March has been a most interesting month in terms of new advancements in web design and development. Here are just a few articles we found interesting this month. Perhaps a bit of a directed stream of our thoughts supported by articles. Admittedly, some were published prior to March and we just encountered them. We encourage you to review these articles and follow along with the stream as we focus on:
- AI (and accessibility) – yes, they go together in many ways,
- Website sustainability.
AI (and accessibility)
First, let’s examine a recent post by Brad Frost concerning “design systems in the time of ai.” As mentioned at the end of the article “…AI makes it crystal-clear we need to be focusing on why we create things vs what/how we create.” In a nutshell, AI can be used to improve efficiency in what is created. We can be leveraging the power of AI to reduce the mundane tasks and focus on what is important.
So, what does AI have to do with accessibility? It can help tremendously. Last year, Accessibility.com published a great overview of “How Artificial Intelligence is Improving Accessibility.” This is a rapidly evolving landscape, and we can think in terms of AI-supported voice assistants helping those with visual impairments, AI driven transcribing can help with those experiencing hearing impairment. Likewise AI tools can help with speech impairments (think in terms of Parkinson’s or brain injuries)as well as mobility impairments. We encourage you to read the linked article to learn more.
Focusing solely on accessibility, we found the Guide to Accessible Form Validation by Sandrina Pereira to be most informative. She correctly asserts that when we build form validations from scratch we often overlook accessibility. Sandrina focuses on both usability and accessibility. We found this article to be a solid introduction and encourage aspiring web professionals to develop such an approach in all their work.
We also encountered this solid article dealing with color contrast. Yes, this is something everyone finds very annoying. We liked the subtitle – “Web Accessibility for Text & UI Design.” Good thesis – always make your UI components easy to identify.
Getting started with style queries by Una Kravets is a solid read also. The ability to query a parent object’s inline size along with container query unit values has achieved stable support in modern browser engines. Una covers the fundamentals of working with these and provides useful examples (including code snippets). Of course, this technology continues to expand and you should be come familiar with these approaches whether you are a practicing web professional or an aspiring one.
Alexander Dawson published an interesting article on the carbon impact of web standards in January, 2023 (yes, we just encountered this one and it is worth reading). Given that the Internet is a major source of carbon pollution, it is important to think in terms of sustainable web design. Yes, Greenpeace recently reported that if the Internet were a country, it would be in the top 10 carbon emitters. The BBC published an overview of the extent of the problem a few years ago. Yes, the WWW is highly dependent on electricity (and the source of much of that electricity is not carbon neutral). Alexander focused on HTML and CSS and how much energy was required to render a basic boilerplate. He relied on different browsers, different hosting providers, different equipment and different locations (among other variables).
His test suite consisted of nearly 300 HTML elements and attributes, over 500 CSS rule, selector, and property tests, and over 50 media and other specification tests. He noted that embedding interactive content caused the use of a significant amount of CPU, GPU, RAM, and data usage. Non-standard code triggered rendering issues as well. with respect to CSS, animation (specifically keyframe animation) and the use of custom fonts caused a dramatic impact. For media formats, SVG is the best. We thought his conclusion (below) summarized that major changes are needed.
Yes, that was a lot to examine this month. We are keen to learn what you liked and what areas you would like us to examine in greater detail. We look forward to your comments.
As we begin another month, here are my thoughts regarding what is happening in our industry.
This month, my thoughts center around longevity. Hope you find this information useful. In case you are curious, I built my first web page in 1992 (yes, 29 years ago). It no longer exists, nor does the company where I built it at.
I am already looking forward to your comments.
My colleague and friend, Tom Green, recently posted an article on LinkedIn.com about this last acceptable prejudice.After you review the article, let’s start a discussion in our Slack #general channel about this topic. What are your experiences? Does Tom’s article resonate with you? Why or why not?
Eric Meyer reflects on 25 years of CSS. Has it really been that long? If you have a moment, please post a comment reflecting on your first use of CSS. Consider a discussion in our Slack channel as well. What are your thoughts on the past 25 years of CSS.
Speaking of longevity, WordPress turned 18 in May. Isobel Weston has a great overview article at NameCheap. From a simple blogging platform to a technology which powers nearly 41% of the WWW these days. And it only took 18 years to get to this point. Makes me wonder what the next 18 years hold for this technology.
Annual Web Competition with SkillsUSA
Speaking of longevity, this year marks the 19th year for our national web competition held in conjunction with SkillsUSA. Our first year (2004) was a demonstration contest. This year will mark our first large scale virtual competition. We did a smaller competition in 2020 as the pandemic raged. This year, we have over 20 teams competing at secondary and post-secondary levels. Winners will be announced near the end of June at the above site.
