidelines as well as offering help, information, and resources for several years. We do it because we are passionate and believe in what we are doing. Advocating has not been easy, but it is rewarding and exciting to see change and understanding grow. We have been doing this since the mid to late 1990′s, and much of the early advocacy and information exchanges were the groundwork for all the excellent information and resources that exist today. We need to look outside of our web community and start working in other areas, too.

It has been a long road and we know the learning is a never ending process. Our CSS and markup education and skills may have come from a variety of web site offerings and articles: The CSS Pointers Group, Westciv: House of Style, Rich in Style, Brian Wilson, HTML help,, HTML Goodies, Todd Fahrner, Dave Baron, Eric Meyer, Jeffrey Zeldman, and several notable others, including the W3C and The Web Standards Project. For many of us, our tools were text editors and the W3C validators, and the first validators were a challenge to use. For many of us, the text editor and validator are the same tools we use today. We have come a long way, Hobbes’ Internet Timeline (1950-2004) and, but we have a long way to go, and a lot of work to do.

We need to increase our efforts and focus to Education. In the recent buzz by Molly, she offers a quote by Andy Clarke:

There are now so many web sites, blogs or publications
devoted to helping people learn standards and accessible techniques
that there are now no excuses not to work with semantic code or CSS.

At the EduTF we realize there are no excuses and we also see many reasons why standards and accessible techniques are not being taught. Addressing these issues is part of the work we are involved with behind the scenes. And we have been very busy.

Many schools are not teaching standards, guidelines, accessibility, and best practises. They are teaching the opposite. Just a few weeks ago a frustrated student in a web program contacted our EduTF and told us that he had to use table markup for layout on his final project even though he was aware of and knows how to use standards and CSS. If he did not use the table for layout, his grade would have been marked down. The student in the program is enrolled to get a degree so his work and skills are more recognized. There is something seriously wrong with this situation. What will that degree mean? Does it represent a quality education where needed skills are taught? No. The same student is keeping in touch with us and sent us information on his current course, a web scripting course which offers up the advice of not to use CSS. It’s not important to single this institution and program out, because there are many more out there. Many of us feel that this situation and others like it represent the majority of educational institutions. We need to address this issue.

In a recent Interview of Mark Trammell at Digital Web Magazine, Mark offers up several thoughts involving education. Here are a few of his words regarding web education in Universities.:

University Web design courses are an ideal time to start young developers thinking in terms of separation of content from aesthetics and behavior, but unfortunately, this is rarely the case. If the correspondence I receive from students in higher education Web design courses is a true barometer, academia is not keeping up with the Web’s progression. Students often complain of being taught development practices circa 1998, at best. Photoshop slicing and table-based layouts rule the day in most courses and the Web suffers for it.

The EduTF knows there are several factors or challenges involving the poor educational situation and we are working behind the scenes with educators, web developers, students, and advocates. The educators, staff, and administrators may not be aware of or are not teaching these skills to students. The courses offered by many institutions do not have strong guidelines, recommendations, and outlines of updated material to be taught. A course in web authoring or web design may not fit into any one department, the materials and learning fit into many departments: technical, art and design, communications, business, sociology and psychology. Web Design is about functionality, usability, and aesthetics. The students need to learn a lot and by the time of completion of their courses they should have a basic and solid foundation and skill set that includes standards, guidelines, accessibility, and separation. The students should also be aware of how to continue to update their skills or keep up with emerging technologies and change, by learning about how to network, how to find new information, and research skills.

Standards, guidelines, accessibility, and separation skills need to be taught to developers and designers. We need better applications, software, and content management solutions. We need better ecommerce applications, better educational software, and coursewares. So developers in computer science departments need to know and learn these standards, too.

The Trammell interview also offers up some comments worth reading following the article. In particular, Richard Quaite states:

I for one have spent years complaining about the lack of suitable
graduates, and suffered when trying to recruit-I’m sure I’m not alone.

Quaite worries that others trained and working in the field will get turned off by lack of support and opportunities. He gave some ideas in helping to support education. As employers, we could offer internships and experience for undergraduates. When there are conferences or events, we could extend invitations to undergraduates, educational institutions, and departments. As a WaSP EduTF member, to those offering internships or on the job experience opportunities to students, find out what the student knows or what is being taught and if it does not include standards, guidelines, accessibility, get involved with the institute and its program staff and let them know that they need to change or update their materials. Institutions teaching standards may have more internship and experience partnerships and may help increase post graduate placement and recruitment possibilities for its students. Educational institutes that make these partnerships and open up opportunities for its graduates may also attract more students to its programs. We need to get creative about promoting standards in many ways.

Again, this is just some of what we can do to help promote, advocate, and change the situation of standards in our community, beyond our community, and for the future. We have a lot of work ahead and we need to get help and information out to those in Web Education. More institutions need to start teaching and producing web designers and developers as new professionals, too.

[This entry cross-posted to take your comments and trackbacks.]

Return to top

Post a Reply

Comments are closed.

All of the entries posted in WaSP Buzz express the opinions of their individual authors. They do not necessarily reflect the plans or positions of the Web Standards Project as a group.

This site is valid XHTML 1.0 Strict, CSS | Get Buzz via RSS or Atom | Colophon | Legal