NY’s Web Standards Guru Gets Good Ink


BusinessWeek profiles Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of NY design shop Happy Cog Studios, publisher of popular Web design publication A List Apart, and leader of the Web standards movement. What the heck is that? Web standards are supposed to be the coding principles that designers adhere to. In theory. The idea is that if designers use the same rulebook, any Web site would work (and look) the same on every computer, browser, portable device, operating system, etc.

In practice, many designers don’t bother with Web standards, for three reasons: Many don’t know about them, most clients don’t care about them, and because some standards-compliant code didn’t work on market-dominating Microsoft Internet Explorer for years. And for the most part, it hasn’t mattered so far: Either people design sites to work on both IE and Firefox, or the site elements that don’t work on some browsers aren’t terribly important.

So why do we care now? While the “browser wars” of the last decade are long over, a new battle is starting: As more and more devices (BlackBerry, iPhone, Wii, cable box, maybe our next refrigerators) have Web browsers built-in, there’s a chance for new entrants to take on the Internet Explorer/Firefox duopoly. To prepare, designers — and browser-makers — need to start stressing Web standards immediately so sites work just as well in new formats, on new devices.