I am curious – now that you have read this far, what information would you like to see next month? Please tell us via the comments.
Note from Mark. I plan to periodically provide article summaries and insights. I am hoping this will happen once each month. Hope is the operative word. Here are my thoughts as we begin May, 2021. I welcome your comments about additional topics you would find helpful as well as your thoughts about these articles. I found them most interesting/ thought provoking.
Using Modern CSS to Improve Accessibility. This article by Stephanie Eckles provides a quick overview of what it means to have an accessible website. Stephanie then covers using some of the newer CSS to enhance accessibility. This includes use of outline-offset to position the outline away from the element. The focus-visible pseudo-class will display an outline only when the user agent determines it needs to be visible. There is so much more in this article, I encourage you to set aside time to read it in its entirety and digest how these CSS features can be used to solve real world accessibility issues.
GPT-3 is a language supermodel which is quietly ushering in the A.I. revolution. This article by Luke Dormehl explains why this text generating algorithm makes a difference. The main difference with prior algorithms is that limited training is required. In the past, significant input was required for A.I. to “learn.” This no longer seems to be needed. Think. About. That. Here is a key quote from the article (it certainly resonated with me).
“Machine learning has been transformative in all sorts of ways over the past couple of decades. But machine learning requires a large number of training examples to be able to output correct answers. GPT-3, on the other hand, has a “few shot ability” that allows it to be taught to do something with only a small handful of examples.”
Federated Learning of Cohorts is Google’s replacement for tracking cookies. Our advisory board member, Deborah Edwards-Orono, has a great article about this effort and her concerns. Simply put, FLoc is included by default in the new version of the Chrome browser [see our recent post on the popularity of this browser] and collects your recent browser activity. It takes that activity and labels it then shares the “cohort” with other websites and advertisers. The main concern with this approach is privacy. She also discusses a new WordPress plugin Disable FLoC which is easy to install and has no configuration settings, it just does what it claims to do. If you would like to learn more about the implications of FLoC, the Electronic Frontier Foundation has a solid overview as well.
For those not using WordPress, Marko Saric has an overview article at Plausible which also includes the snippet of code you can add to your .htaccess file to disable FLoC as well.
Future of the WWW
Professor Sir Tim Berners’Lee (inventor ot the WWW) thinks his creation is out of control. In this interview, he explains his plans to save it.The big issue these days is privacy. He proposes Solid (a new system to decentralize the Web). His core idea is PODS (Personal Online Data Stores) which each person has control over. The fundamental change is that anyone wanting to use your information must ask for your permission. After you review the interview, I would be keen to learn your thoughts about this approach. Comments are open.
Gizmodo recently discussed the fact that Verizon is recalling 2.5 million of its hotspots because they are literally too hot. There have been 15 reports of the devices overheating (6 instances of fire damage). Review the article to see if you have one of these hotspots (various models sold between April, 2017 and March, 2021).
Easy WP Guide has been released for WordPress 5.7 (most current version). No discussion of PHP or the technical details, just a comprehensive guide to help you edit the content of your site. This is a free download. Web Professionals who build sites using this technology may wish to share this document with their clients (if you haven’t already). You can purchase the guide which allows you to brand it as you wish.
For those developers using Elementor as part of their WordPress installations, you may wish to review the recent Wordfence post discussing recent vulnerabilities with Elementor. For those who are not aware, Elementor is installed on over 3.5 million WordPress sites. The Wordfence team found over 100 vulnerable endpoints.
Hopefully, you found these articles and insights helpful. What else would you like to see in future articles? What did you think about these? I look forward to reading your comments.
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals (a.k.a. World Organization of Webmasters)
By Steve Waddell, Director of Education and Training
Traditional retail was already taking a big hit before the days of COVID-19. But the worldwide pandemic has accelerated the shifts we began to see in retail over the last 5 years and accelerated the closing of many retail operations, both big and small. Essentially, the hope for most businesses is to become COVID-proof, meaning serving customers as easily online as in the store. For retailers this means finding a way to take that great customer experience of the store and move it to a strong web presence.
This means an opportunity is opening up—a new and growing demand for web designers, developers, content writers, and retail experts to help small and large operations convert what they used to do on the sales floor to making the magic happen online. Hard-working and talented retail staff who once walked the sales floors are well suited to take their retail knowledge and sales skills into the cloud to help retailers build success on the web.
Before the COVID-19 crisis, web design and web development were already high-growth career paths. Now with companies scrambling to reach customers on the web, every business needs to have their web capacity to reach existing and new customers. To do this, retailers must have skilled web designers who can help bring the retail sales narrative to the business’s website. Selling on the web is a little different than selling in person, but retail skills still translate very well to web design and development.
