Zeldman leads Blue Beanie Day 2012

Today is Blue Beanie Day 2012, enabling web designers and developers the world over to look nattier in knitted blue hats (or digital equivalents). Standards advocate and the industry's original blue-hatted one, Jeffrey Zeldman, told .net although many designers now assume the standards battle has been won, support is now even more critical: "This is the year multi-device design broke big, and in that world, web standards matter more than ever. Call it mobile, responsive, or multi-device: however you frame it, it wouldn't be possible without HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and the thinking of the web standards movement."

He noted core ideas of the web standards movement emphasised accessibility and SEO, which got corporate folk on board. HTML5 and CSS3 then sprang from new work being done by designers: "This made the iPhone and Android possible. Without web standards, you've got no smartphones, no in-between devices, no always-on devices or always-connected users—and none of the new forms of content, shopping, and interaction that an always-connected network of devices makes possible."

We asked Zeldman, though, if Blue Beanie Day is now largely preaching to the converted, through standards use being so well ingrained in the industry. "It's very much ingrained. There are tens of thousands of designers and front-end developers out there today who have never created a table layout, never struggled to figure out how to create a multi-column layout in CSS, and who take CSS3, HTML5, and frameworks like LESS and SASS for granted. That's great!" However, he added that not everyone's in that position: "There are also tens of thousands of others whose knowledge of HTML is shaky…"

Core knowledge in the bedrock

Zeldman pointed out Google makes it easy to find "outdated instructional web pages riddled with misinformation" and frameworks make it possible to "achieve initially impressive interactive functionality that won't last and isn't maintainable because the core knowledge of standards isn't there in the bedrock". He warned that without sufficient respect for standards, sites will still be created that only work in certain browsers, or that have poor design and usability. "The medium has matured, and web standards have played a part in that. But the rate of technological change is now so dizzying that it can be tempting to take shortcuts, bet on a single platform instead of the open web, and so on," he said. "So there's a lot of educational work to do—and of course there's a lot still to be done with HTML5 and CSS3."

Fortunately, plenty of people are on board, and more arrive all the time. Web designer Zack Jewell told .net that he first learned about Blue Beanie Day a few years ago when reading Zeldman's Designing with Web Standards: "I thought it was a great way to celebrate not only the idea of standards but also to show how large the web community is." Doing his bit, Jewell today presents a thesis on the future of the web, examining why standards matter and how they will change as the web grows: "I argue universal web standards will create a more accessible web across all devices."

Opera's Charlie Schloss, also a fan of Blue Beanie Day, told us he had a similar viewpoint, and enthused about the ongoing importance of standards: "Paraphrasing Opera's Why Open the Web?, the web is open and yet not entirely open to all users. When used correctly, web documents can be displayed across platforms and devices, but many devices are excluded access. No-one likes being told you can only use IE5 to visit a site—and that still happens, even in 2012." The inference, clearly, is the correct use of standards can eradicate such issues and more 'modern' equivalents. Zeldman added, though, that despite rapid technical evolution within the industry and even standards themselves, the basics for success haven't really changed: "Begin with good content, structure it in HTML so any person or device can access it, use basic CSS to style it for any device, and layer in such additional features as your skill, knowledge and various devices' capabilities make possible."

Upload your Blue Beanie Day photos to the Flickr group and follow along on Twitter at #bbd12.

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