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Digital Web Interview

January 22, 2004

A new Digital Web Interview with yours truly is now live, conducted by Craig Saila. Plenty of thoughts await on time management, design influences, WaSP efforts, and more on that Garden thing. And so as not to leave anyone hanging, I briefly tell the story I’ve always wanted to.

Comments open. Feel free to continue the interview here, if you’ve got any further questions.

Reader Comments

David says:
January 22, 01h

“I recently built a CSS-based, three-column layout, with footer, with full-height background colour, thatís not dependent on content length in any one of the three columns.”

May we see it please? :)

Dave S. says:
January 22, 01h

David: soon. Still in production at the moment.

Keith: Thanks, glad you enjoyed. To answer: if there’s anything the past 40 years have proved, it’s that even the best technology won’t be replacing humans for a long, long time. Spontaneity, creativity, and independent thought are anything but a commodity.

The software will continue to change, and in 10 years hand-coding might be a historical curiosity (though, if I had to predict, I’d say that’s not likely). Intricately wrapping my ability around a practice that may not last doesn’t seem prudent; so I retain the ability to adapt and stay flexible.

Technology will continue to improve. Will that make today’s skills obsolete? Some. Nobody programs in COBOL anymore, but there are plenty of people making a good living off programming in general. Nobody sets type in metal anymore, but designers are still making decent money. Maybe in 10 years we won’t need to hand-code, but all the other skills that go along with creating a web site will be more relevant than ever.

What’s most important then is keeping your skills fresh. But that’s just good sense in any profession.

Tim H says:
January 22, 06h

I found myself identifying with you and asking myself a lot of the same questions you did early on. Great Interview it’s kind of nice to know that people you look to for help and inspiration started in the same place you did at one time.

I actually moved from Vancouver to play baseball in the US and I’m not sure if you meant to say “batting a thousand” - batting a hundred means you are 1 for 10.


Tim H says:
January 22, 07h

I just read some of the comments… I didnt before, but…

I interned at Boeing for a few summers as a web developer and it was interesting to see what they were trying to do and that is convert their existing intranet infrastructure over to this new portal software Plumtree. Their vision would be that by using this system, it in essence would cost less and mean that Web Developers wouldn’t be necessary because it is basically this huge content managment system. Whether this is in fact feasible, is open to debate.

Managers would no longer need to keep a “web presence” on the corporate intranet because they would have a portal presence that they could easily configure and manage.

I’m not saying that this is going to happen towards the internet but it is one way that advances in technology are costing designers and developers jobs, other than offshoring.

January 22, 07h

Great interview. I can’t wait to see the new brightcreative site. Judging by your past work, it should be a stunner.

One nit to pick:

“So far though, Iím batting a hundred; I havenít been able to do it. Iím not convinced thatís a bad thing.”

Batting 100 is a 1 in 10 average. I think you were shooting for 1000. ;-)

And on the commoditization of web development, I have shared similar thoughts for quite some time. When I first started writing CGIs in 1995 in perl, I assumed at the time that ALL of this stuff would be automated within five years. There are several CMS products out there that come close to achieving this goal, but the best work is still done by hand. I think there will be a place for us in the future for quite some time to come. Dreamweaver might make things easier, but skilled experts will always be in demand.

Keith says:
January 22, 08h

Dave – thanks for the answers, just what I was looking for and I think I agree.

Scott – I’ll take responsibility for not catching that one! ;) Although I’d hate to put words in Dave’s mouth, so, I think we’ll leave it. ;)

Dave S. says:
January 22, 08h

re: batting a hundred. Whoops. I should just stick to the hockey analogies…

Tim: Thanks for sharing the experience. Content management systems generally aim to cut out the web developer from anything beyond initial site development. In a lot of cases, this is win-win because no one likes attending to the little maintenance jobs. I haven’t yet heard of a shop bringing in a CMS and letting a bunch of staff go, instead they re-focus on bringing in new development.

Scott: thanks!

Keith says:
January 22, 12h

Hey Dave, the inteview was great. I really had a pleasure editing it. When I was first reading it I had wondered a bit more about your views on the future of Web design and development.

