Tuesday 18 October 2005

Web Design and Development Personality Indicators

I’VE HAD ENOUGH! Frustrated with the range of attitudes and opinions I deal with as a standards-oriented educator, I’ve decided to begin a project (very) loosely based on the Meyers-Briggs personality indicators. So, dear readers, I’m hoping you’ll help me add and refine my categories, but I’m off to a start with the following:

  • OFAD. Old Fart Anti-Design. These are the guys (and I mean guys) that were on the Web as early as 1991. Almost all physicists at major research institutions, they’re the ones who helped Tim Berners-Lee refine the Web and were the first adopters. Mostly long in the tooth now, some are still kicking and they can be described as the anti-designers. These aren’t even purists – today’s approaches seem foreign and sometimes frightening to them. They long for the days of Lynx, really, but barring glowing text on a terminal and HTML authored in Vi or Emacs, their idea of Web design is default gray backgrounds, default text, maybe a list, and the apex of old fart visual design: a horizontal rule. Fortunately, this is a very rare breed and usually they can be ignored because unless they’ve progressed somewhat, they have precious little to offer the contemporary, standards-oriented Web designer or developer.
  • OSVD. Old Skool Visual Designer. These are the folks that refuse to see beyond their nested-tables-spacer-GIF design. In fact, you can find them at a variety of ad agencies and teaching at conferences all over the world, still excited when they create a design in Photoshop and use the so-called HTML export utility. These designers are often extremely hostile toward standardistas largely because the idea of change or looking at code is so traumatic that they hold on to the Old Skool methodology as if it were a lifeboat on a stormy sea. Unfortunately, this breed isn’t rare enough.
  • TTLM. Trying To Learn More. In this category are the good men and women who might still be serving it up Old Skool but are open to learning, open to growth yet struggling with standards related concepts and the snakepit of browser challenges of contemporary Web design and development. These brave souls are not in the majority, but they are to be lauded and assisted for their willingness to venture forth and expand their horizons.
  • SAVD. Standards Aware Visual Designer. These people are designing with standards in mind – creating beautiful sites for the screen, working toward achieving accessible sites, examining usability and human factors, and very possibly beginning or already designing for alternative devices and media types. A very rare breed, and if you are reading this post it’s very highly likely you’re either one your own fine self, know all their names or have Zeldman’s personal phone number memorized.
  • SASS. Standards Aware Structural Semanticist. These personalities are very code-centric, with little interest (or more often, skill) in presentation but lots of interest in the proper structuring of documents, use of meaningful markup, microformats, Semantic Web and the like. At their most compulsive, they can become purists to the point of having unrealistic expectations of the more worldly Web worker. Also a rare breed, SASS personalities are extremely important to the good of the Web but sometimes need to be reminded that smart structure and semantics can happily co-exist with visual design.
  • SACE. Standards Aware Cutting Edge. Whether visual designers or code-centric or both, these are the folks that design first for Firefox, Safari and Opera and work around IE 6.0 only because they have to. Given their druthers, sites would be built using practically no markup and lots of attribute selectors, just because they like the idea. A rare breed worth watching, but also in need of reminders that the rest of the world just ain’t there yet, and in fact, really are lagging behind.

Hybrids are not unusual, either. I sort of live between the SASS and the SAVD personalities, with not enough real design skill to execute great visual designs, but enough savvy to appreciate beautiful, standards-based Web sites. There’s probably a personality type for people like me, but it’s very difficult to assess my own character, so I’ll leave it there for now.

As I’m typing this, I’m on a ship in the Eastern Caribbean teaching CSS on a Geek Cruise. The ship, the MS Zuiderdam, is just in the process of docking at Road Town, Tortola, in the British Virgin Isles. I’m sure you all feel really sorry for me right now.

It’s just past dawn and I’m up at the very top of the ship where there happens to be WiFi at the going rate of 40 cents USD per minute, so you’ll forgive me if I leave you now with the following questions: Are you one of these personality types, and if so, which? Do you have a personality type you’d like to add to my little list?

