Why do so many web design companies not know basic CSS?

[COLOR=“#000000”]I can post up hundreds of examples of web design companies whose own sites show that they don’t understand the basics of how to use CSS properly.
Inline styles throughout, never using descendant selectors, and instead creating new classes all over the place, sometimes using four or five styles on the same element, unbelievable.

I saw one site today (I forget the company) which had TWELVE closing divs in a row. Unbelievable. And none of them had a comment to explain which div it was closing.

Of course, the clients haven’t got a clue, so can’t be blamed, but maybe we should start a ‘code of shame’ site, where we can post up these companies’ code, with the reasons why it’s so bad.

ps Your text formatting icons are useless - why is the COLOUR ‘icon’ the letter A? Why not use a rainbow of colours - go on, live a little…

[COLOR=“#000000”]By the way, here’s an example of a site with excellent, clean code (not a web design company though):


That’s how all my sites look - laid out simply, no tabs all over the place.[/COLOR]

A “hall of shame” has been suggested before, but we agreed it was not in the spirit of the forums. If people come here asking for help or feedback then they are opening themselves up to constructive criticism, and that’s fine. But it isn’t our ethos to go round criticising other sites behind their backs. There are other places that do that, such as websitesthatsuck, but it isn’t something we would want to see here. That kind of activity could seriously harm a client company, is the innocent bystanders who have bought a lemon without realising it, and that in turn would not do OUR reputation any good.

In answer to the question as to why it happens, the answer is that it’s an industry with no regulation, no official certification and a very low barrier to entry. Anyone can set themselves up as a web designer, and many do. And while those of us who are here have a real interest in web design, for a lot of people it’s just a job. And just like any other industry, there are people who just want to get the job done as quickly as possible, and for as little effort as possible. That means no spending time devising elegant and efficient solutions if there’s a quick’n’dirty method that appears to be superficially the same. It means no spending time on training or professional development if you can persuade people you are up to the job. In any walk of life you will find far too many people who just don’t care about the quality of their work, if they are even aware that there are things wrong with it, and web design is no exception.

Well, the interesting thing is that the sort of bad code I find is code that makes it a nightmare to create a webpage. And it’s incredibly basic stuff, as I listed above - the simple use of descendant selectors saves me loads of time and space, and I learnt it right at the beginning of learning CSS? (I used ‘CSS: the missing manual’, a book I highly recommend).
Is there a professional qualification in web design that one can take? I would love to see what it involves, because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it also included bad coding, seeing as so many apparently competent (but not behind the scenes) web design companies are incapable of even the most basic stuff.
My code is always clean and really easy to edit, and I’m not even particularly brilliant at it.


In many cases, I expect that the perpetrators are either using some form of WYSIWYG editor or are just cribbing code and bodging it until it looks right … because that involves less investment of time up-front than learning how to do it properly.

Is there a professional qualification in web design that one can take? I would love to see what it involves, because I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it also included bad coding, seeing as so many apparently competent (but not behind the scenes) web design companies are incapable of even the most basic stuff.

There is no official qualification that I am aware of. Many schools, colleges and universities around the world offer courses in web design – in whole or part – but these don’t have to conform to any approved standard, it is up to the institutions themselves to determine the course material, content and style.[/font]

I don’t think it is very fair to judge a site/app unless you have a clear understanding of the budget, technological limitations, politics, requirements and back-end processes involved. There is a considerable amount of sacrifices that need to made in one form or a another depending on those factors. Many of the leading content management systems output terrible mark-up. So is it fair to say everyone using Wordpress, Drupal, Joomla, etc are terrible developers. Probably from the perspective of someone who has not been in the industry to long or has an unlimited amount of time/budget but not a real-world scenario with all the business implications involved. The short of it is that judging peoples decisions merely based on the mark-up on the page and nothing else is arrogant, short-sighted, ill-informed and a tad immature really. New developers should strive to learn best practices and apply them but not judge others without understanding the whole picture.

Part of the problem with having shame sites or indeed praise sites is—Who is going to make the judgements? A lot of criticisms could be made about that site you linked to—both regarding CSS and HTML. And a lot of the biggest names in the industry, the “standardistas”, are starting to do some pretty dubious things in the rush to embrace HTML5 and other technologies … so it’s hard to know whom to trust. :frowning:

The reason this phenomenon occurs is probably due to a combination of factors. A general one is that the skill of people in almost any business seems to on a continuous decline from builders and garages to accountants and doctors.
Specific to the web is probably a combination of more and more traditional businesses going to the wall and the survivors trying to “revive” their company by getting a website and/or promoting it, but attempting it with a low budget. You generally get what you pay for, which translates in hiring clowns. An exacerbating factor is that there tens of thousands of chancers that decided they can make good a business out of offering webdesign or seo services, but essentially don’t have a clue.

