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Quitting web design

May 22, 2011 @ 6:11pm

Jeffrey Zeldman posted an interesting reader letter, called Letter of the Month.

The author wrote Jeffrey to explain that his Designing With Web Standards book had changed his entire career.

I remember what I now refer to as a pivotal moment in my web career. I was sitting in bed reading your book. I knew nothing really about CSS (other than for setting fonts/colours and I couldn’t see what was wrong with the old way of doing things). However as I read, it was like a slow realisation. I remember vividly turning to my wife and saying “This book is amazing. I am going to have to relearn everything I know about building websites”. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. On one hand the enormity of what you were suggesting was overwhelming but on the other hand it was just the injection I needed in my own career.

I reached the end of the book and made a decision. I was going to move the whole of Headscape across to standards based design. Not only that was I was going to do it as soon as possible. By 2005 we had made the transition and have never looked back.

The author was Paul Boag, whose Boagworld podcasts I've enjoyed. As the author was revealed it felt like reading some of Brando's fan mail — signed by a young Al Pacino.

It reminded me that I had the opposite reaction with Jeffrey.

When I've talked to people recently about working on several projects with Jeffrey when Happy Cog was a one-man shop, I've said something like "I was a designer and Zeldman was a designer. But he had a book, so I did the server-side work." That's an oversimplification of course. Front-end web design work in the days of Netscape 4 and the Great Browser Wars was a nightmare. Working in SQL stored procedures and ASP and VB Script was harder than HTML in many ways, but 100 times easier than dealing with browser compatibility. All the code I wrote was guaranteed to run the same way over and over, regardless of the visiting browser.

So thanks in part to working with Jeffrey, I quit doing web design and never looked back.

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