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May 13, 2008

Web standards awareness among CF developers

I've been a ColdFusion web developer now for almost three years. During this time, I've attended two major ColdFusion conferences: CF United in '06 and most recently cf.Objective() of this year. While thinking about the sessions that I attended at cf.Objective() an interesting observation came to me: there doesn't seem to be much talk in the CF community about "web standards." And by web standards I mean things like plain semantic HTML, CSS styling, unobtrusive JavaScript, accessibility, and microformats, etc. Prior to joining the ColdFusion community these topics were all the rage among the various web development blogs I followed. But for some reason they don't seem to get nearly as much attention among the CF bloggers and conference speakers.

I've been thinking about this the last couple of days and have come up with a few possible reasons why there doesn't seem to be much focus on web standards in the CF community:

  1. The majority of CF developers are blissfully ignorant of web standards, or
  2. Since web standards are backend agnostic, CF developers rely on the general web development community for web standards information, or
  3. Now that it's been 6+ years since web standards entered the spotlight, the majority of CF developers are already well acquainted with these concepts and techniques and have already mastered them. Therefore further discussion is not needed, or
  4. Most CF developers are primarily backend coders. They spend their time coding CFCs, business logic, and data models, etc. Someone else does the frontend code for their applications so they aren't directly concerned with web standards.

If you're a ColdFusion programmer, I'd love to hear your thoughts on the issue. Particularly, I'd like to know:

  1. If you fall within one of the groups listed above and if so, which one(s).
  2. On a scale of one to five, what is your level of knowledge and expertise with web standards?
  3. Do you rely on the CF community for the majority of your web standards information/knowledge/training, etc or does it come from the general web development community as a whole?
  4. As a CF programmer, would you be interested in more conference sessions and/or blog articles devoted to web standards?

Please leave me a comment and let me know!

Posted at 8:19 AM in ColdFusion


1. chief says:

I think with any web development, no matter what the backend language, there are plenty of developers who have little to no knowledge of web standards and I'm sure there are plenty who do.

I work for a New York State organization, and most of our clients are State or Federally funded so all our sites must follow web standards and conform to state and federal accessibility guidelines (section 508). What this leaves me with is not a lot of room to use things like AJAX and Flash etc. However it has made me a better developer in the areas of XHTML, CSS and degradable Javascript.

One thing that upsets me is the HTML output of some CFMX tags isn't XHTML 1.0 valid (such as CFFORM). I think Adobe is just as guilty as it's community as far as sticking to standards.

I get most of my standards info from non-CF type blogs such as A List Apart etc.

I attended An Event Apart last year in Boston and as someone who primarly codes CF and does some Web Design it was a very refreshing look at how others are using web standards etc. I wouldn't necessarily find it useful at a CF conference though, I'd be more interested in learning the latest and greatest framework.

Posted on May 13, 2008 at 9:39 AM

2. Ben Nadel says:

I like to think I have an OK handle on web standards. I use my H tags and I use P tags and I use UL tags to create my markup. But, I would love to understand it much better than I do. I see very little information on it, especially in the ColdFusion world. To learn it, you really have to go out and find the information, and even then, I find it really hard to find a good, comprehensive tutorial on web standards.

What I think so many people could benefit from would be a juicy tutorial that covered where to use what tags. I think that's the biggest issue with people - they don't know where to use what tag. H tags are titles... but when do you use an H3 vs. and H4? Can you use the PRE tag? What about the little tags that people forget about or didn't know they existed? How to properly use TABLE tags? What if you have a graphical element - should it be in a P tag? A Div tag? A Span tag?

We need a "Web Standards Cook Book" that covers the common scenarios that we face everytime we build a site.

Posted on May 13, 2008 at 9:41 AM

3. Jeff says:

My guess is there are still a lot of CF developers entrenched in the Windows world. And since CF has more traction in the enterprise than the open source world, standards play less a role since in the enterprise world, IE rules.

I know that almost all the CF bloggers rely on standards, but there's a huge amount of CF developers that work in the private or government sector who write custom apps that are used internally and therefore standards are not that big of a concern.

I could be totally off here, but its the impression that I get.

Posted on May 13, 2008 at 10:29 AM

I think it's probably a mix of options 2 and 4. I don't think a majority of all CF developers are fluent in web standards, but I think most of the leaders of the CF community (the major bloggers and presenters) are.

Posted on May 14, 2008 at 5:29 AM

5. Brian Meloche says:

I think it's a mix. I think some developers don't care, some are ignorant and others have a good handle on it.

There is an opportunity for ColdFusion, since it's SO similar to HTML that designers can pick it up, to present a "designers, ColdFusion understands, and will help you with, Web Standards" that it NEVER does.

Someone complained to me recently that the CFWACK books still show font tags. That's not the best way to encourage web designers to use ColdFusion for the first time.

Posted on May 14, 2008 at 6:38 AM