Web design and development is a fast-growing STEM career path that offers flexible and fun careers to those who don’t want to report to an office every day. The median salary for the industry is $73K and ranges up to $150K. Let’s take a look at how the retail experience aligns with web design and development.
What Do Web Designers and Developers Do?
Broadly speaking, web designers and developers work with clients to market products and services online. Designers utilize text, images and video to create websites and reach intended audiences. Developers write the code that provides the technical foundation of these websites.
Most web designers and developers keep a foot in both the design and coding worlds. The beauty of this career is that you can weave elegant design with rock-solid code to create a compelling website for your client and site visitors. By merging visual and technical solutions, web designers and developers help their clients succeed and meet business goals.
How Does Retail Experience Relate to a Career in Web Design and Development?
Retail workers looking to reskill have excellent qualities including working under pressure, talking through problems, taking on new responsibilities, managing time, taking initiative, and serving each and every customer with empathy and respect. Retail helps you learn how to focus on what you can control and not worry so much about the “overly concerned customer in aisle 3.”
In retail, you help people figure out what service or product is right for them. Guess what? Much of that is at the core of what a web designer does—except instead of standing in a store, designers and developers figure out how to reach people through a web presence. Web designers and developers take client ideas, products and services, helping to sell them to targeted audiences.
Benefits of a Career in Web Design and Development
According to research, 30 percent of the U.S. working population currently freelances in some capacity, and that will grow to 51 percent by 2020. Many web designers and developers freelance and/or work remotely, and that has only increased in the age of COVID-19. Surveys of freelancers show that they are happier and earn more than in previous office jobs. This isn’t a surprise: when the most recent recession hit, companies began to seek ways to cut costs. They began to hire contractors who could work from home, saving on rent, insurance, and utility costs, and allowing freelancers more flexibility over when and where they could work. Web design and development is one of the growing STEM careers that offers unparalleled flexibility and opportunities to work on impactful projects.
How Can I Get Started?
As you learn, you will build a career-ready portfolio of your work including real-world projects, a digital resume and a portfolio website that will showcase your story to potential employers. This is important to demonstrate your technical aptitude and ability to successfully develop and guide a project from beginning to end. You can also achieve in-demand industry certifications to prove to companies you have a comprehensive skill set and are ready to produce for them on day one.
WebProfessionals.org offers an engaging web design and development online course featuring over 200 engaging videos that will tutor you step by step, perfect for visual learners. The course also prepares you to sit for an International Industry-Recognized Certification (IIRC). Try to avoid courses that only offer a course completion certificate. Anybody can issue you a piece of paper saying you completed their course, and the industry knows this. An IIRC will help open more doors for you faster and get you career going quicker. So, take the time as you look around for training to be sure you know what you are getting for your educational investment.
Reskilling in the Age of COVID-19
Although it can be a scary time, don’t panic. There are numerous opportunities out there for transitioning from retail to a new career. Why not web design and development? The federal Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) offers services for laid-off workers, dislocated workers and those transitioning to new jobs. This helps provide job training to people looking for a new challenge and growing career path.
The Web Professionals Organization has reskilling courses available for workforce programs, vocational schools, universities, job centers and community colleges. Not sure where to go? Contact the Web Professionals Organization for more information today.
Barriers to Entry
Content management systems
I have also seen the rise of content management systems (such as WordPress which now accounts for roughly 30% of new websites). I listen in various meetings where individuals speak of a language (such as React) when they mean framework. I also hear many conversations demonstrating a lack of knowledge of the fundamentals of CSS (and the proper separation of presentation from content). I also see many sites where there is no consideration for accessibility (or it seems an after thought). Certainly, Content Management Systems make it much easier to get your content online. However, I believe one should still have a solid foundational understanding of the technologies involved. There may well come a time when a minor change is needed to make a page display as one intends. Without an overall foundational knowledge, this may be nearly impossible to achieve.
Return to the basics
I am stepping off my soapbox now. I am curious as to your thoughts? Are we neglecting the fundamentals and not providing a solid foundation for students? I look forward to your comments.
Executive Director and Community Evangelist
Website Design Trends for 2019
For those who are already thinking about 2019 and what web design trends will be popular, we provide a starting analysis. Technological advancement has revolutionized the way we interact, socialize and do business and there will continue to be significant innovation and improvements in web design in 2019 and beyond. We all want our clients to get greatest and latest when it comes to their sites so it is not too soon to be thinking about 2019 trends in this area.
We found a lot more information about these new design trends in 2019 at Website Trends – 2019.