Comic Update: Max Weir and the Beanicornupus (Web Standards and Foolish Assumptions)December 03, 2009
This Monday was the third annual Blue Beanie Day, which promotes and celebrates the use of web standards to create accessible, semantic web content. Therefore, it provides a fitting backdrop to the Curious Tale of Max Weir. I’m not here to bash Max, as he’s received enough of that already. Rather, I’m spinning out a sort of parallel narrative that will cast a poorly timed comment into the light of folk lore for future web designers to consider.
On Monday one Andy Clarke, British rock star of the web design world, posted an open letter to Taylor Swift on his blog. This letter expressed his admiration for her as a musician and a gentle critique of a serious problem with her website: it is almost completely inaccessible to those with visual impairment or the inability to use a mouse. He details it quite thoroughly and politely, aware that as a musician (and not a web designer) she likely had no awareness of the issue or even touched the code of the site. This post provided a great example of the purpose of Blue Beanie Day, pushing web standards awareness to those who need it.
All was well until around comment #9 on Mr. Clarke’s post, by one Max Weir. You should read the linked comment for the full text, but the gist of his missive is summed up by the following line:
This site is an interactive flash experience and thats all there is to it, there are designers who think accessibility, web standards etc and those who focus on creating a immersive experiences only.
This comment by a man who’s Twitter bio is “Design is form and function on equal level”, posted on an accessibility blog post on Blue Beanie Day, formed a nexus of baleful energy that summoned from the deep places one of the dreaded behemoths of nautical lore, the Beanicornupus. Identifiable by its massive blue beanie and gossamer spiral horn, this ravenous monster consumes the flesh of designers who think that “cool media experiences” are more important than ensuring a site can be used by impaired visitors and would consider that making a site this way is a valid business choice.
Poor Max didn’t stand a chance, suffering many grievous wounds at the hands of the commentators even after Andy tried to call them off. Like Captain Ahab, Max underestimated the beast. Today’s comic portrays his final moments, swallowed up by the Beanicornupus, calling out his defiance at the very end.
Max’s gruesome fate can provide a cautionary tale for us all. Web standards aren’t some sort of optional flavoring for some websites. They’re needed by every one of them. Those who choose to ignore that will face mockery from their website creator peers, and their clients will lose customers who aren’t able to access their sites. Although we’d like to think that only musicians, big uncaring media conglomerates, and our grandmothers don’t know the gospel truth of web standards, the fact is, as Andy said (when asking his commentators to stand down):
It’s sobering that on Blue Beanie Day where we, who pride ourselves on our support for standards and accessibility, pat ourselves on the back for a job well done, must not forget that the job that Jeffrey started with Designing With Web Standards is far from done.
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