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12 Lessons for Those Afraid of CSS and Standards

“It took me two years to break out of the comfortable prison of layout tables, and another two years before I could use CSS to produce layouts that were originally intended for tables.”

“The buzz about Web 2.0, CSS, and myriad other subjects of the bleeding edge can become a dull roar to those left ill-equipped for industry changes because of work habits adopted in good faith years before. It is my hope that the experience I’ve shared will help some folks to find a way back to the top of the heap—which is where the web needs you.”

But don’t be afraid, Ben Henick offers some lessons that will help get you through. It’s based on real-life experience and mirrors my position. CSS and standards are good, yes they can be strict taskmasters but remember that 100% compliance isn’t always required, sometimes 98% is enough. As Ben points out in Lesson No. 9: “In the real world, stylesheet hacks will get your project across the finish line”

Design Engineering

“The common expression “Engineers build bridges” is actually a misnomer. Engineers build mathematical models of bridges and draw little pictures of bridges on paper or inside computers. Ironworkers are the people who really build bridges. This inexact, industrial age metonym has led to much confusion in the post-industrial age, where it’s all too easy to confuse software designers with software welders because they both use the same tools and raw materials for their very different work.”

Not sure I agree with all of this but I always tend to learn more from a differing opinion.

What do you seek — Documents or Knowledge?

“Document management can only point you towards documents, like a traditional search engine. In contrast, when you’ve got information on a wiki you can search for information, link to it, reference it, update it, secure it, blog about it and share it.”

I’ve been pondering the possible questions that might crop up when I give my presentation on using Wikis in the workplace, and this is a great answer. So much of using a Wiki is about breaking the document-centric working practises that slow us all down. Don’t they?

The Spiral of Wiki Adoption

“Although reliance on email and familiarity of other tools may illustrate a reluctance to ‘unlearn’ habitual less effective work practices, there needs to be a balance between directive wiki usage and support for different communication styles as people become accustomed to using wikis and the different capabilities they can provide.”

During other research I found that just getting people to start using a Wiki was the hardest part. Once they started, they soon started using it in ways not previously considered. In other words, Just Do It.

And finally, two quick links. One I’ve known about for a while but recently cropped again on TechWR, and the other is just for kicks. Although I do often wonder if people do Laugh Out Loud as often as all that.

A List Apart: Style Guide


As ever, I’d love to hear your thoughts on any of these. Particularly the Design Engineering article which I must admit I partly agree with but I do dislike the “them and us” tone.