Filed under:   general
Posted by:   Molly | 04:45 | Comments (91)

Comments (91)

  1. TTLM, me, just to let you know a few of us are reading you!

  2. I think it’s great and funny that you are creating a Meyers-Briggs personality test for a “web designers/developers.”

    But, you’re just making new abbreviations/acronyms, not sticking to the spirit of Meyers-Briggs with four sets of opposing types (resulting in 16 web personalities).

    I think if you had true opposits and put stuff together you’d probably have a basis for a book, or at least an article in a web design/development book.

  3. I am definitely a mix of the TTLM and SAVD… For so long I have looked at sites and read books/articles that have failed to mention (or werent even aware of) standards and now there seem to be a slow rise of people/sites/agencies/classes that mention them to either a. make money or b. make money. It is rare to find someone that genuinely has the intrest of the internet at heart.

    I loved Ben’s AAAAA description btw…. GREAT stuff!

  4. I like the OSP term. There are a great many web sites out there driven by databases or content management systems, and I suspect most of the skill mix in designing these things was on the database side. Converting a web site to standards is hard enough; I can’t imagine converting a CMS system.

    Personally, I’m SA – TTLM – HQMDJ (Haven’t Quit My Day Job.)

  5. I would be a TTLM-BL. Trying to learn more – but lazy. I want my site to look good and be compliant, but I care far more about content than code.

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  7. @Paul,
    If the system was written well in the first place it’s not too tough. Templates for the front end of most CMSs are per site, so they change constantly anyways.

    I also like the OSP, but whine enough at an OSP until they see the light, get religion and become a SASS. It’s unlikely that they’ll become a SACE since I think there is a little on off gene programmers have no taste (just look at our wardrobes!), and designers have no concept of abstract logic (just look at their filing systems!).

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  9. How about a wanna-be SAVD who lacks the design skills to really make it there? Or maybe I’m a SASS, because I love code so much I dream about it.


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  11. What’s with all the hybrid personalities here? I’ve been SASS since 1998 🙂

  12. I would probably call myself a SACE, because it’s more of a hybrid to SAVD and SASS. Nowadays, it’s so easy to code sites for every other browser than IE, but since we have the MySpace type designers, who are just plain unaware of the standards, or don’t believe in them, since “Bill Gates created the Internet”. Although I lean more to SAVD, I don’t try to make my site all flashy, since content is what makes a site in the first place.

  13. I wonder what Tantek would think of this?

    Adam Schilling

    Does writing this also make me a SACE? Or, just a FOOL? hehe.

    As an aside, this would have to be the cheapest way to print a few initials after my name!

    Cheers, Adam.

    PS. Molly, I will see you at SXSW.

  14. D’oh. My code didn’t show.

    Again, without the angle brackets…

    div class=”vcard”
    div class=”fn” | Adam Schilling
    div class=”mwddpi” | SAVD

    Sorry ’bout the double-post.

  15. I’m in the INV group. These are the invisible men and women who create software for the web – blog systems, photo sharing systems, online community and commerce sites of all descriptions. No one mentions us, speaks to us, or understands what we do, but without us where would the web be?

  16. WOBM. Works On Boss’s Monitor. Jacked-up font size, absolute positioning, and browser-specific hacks and slashes combine to make it look just fine when served locally to the CEO’s monster monitor … but for the rest of us, not so much. (See also FPOP, Flash Prototypes Only Please.)

  17. Hey, thanks for the mention of Geek Cruises! Gotta try that one of these days!

  18. Definitely SACE.

    I’m also on the lookout for technologies that are the next big thing such as Web 2.0, and always keep my browsers up to date by the day.

