A List Apart: Findings From the Web Design Survey

Earlier this year, the nice folks at A List Apart undertook a survey of people who work on the web. The findings were released yesterday: Findings From the Web Design Survey including data tables if you want to do your own crosstabs.

An important issue has to do with the scope and definition of the survey itself. In one breath it’s called the “Web Design Survey” but elsewhere it was about “web professionals” and specifically asked about people who are not designers at all but writers, editors and others. As someone who is not a professional designer at all but has nevertheless worked on the web professionally since 1994, it was never clear if I was or was not within the scope of those to be surveyed. I hope they clarify that considerably in future surveys.

From A List Apart:

The Web Design Survey. “A few days back, we remarked on the strange absence of real data about web design and the designers, developers, IAs, writers, project managers, and other specialists and hybrids who do this work. In all the years people have been creating websites, nobody bothered to gather statistics about who does this work, using what skills, under what conditions, and for what kinds of compensation.”

This is what leadership looks like. Not empty punditry, rather going out to gather data that doesn’t yet – but should – exist. And all without fanfare or self-congratulation.

In my travels today

I came across an extended interview with Peter Merholz, published in the NextD Journal. It’s an exasperating interview to read, because although the interviewer, GK VanPatter is clearly a sensitive and intelligent person, he seems completely obsessed with design-as-boundaried-profession, which makes him unable to truly understand the first thing that Merholz says.

It’s a common reaction, the retrenchment of beleaguered fields into professional re-definition and defense. We have also seen it in terms of ‘journalism’ in the past decade as well as they have been faced with blogs and other new media. But it’s pointless. Professions aren’t successful because, as VanPatter’s ridiculous hypothetical about heart surgeons suggests, they define themselves as the ones who can do X task, they are successful because they CAN accomplish X task. A CEO of a hospital can’t redefine ‘heart surgery’ such that the janitor can do it, because to try to do so makes it no longer ‘heart surgery’ at all.

The relevance of this is not only important for design, but for all areas of expertise on the web. The ones who understand, deeply, business – users and customers, relevant financial models, business goals, marketing approaches, all of those – are the ones who will be in leadership of organizations, including leading design processes. Designers can complain about it or do something about it – but it must be understood that doing something about it means learning how business works, not laughing at business and demeaning business people and their aesthetics. As Merholz says, it’s up to designers to define their role.

The other day

Jeff Veen wrote about an interactive design contest he’s judging: State-of-the-art interactivity? More good reading from Veen.

Digital Web Magazine:

The End of Usability Culture and The End of Usability Culture, Redux. Don’t throw out usability, just quit making it the sole driver.

A new study has been released

demonstrating readers’ practices related to news websites. Produced by a group including the Poynter Institute, the Estlow Center for New Media, and Eyetools, Eyetrack III looks like essential reading for anyone managing the development of web projects.

A quick question:

Why do all ad/marketing/pr/web agency sites suck? For both personal and professional reasons I browse such sites on a regular basis, and the ONLY reaction they give me is to completely lose confidence that they have the slightest clue what they are doing.

There are exceptions, generally among very small shops like my friends at Plank, and even more so 37Signals, to single out two of the decent ones. But the big shops – they display nothing but complete ignorance of the web; which, in 2004, is equal to ignorance of the media and marketing world in general.

Patrick Griffiths of HTML Dog

is starting to look at HTML and CSS for Mobiles. If you’re been following the discourse over the use of CSS and standard, mostly-table-less XHTML for any amount of time, you’ve certainly bumped into the argument – one of the strongest, in theory – that future non-laptop/desktop computers accessing sites will benefit from such techniques. Griffiths is putting the proposition to the test.

Very cool:

Dynamic Text Replacement for the WWW. From A List Apart.

Fun design mini-site:

300 Images From 1800 Sites.