It’s back on the cards again, or maybe it never really went away. The need for certification of professionals in the web industry as a measurement that they are in fact compliant with using web standards in all there various variations of implementations. Late 2006 it was on the table, remember Mark Boulton had a go, and Richard Rutter had to comment on that, as you do. Well now PPK has put it all back on to the table with his proposal for the Guild of Front-End Programmers. There are some good points raised, but in the most part people are getting stuck on the detail, the micro level of the scheme, when there seems to be little concern for the macro level.
Why Have Certification
I can understand the benefits of such a scheme as this, where it be for general web industry practice or something specific such as front end design or development. It will help in bringing a degree of professionalism and allow the people that are complying with web standards to at least benefit from their efforts in maintaining a degree of professionalism. For students it allows for a professional path after study and a clear source of mentoring. For clients/employers it allows for degree of satisfaction that these people have the required skills and knowledge base. But I’m sure we have all heard these motherhood statements before in one form or another from our local designer or computing professional organisations.
The one thing is will help with, I feel, is to remove the cowboys from the industry. For a while there they had all slinked back into their respective holes, but sadly with the current boom times they are back. Yes we are the glamour industry again, or maybe we never really stopped being the glamour industry. But the cowboys are back.
The Problems with Certification
The industry is young, we are all really just still finding our feet, yes it moves at lightning speed at times. But at the end of the day its is all about people, not technology. Any certification scheme needs to be produced by people and have people involved with the testing.
Unless your are doing the scheme with paid members or making people pay for certification you are going to need to have volunteers working on it. More often than not your are going to have to have people with an education background in the mix as well. Now these schemes usually start off with a blast of enthusiasm from the respective volunteers that will wain over time and the zest for the scheme will die as the champions loose interest or turn to politically squabbling.
If however people are paying for the scheme, then yes you can pay for resources. Yes people will put more value on it, time wise and funding wise. Hey if it’s costing me money I for one am going to ensure I complete it and at least try and use the skills learn. Now the problem is if it is going to cost it has to be good, and Industry/Business community support, with wide spread use. And if you want it to be good, you need the industry to embrace it and take it up. Yes, it’s a double edged sword.
But you also need to consider the practicing professional,who frankly could walk in and pass certification easily. They may begrudge the cost in time and money to become certified as they already have all the skills and are doing just fine. In reality it is these senior industry people you want to embrace your certification process.
Course there is another problem that has to be overcome, the current fracturing of the Web Industry into various regional camps. Effective certification schemes only usually work well with any type of professional standard if they have the backing of local tertiary education institutions. This mean usual face to face contact and examination. Mind you this I feel is about to change.
Industry Moves Too Fast
The industry moves too fast, get a scheme in place and within months we are working with a new technology that is not covered by the scheme at all. Educational institutions are just drowning in the paperwork in order to keep two years behind us.
The reality of any certification scheme is you have to meet a number of critical milestones as I see it:
- Ensure that the scheme adds value, but isn’t too easy or hard to obtain certification.
- Ensure that the scheme stays up to date with current trends and industry best practice.
- Get members or associates to take up the certification scheme.
- Ensure that clients and employees understand what the scheme means and support the scheme, even demand it. (This is the critical one, without this why bother at all)
Sure there are some vendor specific schemes around. We have Microsoft with the Microsoft Certified Professionals program, producing the MCPD: Web Developer and then there is Adobe with their Adobe Certified Expert to Associate schemes. But these are really, as you would expect, just product certification schemes. Then there is the World Organization of Webmasters (boy do I hate that term – webmaster), which many people have claimed is vendor neutral. I do have some misgivings personally about organisation such as WOW, especially in their terminology, I have been working the web since 1995 and I’m an apprentice, sorry that sucks.
Interestingly we have seen organisations try time and time again to get traction in the certification marketplace. As you would expect some have maintained a moderate level of success. White other have just fail; well not so much as fail, but some I would say have lost their way or seem to have not really looked at current industry best practice. This allegedly is mainly due to the lack of quality volunteers within these organisations or the attempts to full commercialise the process.
So should the certification process be attempted by educational institutions or Web Professional Organisations. Or as I see it with a partnership between the two, ad if you where to attempt this is it possible or are the problems outlined above just to large to overcome. Before we even look at this you have to know who the players are:
Certification / Training Organisations
- World Organization of Webmasters
- Certified Internet Web Professional Program (CIW)
- HTML Writers Guild / International Webmasters Association
- Web Standards Group
- Internet Professional Publishers Association
- WWW Chamber Of Commerce (Non operational)
- Web Producers Organization
- International Council of Online Professionals (iCop)
- Guild of Accessible Web Designers
- International Association of WebMasters and Designers
- Web Industry Professionals Association (Australia)
- Australian Web Industry Association (Australia)
- New Mexico Internet Professionals Association (USA)
- Colorado Springs Association of Internet Professionals (USA) – disbanding
- American Association of Webmasters (USA)
- Content Management Professionals (USA)
- UK Web Design Association (UK)
- Russian Webmasters Association (Russia)
As you can expect I will have missed some organisations, please feel free to add them below. I get the impression that in reality our Web Industry is really made up of hundreds of minor professional groups. Some of these organisations I can speak very highly of, other I know nothing about. Some judging by their web site and the standards employed, I wouldn’t recommend them to anyone. But to be fair to all I’m listing them here anyway. So this is where you can help me. Tell what you know or your option of the above associations.
So the question still remains do we need professional certification and if so who should step up and provide it, the Web Industry, Vendors or Educational Institutions. What do you think?