    Call me a obsessive compulsive SACE because web standards are all I care about when doing web development work. (Oh, I forgot to mention accessibility as well, can’t ignore this one too…)

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  22. Definitely SACE (or at least trying to get to that status), but hey isn’t that what I was told to do by CSS Zen Garden book – design for the Best Standards-compliant browser first and then work on graceful degradation on the less supporting browsers such as IE?

  23. I guess I am SASS, hehe.

  24. I’m definitely in the TTLM category. Im gettin’ there…

  25. Oddly enough I find I float between 3. TTLM, SAVD, and SACE. I am always trying to learn more all the time. I am reading everything on CSS, accessible design and design practices that I can get my hands on to make sure my skills are always the best that they can be.

  26. I am a true TTLM… 🙂

  27. Unfortunately, I’m only a TTLM.

  28. Pingback: Intuitive Designs » Blog Archive » Personality Indicators in Web Design and Development

  29. I never knew I was moving from SAVD to SACE (without realising it) until I read this article… oh yes, AND I did the Briggs-Myers years ago (hacked it to allow floats in the values – I could never decide on an integer, I wanted sliders and still fantasize about making a web-app version, although someone MUST have already done it). I also try to teach standards-based web design to humanities students who think visually… it’s a great tester of what sticks and what doesn’t with people who just want to build a site – you could say they’re (after Daniel) NSCC or New Skool Creative Communicators, but I hope at least 1/3 of them will grasp CSS and valid markup before they finish the course. With a bit of support…

  30. I think I switch between SACE and SAVD.

    Then again, alot of other people hear do that too!

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  32. Hey, where is the worst group of all:
    FFFF – The Frikkin Fatal Flash Fuckrs, they do everything in flash, whether it is an error page or only a 2×2 px button. They definitely are my most hated group of all.

  33. Kazana,

    Not so sure about that – at least you can disassemble a Flash animation, and extract the text when you redevelop the site instead of having to type it all up manually for those people who embed entire slabs of text in GIFs … 🙂

  34. I found this post while looking for more information about designers and their personalities. I am definitely a hybrid of SAVD and SACE.

    I recently discovered this personality analysis that correlates with the above. It gives a summary of how we interact with others, but also may relate to how we approach design.

  35. Great post, Molly.

    I prefer OFADs to IITICIMBGDs (If I Think It’s Cool It Must Be Good Design).

    FFFFs, as Kazana wonderfully describes them, are a subset of this personality type.

    I prefer a visually uninspiring website to one that appears to have been designed by an acid-head with ADD, provided of course its content is of value.

    Not surprisingly, I’m sort of an OFAD, though I prefer to think of myself as a minimalist. If an element doesn’t offer something useful to expression of content or navigation, it’s there solely for the gratification of the designer, and therefore useless, and probably irritating, to anybody else.

    That’s not to say I don’t appreciate appropriate and intelligent design, but I hate excessive, vulgar design. Less is more. If the content is good the design can relax.

  36. TTLM/SASS/SACE. Depends if I am coding from scratch or using a CMS.

    If I were a better graphic artist, I would strive for becoming a SAVD someday. As it stands, the code is what makes sense to me and what I love.

    Ideally, the visual part can be done by a real artist in Photoshop, leaving me with a beautiful image to turn into a semantic standards-compliant website that will work in IE with the aid of my new favorite thing, conditional comments and an alternate stylesheet. Too bad that hardly ever happens!

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  39. Great now I’m having a professional identity crisis.

  40. It is odd that people who require the aesthetically pleasing site design are the ones who also have the most trouble with their computers contracting some sort of nasty virus/Trojan/worm or other web borne nasty that causes degrading performance of their machines or steals their identity outright. The internet is unsafe. The end. The debate of who’s fault it is doesn’t matter. If you don’t take measures to make yourself safe, then your at fault too. Like wearing your rolex in an area where you know there is a high crime rate. That doesn’t clear the criminals of fault, it just means you didn’t take the threat seriously enough.

    For the slow… Web technology (active x, java…, etc) are the criminals in this analogy.

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