Jeffrey Zeldman: 20 Years of Web Design and Community

Just discovered via Twitter this great video published a few months ago, on Jeffrey Zeldman’s career (so far) working with “people who make websites.”

It’s a great video to begin the year with, tracing the evolution of the web design community from the earliest days, though the founding and evolution of Zeldman’s many communities/activities, including:

  • A List Apart – which started as a mailing list and morphed into an early web magazine, but has had an amazingly consistent, quality, curated and editorially managed voice for the best in web design and front-end engineering. It brought together the ethos of the early web – what you know, you share with others – with an approach that essentially kept out the flame wars, bullying, and noise that were so prevalent elsewhere. I think of it to this day as the first real professional community I wanted to be a part of – and it remains one of the best places to find the latest thinking about real world challenges for web professionals.
  • The Web Standards Project – the banner carrier for web standards during the years when people were either completely ignorant of them or explicitly hostile. The fact that you almost never see a “This site best viewed in Internet Explorer” link as you browse is in large part due to the efforts of this group, which had to inform and educate browser-makers and web designers/developers at the same time.
  • A Book Apart – continuing in the same direction of a curated voice for web professionals who cared about the craft and were serious about design and technology, this series of books has consistently identified, amplified, and nurtured the best voices: Ethan Marcotte on Responsive Web Design, Karen McGrane on Content Strategy for Mobile, and Luke Wroblewski on Mobile First just to name three of the giants in a series of great books. (If I made gift lists for recent grads / young professionals in the web industry, the complete A Book Apart Library would be at the top of that list).
  • An Event Apart – curated, single-track conference on the (always emergent) best-practices and key philosophies behind building web sites right. I’ll confess here I’ve never made it to one – but have sent colleagues and watched innumerable talks either recorded at An Event Apart of premiered there and later given in other venues. If a speaker you have a chance to see somewhere has been a speaker on the Event Apart circuit, don’t miss them.

If the video sometimes comes across as a lifetime achievement award montage – which it did to me – that shouldn’t be taken to mean Zeldman’s not still active, in many of the above businesses as well as Happy Cog and teaching at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

It’s a fantastic video to start the new year with as it reminds both of how far we have come and also of how dynamic and emergent the whole industry remains. (If first few “testimonial” bits bother you skip forward to 1:45 or so where the real story starts).