Join Jeffrey Zeldman for an in-depth discussion in this video The web standards movement, part of Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 years of Web Design and Community.
- This year the web turns 25. For 25 years it's been a mass medium, shaped by some of the greatest minds of a generation. Now, I've written two books about web design. And, in some senses, both books were at least partly about technology. And in many cases people focused almost entirely on the technology. The message of Designing With Web Standards was the message of any design book, which is what we do is for people, to make sure they have a good experience. Now in our business, we get very excited about technology, but it's important to always keep in mind, through every session that we attend, what this technology is really all about.
We don't make our page accessible for a gold star. We don't design for browsers. We don't design for mobile devices. We don't design for tablets, and fablets and touchscreens and everything else. We design for people. Our stuff has to work in those places, but we design experiences for people. The web is not technology, web design is about people. Web design is service design. Web design is for people. (soft music) - [Voiceover] The web design industry is a really young industry, only really 20 years old.
But already, it's had these several times where we realize we were doing it wrong. And these real, sort of moments of clarity where a really strong personality and voice came out and said, "We've got to start doing this a different way." The first time that that happened and demonstrated really that it could be done and changed was when Jeffrey Zeldman led the standards movement. - [Voiceover] We're all frustrated with the way that the two major browsers had these incompatible ways of working. It was dark times, I have to say, looking back, it was dark times because, trying to make any website work back then, you had to fork your code.
Essentially, it was two browsers, Netscape and Internet Explorer. And, you had to rewrite everything for the two different browsers. - All through the 90's, it was this arms race between browsers to try to get bigger market share. And the way they did that was by adding new and new features. And essentially, they were kind of writing and mangling HTML in order to do it. "Here's a new feature to HTML! "Here's another feature to HTML!" - So you went from a world where you couldn't do very much to you could actually do a lot, but doing it consistently and coherently became very hard.
Back then, you literally had things like... I remember using this thing called Dynamic Duo, which was like cross browser HTML. And you had layers in Netscape, and you had divs in IE, and you had to write duplicate code for everything. - Once upon a time, I would be so bogged down in browser hacks, and tricks to get 'round IE-6, and it would hamper my work. - [Voiceover] People said, "Enough is enough". And the Web Standards project started up. In a way, taking its language and its tone from that kind of tradition of workers movements, I guess like, "We're not gonna to take it anymore," protest, effectively.
- The web was supposed to be an open platform, for all human knowledge, and for all human sharing. It's huge. It's bigger than Gutenberg. It's bigger than the printing press. By 1998, the market was just about evenly divided between IE and Netscape. It makes sense, that if there's two illustration programs, they'll have different features, and compete that way. That's fine in that world. But the web is supposed to be an open platform for all. And here we were, making these sites that were incompatible, or where you had to now tell your users, you had to put up a door and lock out half your users.
"Sorry, this is for IE only!" It doesn't make any sense. And unfortunately, these two browser makers that were locked in this death struggle, were competing the way software manufacturers always compete, competing on features. And nobody was saying, "First, you have to support these specifications. "You have to support HTML. "You have to support CSS." So, we came along and did that. The W3C didn't have the power to enforce standards.
They didn't even call them standards. They called them specifications or recommendations. So we came along and said, "No, they're standards. "The web won't progress unless we all accept it. "These things are the best we have right now. "And if, Microsoft, if you want to come out "with colored scroll bars so that the browser "can support my company's website branding, "even on its scroll bars, that's great, that's awesome. "But first, support CSS correctly. "Support CSS 1.0 correctly and completely.
"Netscape, if you want to come out "with Netscape style sheets, "or some other proprietary innovation, that's fantastic! "But get CSS right. "Your CSS sucks." When we started, we didn't know that semantic markup would have benefits, in terms of making your content more accessible to people with disabilities. We didn't know that. Or, at least, I didn't know that. And we didn't know that it would be easier to find your stuff with a search engine, if we use semantic markup.
We didn't know that because Google didn't exist yet. We just knew that this markup was designed this way for a reason. It was supposed to be supported. And that CSS was supposed to be supported so we could do layouts, not with tables. And if we could get tables out of the content, and just have the content be the content, then it could also work in a phone. Or it could work in a tiny browser window. You know what I mean? We could start to get in to multiple layouts. The problem was, once you got the browser makers on board, and the browsers were supporting standards correctly, you still didn't have designers.
Designers were still going, "Yeah, well my client said just use IE, "so that's what we're designing for. "Or, FlashWorks, I don't have to worry about this." So there were lots of arguments. There was 10 years of struggle. It became, again, an education and outreach project.