Jeffrey Zeldman tells us how data on web workers benefits the whole industry
A List Apart is again running its annual web design survey, asking those in the industry to spare a few minutes and answer some questions about their education, skills, happiness and abilities. We spoke to A List Apart founder Jeffrey Zeldman about the thinking behind the survey and what A List Apart hopes or expects to see from this year's results.
Zeldman told us the world is almost unrecognisably different from 20 years ago, largely due to the internet. "People who make websites are behind it all, disrupting old businesses, creating new industries and new jobs when everything else is crumbling, and teaching ordinary human beings new ways of doing everything, from sharing family photos to overthrowing dictatorships," he said. "Web professionals – magical people with strange new skills that never existed in the world before – create this constantly shifting, profoundly robust platform that enthrals and delights. You'd think in the 20 years we've been doing it, somebody would have put together at least some basic data on web workers. But no. It's up to us, the workers of the web, to build our own data about ourselves, just like it was up to us to learn HTML, and figure out everything else about this amazing interactive medium on our own."
Since 2007, A List Apart has carried out an annual survey for people who make websites, asking web professionals to take 10 minutes to answer a few dozen questions. As before, when the latest survey's closed, the data will be crunched and presented in a future issue of A List Apart. According to Zeldman, this data has real benefits for the industry, helping increase people's accurate knowledge about the professions of web design and development: "The longer we do it, and the more seriously we do it, the better the chance of this information penetrating the mainstream and deepening respect for our various professions and our collective work."
Zeldman believes the more that work of those in the industry is respected, the more leverage said professionals will be able to command. He suggested it's time clients and in-house partners ceased thinking of web designers and developers "as the geek in the cubicle and started realising we are fully professional partners in their enterprise". He adds that on a more mundane level, information about salaries, titles, and so on, can help you compare these things to industry norms, ensuring you're doing as well as you should be.
As for this year's results, Zeldman told us he expects to see the industry bucking the rest of the economy, showing continued growth, or at least stability relative to past years, in terms of salaries and job satisfaction. "And some of the most interesting parts of the survey ask how happy people are in their jobs, and what next steps they intend to take professionally," he added. "Over the years we've been doing the survey, our respondents have reported high levels of job and creative satisfaction, and that trend seems to constantly tick upward. In today's global economy, if you even have steady work shining shoes you're ahead of the game. Yet here we have an industry many of us fell into sideways, with no previous relevant training, that's tough as hell and requires constant learning… and we're loving it. We are truly blessed. These stats about happiness make our hearts sing and give us hope when the world seems particularly rocky."
The survey is only open for the next two weeks, so take it now. We're told the report should be ready roughly two weeks after the survey closes. Findings for previous reports are also online for your perusal: 2007; 2008; 2009; 2010.