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Take a moment and realize how far our industry has come from where it originated. It seems like centuries ago since IE6 was considered the top browser and when being able to use CSS in conjunction with HTML was groundbreaking. Remember when the use of tables was a best practice? It is easy to see that there is an amazing amount of progress that has been made and even more amazing is the rate at which it is all constantly happening. Many of the problems those early pioneers had to deal with seem to be far removed for anyone who wasn’t around at the beginning. Or have they just changed form?
Ask yourself, what are the main grievances a web professional has today? Of course great advances like HTML5 and CSS3 show our immense progress, but can these technologies be used without having to worry about cross-browser compatibility? Are we still having to question ourselves over what qualifies as good semantic code for HTML? Is there still a debate about whether you should design and develop different tailored experiences or one responsive universal one?
These same questions have always been brought up, just the scenarios they are used in has changed as we have advanced. Maybe the web community really is just standing still, watching as the environment around it moves. Let’s do a more in-depth analysis to better understand this perspective.
When it first became apparent that different browsers displayed websites somewhat differently from one another. Of course the question that arose from this would be one of practicality: would it make better sense to create a uniform website that worked the same on every browser, if possible, or create tailored experiences for each browser so they will display as close to a uniform user experience as possible? Of course the answer ended up being tailored experiences having a clear edge here, credit for this goes to IE.
Today however, IE is not much of a thorn in our sides. Microsoft has begun a campaign to push users still using older browser to upgrade and more modern browsers support the latest development techniques. Without IE would there even be a discussion? Well IE may be for the most part a non issue going forward, but mobile platforms are becoming the main way web users are browsing today. This really is looking at both sides of a coin, so to speak. This analogy is perfect when you consider most people browse the web one of two ways on mobile devices, either using a browser or an app. Now an app isn’t technically browsing the web, more of a dedicated, tailored experience for mobile devices to make browsing said provider’s website easier on them, this is what puts it in the browser category here.
Responsive design has never been more popular, and there have never been so many cool frameworks and tutorials available to ease web professionals in its use as well. Sadly though, everything has a limit. Responsive design works great for simple, more minimalist websites, but what about the more robust ones? Will that give mobile visitors the best experience?
Not too long ago Smashing Magazine published a good read questioning the point of pursing semantic value, which lead to a response post, and not too long after that another post on the subject. If you have no clue about semantic coding and what it is, then take a look at this article we published a while back. Remember to take your time, there is no rush here :n)!
Now talk about semantic coding has always been a part of developing for any programming language, and it is never going away. Remember when div tags first rolled out, and all the great coding that could be done with CSS? Well I don’t because I’ve actually only used tables once, but you should. There was this huge transition, suddenly people had tableless design or tableless coding in their resume. This was of course done to show that they were current with the latest trends and professionals who were eager to keep up with the pace of our industry, sounds a lot like putting HTML5 in your resume now. Just like now, there were good and articulate debates arguing for good and bad times to use both.
People were getting so caught up with being tableless that they forgot that a div tag will not always be as effective as using a table. Reminds me a lot of how some developers get so caught up in HTML5, they forget that in semantic coding a div tag is actually your go to tag when you don’t know which one to use.
Isn’t it horrible when you’re the kid with that brand new toy right in front of your face, but your parents refuse to let you play with it? Their reason being something silly like waiting will make you appreciate it more, and you will have more fun with it. CSS3 is kind of like that toy, and your parents are those people who refuse to upgrade their browser to one that supports the latest developments. You want to just go into your stylesheet put some cool code in it to give you some rounded corners, drop shadows, gradients, etc., but you then realize the limited amount of browsers that actually support it. You then rethink your stylesheet strategy.
The best example of this way back when that comes to mind is transparent PNGs, also how IE isn’t necessarily the best in image resizing but that will turn my post into one bashing IE users for the years of headaches they caused. Moving on, back when transparency became available for use it was like a bright new day in the way images were used on the web. Only one problem, some browsers didn’t support them at the time. So a hack had to be made through a very well-known filter to get them to work and appear as close as possible to how the up to date browsers display them.
After reading this, you are probably wondering how any of this is actually a positive aspect of our industry. Well earlier I mentioned that the web industry might be one that just stays in place and watches as everything around it goes through crazy changes. Isn’t that a good thing? Our industry may recreate all the same issues and headaches, to a much lesser degree, but unlike other professionals we are not afraid to take on new ways of handling things and addressing problems. If you look at many of other industries today, you’ll find professionals clinging onto old outdated practices that they learned half a century ago. Now compare the current success found in ours to any industry like the aforementioned, we are looking pretty good huh?
Our rapid progress may still find us in somewhat of a standstill, dealing with new variations of old problems, but it’s perfectly acceptable considering being in a standstill gives us a permanent stronghold.
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Jamal is a young freelance web designer, web developer, writer, and blogger based in Atlanta, Ga. His work can be found at his online identity Five Alarm Interactive(FAI). He is a college student and philosophical poet by day, and passionate professional by night. You can keep up with him on Twitter @5alarmint.
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