My previous entry The New Amateurs has generated so many interesting comments that I decided to reply to them all in a new entry, which will continue the discussion.
To my astonishment it turns out that some New Amateurs read my site, and that some of them even agree with me. It seems they aren't even too much annoyed by the label "amateurs". Great!
Let's review a few of their arguments.
So, my first question to the professionals is: Is something better just because it is CSS? I don't subscribe to this idea but that seems to be the attitude of the web design elite. Here is your chance to convert one of the amateurs.
My answer is Yes. A website that uses CSS is better than a website that doesn't. Not because every CSS site is inherently superior to every table-based site, but because CSS is increasingly becoming a symbol for the new way of creating websites.
Since CSS offers the clearest break with the past, it is often a way of getting people to understand the new way of making websites. Apart from the well known advantages such as ease of maintenance, bandwidth savings, and increased search engine and assistive device friendliness, the use of CSS in a website shows that its creator is paying attention to what's going on in web development land.
And the quiet revolution is not just about CSS, it's also about accessibility, usability, or W3C DOM scripts that try to create interesting interfaces without repeating the DHTML nonsense of six years ago. It's about a new way of thinking about websites, about keeping it simple. CSS is just the most visible symbol for this way of thinking.
Excellent approach. CSS doesn't have to be "pure". The purity argument was one of the less desirable offshoots of the CSS revolution. As long as you're able to change font sizes and colours quickly (ease of maintenance!), you're leveraging the advantages of CSS. One single table doesn't invalidate that.
As long as you try to get rid of the remaining table every once in a while, you're doing a great job. Trying is the key, not succeeding. Besides, after having tried for a few times or a few dozen times, all of a sudden you'll find that you've succeeded.
I think the first step toward reaching people who need to be educated about standards compliant design is to drop the elitist atitude that is prevalant in the web development community.
Although I've often encountered it I never really understood the "elitism" argument. Elitism seems to be naughty and undesirable and everybody is supposed to hotly deny they ever meant to come across as "elitist". (My lack of understanding may be a cultural thing. Dutch just doesn't have a concept with exactly the same nuances and shades of meaning as "elitism".)
First of all, people who accuse others of "elitism" often seem to say "I don't want to learn something new". As long as you can denounce people as "elitists", you don't have to pay attention to their arguments or their new ways of working.
Besides, I feel a bit of elitism is a good thing. Any (r)evolutionary process needs an elite of early adopters to help speed up the process and to develop new techniques in a hurry. Most importantly, a moderate dose of elitism can be a powerful social trigger: people want to become a part of the elite, and are willing to work hard to achieve that.
The flip side of the coin is that this elite must take its responsibility by educating and helping everyone who is willing to learn. Fortunately, in the case of the New Professionalism that is very much the case.
All people (and I include myself) who are thought leaders, hence part of the elite, in web development land, have come to this exalted status by dint of early experiments, unflagging enthousiasm, and a penchant for clearly explaining complicated matters. They've earned their status by working hard (and unpaid) in order to spread the ideas they believe in. There's nothing wrong with that. They deserve to be part of the elite.
It's only when an elite becomes self-satisfied and starts to turn away new ideas and outsiders that it becomes an oppressive and unhealthy oligarchy of "in"-people.
We haven't yet reached that point, though. We aren't a closed group; not a month goes by without new people entering the elite by publishing new, exciting websites, arguments or experiments, or without elite members fading back into the shadows. That's how it should be.
Besides, even if the current elite should ever become a tired, closed and narrow-minded group, a new, vital one will take its place. The dynamics of the Web will take care of that, never fear.
Long live the elite!
Let's return to the original subject: how do we reach the new amateurs? Various suggestions were made, but as far as I'm concerned a winning argument has not yet surfaced.
a lot has to do with the self-teaching books that are available to buy.
True. 80% of the web development books out there are crap. This is not easily changed, unfortunately.
Clients, however, may respond to financial pressure and if they can be shown hard numbers that it is cheaper to code to Web standards, then they too may bow to pressure.
I don't disagree with the basic argument, but I think it's very hard for a bunch of designers and programmers (ie. non-business people) to convince hard-core financial officers of this fact.
I've found that "New Amateurs" don't need evangelizing. It's the Art Director not wanting to know anything about CSS; or, the Marketing Director not wanting the CMS broken or made complicated; or, the Editorial Department not wanting their templates touched.
This, too, has some truth in it. Again: how do we reach the art director, marketing director, or editorial department?
So even if we redefine the New Amateurs as the bosses and clients of table-loving web developers, we still don't know how to reach them.
Finally, a few thoughts on the difficulties web standards in general encounter.
"we know it is good, but it is not worth a price, client will not pay for this"... How to convince them?
Don't. Just start. There is no difference in price.
Anyone can publish a website due to the nature of the Internet.
True. When John Doe creates a site about his hobby, I don't care if it uses CSS or not. John Doe doesn't get money to build websites. As soon as you ask for money, though, you must be a professional.
For lots of people, that is the most important part. [A table-based site] just works.
On their computers, when used by a non-disabled person. I agree that, unfortunately, this argument still holds sway over a lot of people. On the other hand, if we never start countering it it won't disappear. But how?
Here, too, reaching the key people is the main problem.
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