My guess is that because they force their digital designers to code :smiley:

I didn’t realise that the content management systems would output such poor code, but I think it’s useful to point out problems in anybody’s code where it exists, precisely so that new developers can see what to avoid.

And I wasn’t judging anybody’s decisions, just the quality of the code I see. I don’t think it was “arrogant, short-sighted, ill-informed and a tad immature” at all. If somebody is selling themselves as a web design company, yet their code is bad, then it’s bad!

Hear, hear, I think you’re spot on.

Thanks very much for that site, Stevie, I particularly liked their fourth point - CONTRAST…

“I’m so very, very tired of beautiful websites where I can’t read the text. Visitors who can’t read the text will leave your site.” Seems like I’m not alone then, in hating too light text.

Its not about webdesign companies knowing CSS. Its just that it takes so much time cutting so many images and doing it one by one so they prefer not to spend too much time on it and spend the extra saved time on some other projects.

Aren’t they one of the same…

Unless you’re saying that is not a choice… than what is it.

if you are judging work than you are judging those peoples decisions who executed the work.

It is very arrogant and immature unless you have a complete picture of the work involved I will probably get a reaming for this but there much more important things than mark-up. Yeah… it is important but should not dictate more important decisions. Especially those that would require significant price hikes due to the use of modifying default code and making it less maintainable down the line.

Many of sites you have seen probably aren’t just a collection of static files. Creating perfect mark-up and css is easy when you just have to deal with a small static site. However, it becomes much more complex when a cms is involved that has default/generic tools to do things like build forms, layouts, etc. Than again… you probably wouldn’t know anything about that.

I’m not saying this the case with the sites you have seen. I’m just saying from *my experience alone that the reason poor mark-up exists is due to some type of dynamic generation tool like that of a CMS which *attempts to provide the upmost flexibility for people, such as designers without modifying the back-end code. That is normall the case when it comes to a bunch of classes that *look useless or forms of divitis.

I could be completely wrong though. You could actually be looking at completely static sites without a cms of a sorts with just terrible mark-up because people genuinely do not know what they are doing.

I think it’s interesting that Joomla and other solutions were mentioned; I think it highlights something important; people care about functionality and end result over quality. Most clients want “attractive, functional, make us money”; those desires are obvious; they don’t want these solutions for fun, they want them to make money; so that’s where their priorities are. I can count on one hand the number of my clients who want W3C validation or even know what it means; bring it up and your preaching to the wrong choir.

Those priorities (the clients) can and does have a profound effect on the quality of the solutions you see when you start getting into standards. This of course filters down the chain to developers.

Joomla, Drupal, Magento are not articles of wonderful standards and top quality products. I’m going to pick on Magento; but there are plenty of other examples.

Magento is an example of all singing, all dancing, ecommerce in a can. It has deep penetration; a plethora of plugins and a huge community behind it. It is a widely used solution and is constantly recommended.

However it is a textbook example of bloat and poor standards; in the sense that the markup of the HTML and CSS is terrible; the code base is a trillion times bigger than it needs to be; can often be nonsensical.

A lot of newbies come in, they see that these solutions are the defacto standard for stuff; so use them and learn from them; and in the process learn a lot of bad habits.

Strongly Agree with Stevie D, in-spite of doing criticism of some one if we can do something constructive here, Yes the biggest challenge in-front of us that there is no any authorized world wide accepted organization (just like w3c) by which all the measures can be verified and accepted by all. It is also highly dynamic area where daily we have lots of development, trend is changing all the time.
Yes it sad if a company/organization create a website and that is poorly structured. At most of the time it is also due to people having little knowledge of some programming language and CMS start working, mostly it happens with those who always try to get cheap services… price concern is major than quality and objectives of website. One of the solution is you must know what sort of people are associated with that organization.

I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you are talking about - “cutting so many images and doing it one by one”… Do you actually understand how to use CSS?

It’s “one AND the same”.

