All in the <head> – Ponderings and code by Drew McLellan –

The people's web

I’m involved in a whole load of different online groups and lists where people (often newbies) ask questions about web design and development. The usual occurrence is that someone will ask a question and they will get an answer to their question and a description of what is wrong with what they’re doing. I have to admit I do this too.

What’s up with us? This has to be wrong.

I’m very passionate about building a better web. I strongly advocate the use of web standards and general good practices. I can get anal about it at times. The worst thing of all is that I do it in the face of those who are simply trying to get their content online. I’m risking coming down so heavy with what their doing wrong that it obliterates what they’re doing right – namely publishing their content on the web for others to share.

Taking a purest line, no one should publish anything on the web unless it is ‘clean’ and ‘valid’. However, ‘clean’ and ‘valid’ takes knowledge and skill, or tools that can do that for them. Generally speaking, your average person who is wanting to publish their stuff online has none of these things. If they were excluded, the web would be full of geek and business information only.

What makes the web so useful is the diversity of the information. It’s not all geek and corporate. Much of it is ‘nice places to visit’, ‘somewhere to stay’, ‘my family tree’, ‘my research on …’. It’s all this data that makes the web a daily resource. If people can’t publish this stuff because they need four years of training and knowledge imparted into them first, then we all lose out.

Bottom line … the world needs badly made websites and the people who make them. Anyone who wants to publish their stuff on the web should be wholeheartedly encouraged. Sure, gently guide them to good practice if that’s possible but don’t let it get in the way. We’ll cope. We have technology. Let them get their stuff online and sod the rest.

Ultimately it’d be great if there was a low-cost general page building tool that got things right. Dreamweaver is close to getting this right (there’s still a way to go), but it’s reet expensive. FrontPage will never get there because it’s always meeting Microsoft’s agenda. I guess we need an easy-to-use open source visual web editor that understands the importance of web standards – but hey, we don’t need it that much.