Happy Blue Beanie Day!

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Today is the Fourth Annual International Blue Beanie Day, a time to show one’s support for Web Standards while paying tribute to one of its most vocal supporters, Jeffrey Zeldman (perhaps more specifically, to the cover of Designing with Web Standards).

While attending An Event Apart San Diego, I had the pleasure of sitting next to Jeremy Keith for a brief period of time, during which he expressed surprise (and maybe a hint of disbelief) that I had been writing HTML since I was ten years old. Despite my early exposure to the building blocks of the web, it took me quite a while to understand not simply how the web works, but how it should work.

As a freshman in high school I secured an internship at the nearest Intel campus, which quickly evolved into my first interaction design gig. My primary task was to design and develop CD-ROM interfaces using HTML, CSS and JavaScript. Having never been formally trained in these languages, my designs were a tangled mess of tables and inline styles, until another intern named Kevin joined the team and gave me my first lesson in the separation of form and content.

Like many web designers, I was initially apprehensive. Abandoning the warmth and familiarity of table-based grids seemed completely foolhardy at the time. But the more I forced myself to wrap my mind around this new way of thinking, the more it inspired and emboldened me to grow as a designer, a journey I’m still happily engrossed in today.

It’s liberating to recall how quickly these techniques proved themselves. While the majority of my college experience was great, I recall frequent arguments with professors over standards versus table-based layouts. Who knew within a few short years I’d be teaching a dedicated Web Standards course at the very same school?

If you’re an active web designer or developer, you have no excuse not to be passionate for this industry. With recent advances in semantics, web type and richer interactions, our creative arsenal has never been more abundant. I donned a blue beanie today not solely to raise awareness. This is personal. Web Standards helped me define my identity and passion as a designer, and in doing so, deserves my continued acknowledgment.

My Blue Beanie Day haiku:

Now my users smile
The experience is good
I'm validated