Webb Dialogues (3): Roger Johansson | 456 Berea Street
While we’re off figuring out how inaccessible our site is :), we hope everyone else can indulge on what Roger was kind enough to share with us…
1. Can you share a brief background on yourself, your work… and where lies Berea Street?
I’ve been working with the Web in one way or another since the very early days, creating my first (very plain, very ugly) Web page in early 1994. After graduating from university college in 1994 I started working as a graphic designer/multimedia creator, but as time passed by I became more interested in the Web. Since 1996 I’ve been focusing mostly on Web design and development, and in the last few years I have more or less given up on the graphic design part of it.
Where is Berea Street? I get that question a lot. It is a street in Pretoria, South Africa, where I lived with my family for a couple of years in the early eighties.
2. Your passion for standards and accessibility is well renowned, how did that evolve?
I found it very frustrating to see so many bad quality websites being created in the late nineties. Bad coding practices were the norm, very few took any pride in their work, and many were working in the Web industry just to get a monthly paycheck. I guess the situation is pretty much the same these days.
In addition to that, I am a Mac user (have been since around 1990), and have left many a site in disgust and disappointment after being told that I was not wanted there. Even before the term “Web standards” was coined, I knew there had to be a better way of building Web sites, and tried to advocate best practices within the organisations I worked for, with varying levels of success.
The combination of Web standards and accessibility encourages the use of best practices and ensures that everybody can use the Web, no matter what kind of device they use to access it and no matter if they happen to have some kind of disability. Unlike some voices in the industry, I do not see a conflict between device independence and accessibility for people with disabilities. They are both fundamental to the Web. The Web is for everybody, from anywhere, on anything.
3. What is your perspective of web development here in Sweden (i.e. is there any contrast with development outside of sweden…strengths, weaknesses, etc.)?
Sweden seems to be one of the most Microsoft centric countries in the world, which makes it very hard to promote anything that conflicts with Microsoft technologies here. So yes, that seems to be a difference. I see a lot of talk about PHP, Ruby on Rails, Python, and many other server side programming languages, technologies and frameworks from people in other parts of the world. But Swedes seem to be happy to use whatever Microsoft puts in their hands. I guess I could be OK with that if those products didn’t produce such crappy and inaccessible client side code. So our Microsoft worship is certainly one of our biggest weaknesses.
Strengths? I can’t really think of any, except that Swedes tend to be more comfortable reading, writing, and speaking English than people in some other countries. That obviously helps since the vast majority of Web development related resources are in English.
4. What is the best piece of advice that you could offer to today’s aspiring designer/developer?
5. Were (or are) there any web professionals that you have tried to emulate or been inspired by?
When I built the first version of 456 Berea Street I learned a lot by looking at the code Doug Bowman used for stopdesign.com, so he has been a great source of knowledge. D. Keith Robinson (http://www.7nights.com/asterisk/ and http://www.dkeithrobinson.com/) inspired me to put in all the hard work I do by explaining how he managed to achieve success in the Web development blogging arena. And of course there is Jeffrey Zeldman (www.zeldman.com), probably the most well known Web standards advocate. Other than the few names I have mentioned here, there are many, many others that have written articles, tutorials, and books that have helped a countless number of Web professionals improve their skills and understanding of the Web.
6. Regarding Kaffesnobben… if you could only choose one place to have a coffee, where would that be?
At home, in my favourite armchair, listening to an old jazz record and reading a book.
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