An exciting time to be a web craftsmen…

One of my favourite blogs has mentioned one of my favourite words, and I like what Craig says. It is an exciting time to be working on software, especially web software, as there is a real feeling of the sky being the limit. Google, Flickr, Youtube, they all did it – why can’t I?

The fact is that while there is a lot of buzz and hype surrounding the current internet boom (2.0) there’s a distinct lack of what I would call craftsmen. Those people, like Craig said, who strive not just to finish a project but to do it right. And when it comes to doing it right, it’s all down to the end users.

They are the ones who will sit there looking at this stuff we make day in, day out. They’ll be clicking things a lot more than we ever will, they’ll find those niggly little things that we just don’t have a clue about. As I walk round my company I’m always slightly wary when I see one of my systems on somebodys screen – after all, if it doesn’t work they’re the ones who will complain because I haven’t ‘done my job properly’. Cans of worms, anyone?

So it’s important, no – vital, that we take what we do seriously. I’m not saying come to work in a suit and tie every day, or never have a laugh, but to always bear in mind the end user. And put the effort in to do things properly. I recently worked on a site that was nominally built with web standards (no tables, divs, paragraphs etc) but was completely unusable, broke in every browser by that one and was basically a mess. It had all the right components, but no craftsmanship had gone into it.

Last year my wife and I went to the beautiful island of Guernsey and while there went to a jewellery workshop. Let me tell you, those guys are true craftsmen. The hours they spend cutting, etching, shaping and polishing would put even the most nit-picky of web designers to shame. And all for something that’s just a few millimetres across. But how beautiful does that stuff look? They aren’t just making a piece of jewellery, they are making something that someone will one day consider an essential part of themselves. Something with potentially a massive amount of sentimental value, something to help make people’s lives more special.

It’s a challenging thought, but why can’t we make software with that attitude? As Kathy says, we don’t want to be just liked – we want to be loved. And we should want our software to be loved as well, because it makes people’s lives better (easier, quicker etc). After all, making people’s lives better is a worthy aim.