Comparing Ourselves Among Ourselves

08 April 2009

alasurvey.jpgA List Apart has published the results from their survey of people who make websites. The data, which includes answers from over 30,000 respondents, is very clearly presented in web page format (meaning XHTML, tables, and CSS); a clever method, if you ask me.

What concerns me about this, as well as other surveys of similar vein, is that it fuels the fire of comparison inside this new and diverse industry. One of the reasons I so passionately do what I do (as a web designer/developer) is the organic feel of the web. You can approach design for the web with a clean slate and open mind and still be accepted. There are guidelines, yes; standards that we voluntarily submit to. But ultimately the web is an open platform wherein design autonomy is celebrated.

Comparison among those who make websites is helpful only as much as it contributes to the expansion of the medium itself. I fear, though, that comparing incomes, biases, and experience will result in over-inflated egos and mistuned motivations.

At the risk of sounding overtly self-absorbed, I’ll use myself as a clear example of this. When I first discovered that the survey results had been posted, I immediately checked to see if my salary was on par with the median. I skipped past the introduction, the demographics, and everything else that preceded the subject of money.

That’s not the kind of person I am. Why did I do that? Would the results – good news or bad news – somehow change the way I make websites?

This is an industry of Whoever, Wherever, Whenever (WWW), but if we let market norms dictate the direction we go, we’ll find ourselves in a spot we don’t want to be: where the great openness we celebrate is closed, and we’re all competing for the best seat in the house.