What are design students learning about web standards? Part II

This question was raised in a group discussion today by Judi Sohn of Mom at Home Design. She said, “I happened to visit my alma mater’s (a college of art and design) website this morning. They just redesigned the site. The site looks attractive but the code! Standards schmandards. It’s nested table on nested table. I counted 3 table tags before the first line of content.”

“I know there are a lot of good reasons to stick with a table-based layout,” Judi continued, “but if you’re selling a service shouldn’t you
advertise it? Art schools are marketing themselves as the future of professional design, shouldn’t they show that they can do what they should be teaching? Layout aside, the CSS was worse. I took a look and saw things like:
body { background-color: #D5CBC0}
body { }
body { }
body { }
I ran it through the validator and I could have sworn the thing laughed at me.”

Judi’s comments really struck a nerve with me, because I too have felt that we are not necessarily teaching the right things in our colleges.

I think part of the blame is that many of the available text books continue to offer up table-based layouts and font tags as if there were no alternatives. I think part of the blame is that instructors have not learned as much as they need to know about CSS. And, at the school where I teach, I know that standards get overlooked because instruction is concentrated on creating art works in PhotoShop or Fireworks and importing it into Dreamweaver without teaching students to care what the code looks like.

I think we can do both: create attractive site design and use standards. I’d like to hear from teachers who think they have found a way to do both in their curriculum.

Designing with Web Standards released

Zeldman: Designing With Web Standards Jeffrey Zeldman has a mini site in support of his new book, which is just released from New Riders. The mini site offers two free chapters for download.

Designing With Web StandardsI can’t wait to get my hands on this book, as the sample chapters are outstanding. Clicking the image at left will allow you to order it from Amazon.com. Even if Amazon thinks it is not available yet, it really is, and it should ship soon if you order it now.

SXSWi: How to Convince Your Company to Embrace Web Standards

This is a panel of folks from AOL and Time, Inc. (except Kimberly Blessing) This always surprises people because AOL has adopted standards. The panelist are Kimberly Blessing, are Kevin Lawver, Steve Chipman, Alla Gringaus, Arun Ranganathan.

Kevin said that often the people trying to bring change from a large organization feel like pirates who are operating in rebellion. He said that finding a manager to support your efforts and keeping things positive rather than negatively is important.

Arun explained how AOL worked with people like banks and Firefox and other outside groups to help spread the message about standards. He said that the job is not finished yet, and he continues to work on W3C initiatives and AOL’s operation on all browsers.

Kimberly worked previously with AOL on the ecommerce segment. She quickly realized that using standards to create templates for the site would help make the site useable to everyone. Changes were made in small increments. Later she began a training program because it was so hard to find people who were trained in using standards. She brought industry experts in to do training.

Alla advises finding out what matters to your target. Listen to people and only talk to them about the parts of the process that don’t pertain to their particular goals. She mentioned a site they just launched called Office Pirates.

Steve talked about helping introduce people to the standards community and connecting them with the blogs to read. It also helps to give people examples of how sites built with standards compare with sites that don’t in terms of bandwidth, accessibility and appearance.