Do YOU actually understand how to use CSS properly? The sites I’m talking about are full of inline styles, which shouldn’t exist - so either they are incompetent web designers, (because editing each page manually, instead of the CSS file, which is what it’s there for, must be a nightmare, and would cost a fortune), or the CMS system they use is absolute rubbish, and uses inline styles, instead of a style sheet. It’s a simple as that. The whole point of CSS is to save a huge amount of time, and therefore money. The sites I’m talking about (which I can’t list here, but I will find some bits of code and post them up for you to see) look almost impossible to edit.

No, I don’t know anything about that, but then my criticism is directed at the CMS. And is even more valid, because their mistakes are imposed on whoever uses the CMS.

Either way, SOMEBODY is bad at coding.

Aside from the lack of regulation. I have found a lot of blame falls on the client themselves. While it’s true there are some bad coders and some beginners out there (every expert was once a beginner anyway) , it’s poor client decisions or client/designers interaction that most often leads to the prevailing trend you have mentioned.

  1. Regulation or not, clients often favour a extremely lowball bids w/o question over reasonable requirement/cost assessment . So while regulation may have trained and/or talented designers in direct competition with high school students, consider also hat the price of a product is usually justified in it’s construction. Aside from demand cost dynamics, remember that it takes time and equipment to hone your craft ( this all cost the GOOD professional $$) and as such the cost is passed down in the wages and working conditions REAL designers seek.

BTW, if you are thinking “supply/demand” w/o considering respect/psycology consider this: Assuming the reason for the abundance of bad code and design out there was that there is so much demand that even ‘hacks’ can get in into the biz then you would have concordantly high wages and not people asking for $300 sites and $11/no benefit s web jobs. Low pay + high demand = crap output.

  1. Even when the client isn’t begin a ceap @$$, clients seldom give real scrutiny to the final ONLINE products.

Sometimes this is laziness. For example, the client who only realizes his site is not IE7 four months after delivery, when a friend points it out to him. In any other industry a client would acid test the product upon receipt, in some cases obsessively.

Sometime it is ignorance. Most client aren’t web folks… at all. I have seen heads of online departments ( here is your large company for you) who were promoted from the ranks of sales/management, not the tech. As such they know little to no CSS/HTML. I have seen those same folks, literally, instructing experienced and inexperienced developers alike on HOW things should be done\.

Sometimes it’s stubbornness. The client will ask for this because he doesn’t see why take the extra time (thus cost) to employ good techniques.

Sometimes it’s ego. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Your manager knows that “tables are bad… I read that on a web dev blog … somewhere don’t use tables use DIVs”… “but sir… it’s tabular data… a product /price /option tables”…“Look Stop dragging you feet, am the (insert title) here. it’s my job to (insert generic goal) so don’t let me catch you coding with TABLEs” The client doent want to look stupid in front of the nerd?

Sometimes it’s humility. The client will distance himself from the project and wont ask ‘why’ and ‘how’. Maybe begin afraid of ‘looking stupid’. Yeah, This actually doesn’t explain the bad code itself but it definitely foretell that the client wont try anything more than a cursory

Sometimes the client is inept. 'Build a site for my company '… ‘Um, ok… what do you have in mind?’ “I dunno, you are the designer… build me something I know if it what I want when I see it.” This is not limited to the web industry, but its effects are very obvious for web developers as you can see the hodge podge of directions in the entrails of the final products.

Sometimes it’s naivete. If it “looks” good then it must be good, the client doesn’t know any better and doesn’t want to. Developer who are successful are so because they have HAPPY clients. So even if the developer employs a convoluted technique for and even more convoluted client goal.

Sometimes they are just not a developer/designer. I personally know of three ‘Directors’ who upon promotion where asked to give their respective companies a web presence (or website overhaul). These are folks who would probably be decent enough managers , but barely tech savvy enough to perform a Google search and who by their own boss’ directive could not seek any professional help( I mean if a professional gave them tip or volunteer the whole site… maybe) . And thus here there they are, their first foray into web development… a full blown company site.

  1. Critiques are internal. Look at what’s happening, even in this thread. The unconnected criticism, does nothing to improve THAT particular designer’s work/ethics and it does even less to cause clients to place higher value on good work. Believe me, am just as disappointed when I ‘view source’ only to find utter crap (as an Art Director am also disappointed when I see poor aesthetics employed in the design as well). Still this does little to educate the consumer. It only sounds like competing coders bickering like little kids “my could is better , you should have hired ME instead!” which does little to empower the industry.

There will always be some people who are better and some people who are worse at doing something. just try to become a little better each day and to educate others was to what constitutes good work ( this is pointing fingers , btw) what ever decision is made… well that’s life.

OK, I humbly cede my soapbox to the next person. :slight_smile: