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Web Standards and The New Professionalism

By Molly E. Holzschlag | November 15th, 2005 | Filed in Accessibility, Web Standards (general)

Either you’re with us or against us: you know your craft (or you’re willing to learn) or you don’t. We’re in a process of defining a new professionalism for Web developers and designers.

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With the aftermath of the Disney UK Store redesign fiasco still ringing in our collective ears, I am coming to believe that we’re in a process of defining a new professionalism for Web developers and designers.

In an interview with Accessify’s Ian Lloyd, Accessibility: The gloves come off, my oft-colleague in the education and training of Web designers and developers, Andy Clarke, delivers a strong message that needs to be heard:

“Those people still delivering nested table layout, spacer gifs or ignoring accessibility can no longer call themselves web professionals.”

The heart of the issue is simple: We must know our craft! And what we don’t know, we must be willing to say we don’t know and be open to learning. As Clarke points out:

“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.”

We also have each other. Between the blogs and various sites, lists, wikis, meetups, geek dinners, and conferences there simply is no excuse to not reach out and help each other understand the difficulties, nuances, and challenges of our craft.

In another recent article, AT&T: One Full Year with Web Standards, Joe D’Andrea discusses his experiences bringing that monolith into the standards age.

Joe writes:

“I’m incredibly pleased – and proud – to have helped and others at AT&T evolve from a hodgepodge of largely nutritionless mid ’90s-era markup to their current leaner, healthier state.”

Whatever we call it – Web 2.0, evangelism, religion, or simply the best way to do our jobs, I can’t agree more with the strong yet very clear message that real-world Web professionals are sharing. No doubt that getting to a highly skilled level isn’t that easy. Believe me, I understand. I’ve been at it for the majority of my career and as the old adage goes, the more I learn, the less I realize I know.

The essence of this new professionalism isn’t about being perfect at what we do. It’s being able to say: Hey, I don’t know that. Let me go find out! It isn’t about knowing it all, because we surely never will. And, there will be shifts and changes. D’Andrea, for example, expresses that he’s concerned how new senior management at AT&T will deal with the site from here forward.

We can save the discussion of consumer rights and our role in assisting consumers for another day. That, and the subtle fixes that Disney Store UK has made since the public outcry less than two weeks ago. Obviously, someone got the message, but it still isn’t good enough. Again, more for another day.

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.

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

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