Behind the Times

the disco daysYesterday I started doing research into what has happened with HTML 4.01, XHTML, and CSS in the last 6 years.

It turns out that in terms of web page design, proper code writing, and use of style, I'm still listening to Disco and wearing wide collared shirts.

I used to fancy myself quite the web page architect, back in the mid and late 90s when the internet seemed younger and more fresh and exciting and not quite so full of morons as it is now. In addition, that handy internet had some wonderful built in idiocy filtering systems, two for web pages--called Tripod and Geocities--and one for e-mail and instant messaging, called AOL. They were very handy, because to avoid 90% of the stupidity on the internet, you just avoided following any links to Geocities or Tripod web pages, or speaking to anyone with an after their name. Later (but still long before blogging came along in force) Angelfire added a angsty highschooler filter that was equally helpful.

Of course, in the interim I realize that LiveJournal and Diaryland have sprung up to host all the angsty teenagers, and while there isn't an idiocy filter for users anymore per se, it is possible to direct your daily surfing in such a way that you can minimize the interactions.

That was in the glory days of the late 90s--but internet years are like dog years, they pass at a rate of at least 5 to 1. So in the 7 years since I have last played with this stuff, about three decades have passed. Whole generations of design rules have come and gone.

When I last built a web page, Framing was still a socially acceptable practice if you were professional about it. Now I personally still stand by frames as a useful navigational tool for content heavy web pages. They offer a flexibility other types of navigation systems just don't have. But they were abused by a great many stupid people (see Geocities, Tripod, and Angelfire, above) and so were cast out.

Thus I'm basically Disco Patrick in the swinging 70s of web page design, and everybody around me is listening to Hip Hop and booty dancing. And therefore it's back to school for Patrick. I found the tutorials, and I'm slowly feeding myself back through them, discovering the new meaning of style and design as I go and slowly moving my abilities as a designer into the modern era.

Right now I'm picking up information about Cascading Style Sheets, which were just becoming a reality when I got out of this business, and next I hope to learn about the <div> tag (wee!).

I don't mind all the new learning. It's kindof refreshing to realize that the internet has evolved as a design entity while I was gone, even if the new styles are a lot more laborious to code by hand than the old ones. It is nice because it has widened the gap even further between true web designers who create solid, easy to navigate, beautiful pages and those who either write horrible code or use a WYSIWYG web page creation tool.

I'll probably keep the shirt though. I think it's totally groovy. Don't you?

Wednesday, September 21, 2005


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