Thursday, February 15, 2007

You better start to learn microformats!

.. or stay behind

Over on the great Digital Web Magazine there is an article about Learning Microformats. Although the url is a bit funny and shows they are human after all, the article is a great primer on microformats. The article include to links to PDFs of presentations that were given at Web Directions North by John Allsop and Dan Cederholm on the subject:

Podcasts of presentations will be available. Check out the Web Directions North site. Leaving through the slides it makes me wish I was there.

Again this is seems so natural

A few years ago I started out (again) on a journey to do something on the web. I wanted to build websites and do it the right way. I think I first was on the Internet in 1994. In those days things still ran on coal. I even put up a few web pages and showed it to a colleague. He replied that there were no images. There were links to my local C:-drive :-( I corrected that and filled up some pages and then really never bothered about them. Back in those days statistics didn't really exist. But I guess I must have had an audience of two.

The a couple of years passed and I wasn't really active in the web area. I build a couple of small applications that produced some reports in html format. I had even created a very simple templating system in Access for that. But nothing really on the wild then budding Internet Freeway. The Boom came and the Burst came and I just looked at it. One moment sad because I wasn't in it and then happy because I wasn't in it.

Then, gradually, I rolled a bit more into websites. I started making my own and I immediately had the urge to do things proper. I skipped table-based design completely. Main reason being that I didn't have the tools that produced such a design. I was (and still am) a hand coder pur sang. And how one can create a beautiful design with all these stupid nested tables I could honestly not understand. I was forced to use something else.

And then ...

  • CSS
  • I discovered A List Apart
  • I discovered CSS Zen Garden
  • I discovered all these nasty bugs
  • I discovered that there were more than one browser
  • I discovered bugs, quirks and hacks
  • and slowly and surely, I understood
  • and I started love CSS and web standards and semantics
  • and I understood that SEO and usability were also somehow benefited from developing this way.

I became a standardista!

Then the real world application came

I made some websites for some small companies and then I got hired by a reasonable well known Dutch insurance company. I got to work on their "new" website. And I had the opportunity to put my knowledge into practice. And shaved loads of excess weight form the pages and tried to be as semantically correct as possible.

I stayed on top of things emerging on the web and implemented Google Sitemaps as soon as the website was live. And watched it succeed. I was amazed that it worked so well.

And then we had a Google Mini appliance (now we have two) and that needed implementation. I was the lucky one who got that task. Using the API and a simple web service the site was hooked up and Bang we had search implemented. And I used the <dl> tag for the first time in real life. And then later I used it again!

Hold on, Roho, don't get too excited now.

Back on earth

Having taking a deep breath and a glass of water, let's continue.

To me all these things showed me that these are great times to be involved in web development. Coding away in C#, CSS, XML and XHTML is just absolutely great.

It also showed me that doing this the right way has many benefits: leaner pages, better search results, easier to adapt layout, better usability and many more.

By doing the right thing, you fear no one

Inspired by the motto of my regiment: "By doing the right thing, you fear no one" I say "By doing the right thing, you do the right thing". Hmm, maybe not as powerful, but still right.

Regiment Huzaren van Sytzama
By doing the right thing, you fear no one

I had discovered for myself and proven to myself that these standard based xhtml and css and stuff just simply work.

And I stayed on top of the (r)evolution.

And here comes the next wave!

Now, in the last few months I found some posts about microformats. And it got my attention and I studied it. And now I am beginning to implement it on our company website. First the hCard and later more will follow.

By doing the right thing, you do the right thing
And more will come

Looking at the wonderful stuff that was presented at Web Directions North I realize that many more things are just only slowly coming our way. We have our first implementation of AJAX as well and we will put sIFR to use in the coming months, maybe weeks.

I start to see that in this business sticking with knowledge is falling behind. If you have yet to learn CSS and still stick to tables than you are already becoming more and more of a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to them!

With upcoming things like all these social networks, mashups, microformats, AJAX and many more exciting things being invented almost every day it seems, it becomes harder and harder to stay close to the leading edge. It is starting to become close to impossible once you have fallen just a tiny bit behind.

Better start studying, girls and boys

If you want to be and stay in this business you gotta learn and work and try and fiddle about.

Catch up on XHTML and CSS and then jump on the microformat bandwagon and keep your eyes open for any new developments. Learn, learn, learn!