You say, “The technology is going to continue to change, and to a certain degree itíll become commoditized. Once you have Dreamweaver spitting out valid XHTML that works with the major databases and CMSís out of the box, a lot of todayís Web development market will drop off.”

I was wondering if you could elaborate on that a bit. I’ve often thought about the same thing and what I’ll be doing in 10 years and as far as I can figure, while I think things will be drastically different, there will still be a place for Web design.

It might be something totally different, but I think it’ll still be here. I mean things are drastically different than they were 10 years ago, but at the same time, they’re the same.

Anyway, what do you think? Will technology eventually make our current jobs obsolete? Also, where do you think us Web designers will end up – where will our skills take us?

Thanks for the great interview, it was a pleasure to read.

Carp says:
January 23, 01h

“Spending an afternoon cursing out a browser that doesnít exactly support the specs properly (no names, rhymes with “Winternet Hexplorer”) can be a trying experience.”

Thank you for that, and best of luck on the new company.

January 23, 09h

Hi Dave,

When you release your 3 columns css driven feat - please let me know. I would say - you have probably achieve what we’re starving to see… the end of hacks to work around unequal content divs to have a well structure stable feel.

I want to let our audience know that it is possible.


Dave S. says:
January 23, 10h

Carole: for sure. I wouldn’t say mine is a magic bullet, because it is somewhat hackish – I used the faux column trick ( ) along with a liberal use of CSS hacks – but it definitely works. – Could very well be better than the one I ended up with, and it’s available now.

January 23, 10h

ROFL dahlin’ you are way-way-way too humble. So as ‘editor’ I really-really-really want to cover your example and this is my request.

Perhaps you are not aware but you are really good at integrating successfully disparate possibilities… plainly deserve the recognition.


January 23, 11h

The interview was very insightful. I found the story of discovering standards very interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing what kind of work your upcoming design firm gets.

Matt says:
January 24, 01h

Bit late with my questions here.

Dave you expressed a love for pure design, citing inspiration from places like K10K. But Craig didn’t touch on the issue of Macromedia Flash. What are your thoughts on this medium? Though it may throw standards and accessibility out the window, there’s no denying the richness of Flash and the amazing things you can do with it as a result.

Many purely creative types would say “Standards, pah. I don’t want my creativity to be limited.” And while your zen garden project obviously demonstrates just how much css can do, it is still all fairly limited compared to some of the Flash sites out there.

Is Flash evil? Will we end up with two internets, the accessible network and the Flash sites? Will future versions of CSS ever be able to come close to what Flash does today.

Matt says:
January 24, 08h

When I see sites like this I definitely wonder whether better mouseovers do in fact make it worth it.

Is it necessary? Maybe not. Do clients love it? Of course. Does it boost the user experience? I think so. It’s just all a little more alive and fun to navigate and explore. Don’t you think? Not looking at it from a standards-nazi, but as an everyday user who wants to be impressed.

Is it possible to pull something like this off with CSS today? I don’t think so. I’m curious as to whether you think it will be one day.

Dave S. says:
January 24, 12h

Matt – Flash used properly is great. For things like animated shorts and games, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better tool. Mini-animations embedded in an otherwise HTML-driven page are generally harmless, and sometimes quite interesting. I love what Todd Dominey did for the PGA Championship –

For entire web site interfaces? Well, to pull that off you have to be offering me something I can’t get from HTML/CSS. Better mouseovers don’t justify the accessibility hit in my mind. An immersive, experiential environment might count, but I’d have to want it to put up with it. There are too many other sources I can turn to if you’ve done a bad job, and I generally will. I’d give users enough credit to realize I’m not alone in thinking this way.

Incidentally, I don’t have Flash plugged into Firebird on my PC. If I hit a site that needs it, I have to consciously load a new browser. I’ll do this maybe two or three times out of ten. I quite like browsing this way.

Matt says:
January 28, 05h

Before this thread dies, I just saw the following at Asterix* which covers the Flash topic well and has spawned a thread that has given me some food for thought on this.