5 Years is All We’ve Got


Australian / Allied War Memorial  Singapore

Have to go off and compulsory vote today in our federal election. Not that our vote (in Western Australia) counts for much (that’s another issue). Anyway this entire cycle of voting every four and bit years for the federal government has got me thinking of the various cycles that life presents us with.

Browser Cycle 2-5 years

In the web industry it’s no different. We have the desktop web browser production cycle. About 2 years between various vendors (excluding Microsoft) bringing out the different version of there products. However we all know that realistically Safari, Opera and FireFox are all small players in the real day to day market place. Now it is Microsoft that is the big player. It is the browser that we have to design site for. It is the one that is the sticking point for every web designer with CSS implementation; mainly with version 6. Now it was a long long time between releases for the Microsoft from version 6 to version 7 of Internet Explorer. Five plus years is a long time. I know Microsoft have promised to do better at that rate does that mean IE 8 will be with us in Beta next year. Can any of you really see that happening, personally I can’t. Well I just have to hope it’s not going to be five years, eh.

Now Andrew Tetlaw discusses the issues of the complacency with the CSS design community and the abundance of misinformation on the web via The Great Specificity Swindle!. So we all produced a lot of information on how to fix IE5 and IE6 CSS layout bugs, and a lot of this information is no longer relevant. Fine. This is more an information cycle that responds to the community needs. More problems, more solutions. It’s linked to the development platforms, the browsers.

Career Cycle 5 years

Lets for a moment consider the life span of a newly employed graduate CSS designer. I’m not talking about the top 10% of our field, I’m talking the 90%,the great unwashed. These people tend to be employed, they aren’t running their own business, aren’t freelancing. Often aren’t reading this blog.

After a few years you would expect that they would be working at full capacity with a slant towards a senior role. In this time they would have seen one minor browser version change for a few products.

Fast forward a three years, they are now a project leader, or at least senior designer, they are still a little hands on with the CSS, but over time period it has been getting less and less. Their skill set has in fact peeked, and they are now on the way down or at least cruising at a status quo. They may even be migrating their skill set to different aspect of the web design process. So in this time they have seen 2 minor browser upgrades and 1 major browser. They have seen the standards they are working with at the W3C change how many times. Zero. Huh? how many – Zero. So the standards are a constant, the major browser, if you come in on the end of an upgrade cycle a constant to. See the problem.

W3C Cycle 7+ years

I put this to you does a CSS web designer really need to learn or care about anything but the standards compliance for current major browser version and a few minors at the time of their career. Considering that they have about 5 year hands on, and that it can take up to 3 to 5 years to get anything through the W3C as Kevin Lawver discusses, and then you have browser vendor implementation time.

So is there really any motivation to assist the W3C, as Kevin states, you are not likely to see the outcome with in short time frame and that we need to “reboot our perceptions of web development”.

So why aren’t the usual 5 percent of people, who are proactive, stepping up to help the W3C (the HTML Working group is a good example).

The Fast Cycle

Why do we have this problem at all. Well I believe it’s one of life style and expectations with the industry.

  • We are used to short software product cycle (besides Internet Explorer).
  • We develop with programming languages that have short life cycles.
  • We use and play with gadgets that have short life cycles.
  • Our mobile phones are the latest, hands up those with a five year old mobile, not many I bet.
  • Our computer equipment isn’t old, 3 years on average or less.
  • Our entertainment is running on a short life cycle.
  • We are constantly told develop design faster and with frameworks and libraries it is all possible.

What do you think. Do we have short attention span. Do we embrace speed and rapid development cycle. Can we no longer see long term goals. Do we just learn, retain get the job done, move on. Is the web industry’s short life cycle stalling it’s further development?

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