Web Design Companies | July 8, 2004

Accessibility, usability and web standards are starting to become more commonplace these days. I see quite a few individuals and micro businesses practising these techniques, yet the big web design companies seem slow to catch on. Which companies do you see leading the field in these disciplines and more importantly, which companies should but aren't?

Posted at July 8, 2004 8:13 AM

Comments

Nathan Pitman said on July 8, 2004 9:29 AM

Are there any ‘big web design companies’ left in the UK? I guess there’s people like AKQA, Arawak, Bluewave… :?

pod0 said on July 8, 2004 10:06 AM

I can’t see any of the ‘big boys’ advocating standards until they can get the same ‘wow’ factor from a standards-based site as they can from a Flash site. If Vodafone came a-knocking, would you really be able to deliver a solution as slick as Vodafone Futures by sticking to standards? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a passionate standards & accessibility advocate, but I really can’t see sites that use this sort of proprietary technology being superceded any time soon, and so it will be important for the big web/communication agencies to have this sort of offering for their clients.

Louise Dade said on July 8, 2004 10:55 AM

What you might see in the future is a move away from the big companies having in-house staff take care of everything, with their own “groupthink” resulting in lack of standards, accessibility etc.

Instead, those companies may act as managers who then go an hire a web architect and designer who will lay out the plans for the site, and then coders, artistic designers, programmers, testers can be hired to build the site to the specifications.

Similar to the way construction work gets carried out now - lots of different companies are hired with different skills to work on a single project with a single aim in mind, all hired by the managing company.

Under that circumstance, standards may flourish, because as you pointed out, many smaller companies are already embracing standards and accessibility, and these are the people who would be hired by the larger companies.

Incidentally, as much as we can criticise it for segregating users, the Manchester United site is a good advert, because other high profile websites are going to see the praise they are receiving and say “we want some of that.” At which point the standards compliant design company can say “sure, but we are going to do it this way instead…” (and develop an inclusive design).

Robert Lofthouse said on July 8, 2004 2:05 PM

The majority of web design companies seem to have no interest in standards based design - hence why i’m a freelance web site designer/developer who has no interest in using ASP, tables for everything, microsoft everything and being ignorant when it comes to accessibility.

I prefer to work on a contract basis for companies that are into standards based design -Why? mainly because I know they care about their audience. Also, “too many cooks spoil the broth” and in my opinion when it comes to large web design companies, there’s “too many cooks”.

I will eventually set up my own company that will revolve around standards based design - most likely when there’s a baby on the way and I need to be bringing in a lot of cash.

Mark Thomas said on July 8, 2004 2:14 PM

We have been building almost exclusively standards compliant sites now for the last 2 years. This is all fine when we have complete control over the sites, but often we have to work with other agencies, supplying templates. Of course these are valid when they leave here but they don’t stay that way for long.
Many of our clients are aware of the disability discriination act and realise that standards complient sites are the most efficient way of providing what they want.

Joen said on July 8, 2004 5:26 PM

It seems WDDG tries to focus on, and advocate standards based web-design, although they clearly have not done so in the past.

In The Beforetimes, they were bleeding edge in 90% Flash based websites, with beauties like John Mark Sorum’s website, and Maverick Records. The old Altoids site they did, even, was Flash based — yet it was recently redesigned in HTML, although, upon further inspection it is HTML 4, and not valid. Still, it’s definately a change of canvas from Flash to HTML.

Tom Clancy said on July 8, 2004 8:35 PM

I’d echo Mark’s sentiments above. I dunno that we qualify as “big,” but we build standards-compliant sites by default and have done so for a couple of years now.

(And the auto-preview comments thing is cool)

AkaXakA said on July 8, 2004 9:08 PM

I see Lost Boys / IconMediaLab (http://www.iconmedialab.com/) as a (underrated) leader in the field as they actually do use clean (x)html code and, interestingly enough, chose tables when tables are better and div’s when they’re better for the layout. In both cases they do of course then use css to style either the div’s or table’s.

This open-minded non-zealous use of webstandards is an idea I fully support.

AkaXakA said on July 8, 2004 9:08 PM

I see Lost Boys / IconMediaLab (http://www.iconmedialab.com/) as a (underrated) leader in the field as they actually do use clean (x)html code and, interestingly enough, chose tables when tables are better and div’s when they’re better for the layout. In both cases they do of course then use css to style either the div’s or table’s.

This open-minded non-zealous use of webstandards is an idea I fully support.

pid said on July 8, 2004 9:25 PM

1) don’t confuse flash based sites with inaccessibility, Macromedia have worked extremely hard to improve Flash accessibility - but just like HTML it takes a little extra care to make it happen.

2) you can make a valid site that uses Flash and gracefully degrades down to plain text. it just takes extra work for each layer, and who would spend money/time building 3 versions of the same site?

I don’t have a great deal of experience with the larger web design factories, but my impression and experience is that they employ a few skilled workers and many juniors, or freelancers.

I still hear of people buying website designs from companies who don’t actually have in-house html expertise, which begs many questions but may explain why SC-Day* has happened yet.

Unfortunately, by the time the knowledge is widespread I suspect we’ll be battling with a whole new technology - XAML.

(*The day from when all websites are built Standards Compliant).

pid said on July 8, 2004 9:33 PM

*hasn’t. HASN’T happened yet.
(zeesh)

Gwen Dibley said on July 8, 2004 9:57 PM

Rhino Internet, a very prominent firm in Arizona, have been leaning toward standards compliance and CSS-based design in their recent work.

Mike said on July 9, 2004 7:57 PM

Wisdom TMLC from the Netherlands has built a pretty good portfolio in the last few years in this field.

Kitta said on July 10, 2004 11:28 AM

There’s one company called Itomic here in Perth, Western Australia that is using web standards. It’s the first company in Perth (that I know of) to do so, and it is nice too see. Hopefully more will follow their lead.

Bryan said on July 12, 2004 4:43 PM

The particular company I work for doesn’t necessarily practice standards, but they are definitly becoming more included in our future site designs and buildouts. When I get my hands on a buildout, I personally go for XHTML 1.0 transitional, but we have a TON of sites on our servers that are 1997 designs and coding and don’t have time to go back and change those over.

Still, our team is learning more and more each day, and future designs we punch out will more then likely be heading toward Standards Compliance. I know mine personally do.