Explore, be curious.

#BeforeDigitalMischief: Project WSMY (2006)

14 Feb 2017

In a previous post about one of my first web projects in 1998, I rolled back the clock to re-discover a time before my digital mischief-making adventures in adland. Here’s part 2 in the series.

This one is about a movement and project very close to my heart. But first, a lil TL;DR warning. It’s crazy long haha!

Preamble babel

As much as I’m a kid at heart, the reality is I’ve been designing and coding for the Web close to two decades now. And that’s a lot in internet years.

Some time ago in the early-mid 2000s, I saw firsthand how the Web evolved from an exclusive playground for geeks to a place people of all walks of life are getting themselves on.

The movement

Accessibility and usability issues, along with the Web’s long-term viability, were a rapidly growing concern.

Different people with different needs. Different browsers with different codes. Different tools with different plugins. Different devices with different technologies. Different locations with different internet speeds. Etc etc.

Simply put, it was like a human body that’s experimented on and abused without any limits. Its organ system was breaking down, and in treating symptoms rather than the cause, was headed towards terminal illness (cue dramatic music).

To address the mess and move forward, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), led by the man who invented the Web, formulated the guidelines for everyone-and-everything Web related to comply with. But it would’ve hit a brick wall without the support of a grassroots movement.

The Web Standards Project (WaSP), co-founded by the man who wrote the “bible” for modern web design, made it their mission to get all the guilty parties on board. Which they eventually did… and the rest is history.

Fuhhh, now that the intricate part is out of the way… introducing…

Project WSMY, 2006

Web Standards Malaysia, or as it was fondly dubbed WSMY, was set up with the sole purpose of reaching the local web community on the benefits of web standards.

Web Standards Malaysia (2006)

That’s a snapshot of wsmy.org when it was launched 11 years ago.

Wait what… “Responsive Web Design” in 2006? In the era of not-really-smart-phones!? Well… not really. While it was how we were approaching web design at the time, the term itself obviously weren’t even coined yet. If I recall correctly, we called it future-proofing our websites.

Fundamentally, that’s what web standards was all about. To make sure the contents published on the Web are accessible and usable not only for all (if not most) users, but also on the devices we’re using now and in the future.

And therein lies the problem. While some (like myself) embraced adopting web standards in the way we work (and with that said, it required major adjustments in processes and thinking). The same could not be said about most web designers and developers at the time.

In anything that involves change, there will be resistance. Not everyone took kindly to the advocation of, among many other things, the end of Flash. Neither were everyone of us able to foresee next generation of the Web take place.

So to open minds and soften hearts, we (re)focused our efforts at WSMY in showcasing and discussing the potentials of web standards when used creatively, from the design thinking aspects to the web services it inspires, as can be seen in this screenshot.

Web Standards Malaysia (2007)

Of course Project WSMY would not have been what it was (even how briefly) without the help of my good mates Suffian Rahman (a killer writer) and Raz Hoe (a badass programmer), and the support it got from our web community. Love all of yous. <3

Looking back admittedly, WSMY would have benefitted from more TLC on my part. It’ll always be one of the projects I wish I could roll it back. Not gonna make excuses, this one is on me.

Joining the mothership

While there were plenty what ifs during the project, the say whaaat moment was when I joined The Web Standards Project as member of its International Liaison Group. Even though my participation were limited, it just felt so surreal being part of the grassroots coalition. I still remember the call. And get goosebumps seeing my name on its website to this very day (excuse my intro copy hahahah).

WaSP ILG members

After that, what happened?

I took a rather different career path than most of my peers in web standards by way of focusing on the marketing/advertising side of the digital industry.

While it may have seemed as a shift of focus, truth is the opposite. I figured that if I were to affect the kind of change web standards envisioned, best to do it where the most users are going to be at.

In the years since 2006, I’ve wrapped my head around UX problems and gotten my hands dirty on UI design and code for some of the most visited websites in Malaysia.

From re-imagining how you do your online banking more efficiently to seamlessly being part of your decision making process when purchasing a new car. Plus other digital experiences that’s not only delightful to use but actually solves business problems.

All these projects, some of which were industry game-changers (as we were told), would not be successful without incorporating the processes and thinking of web standards.

As Charles Mingus once said…

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.

Till my next post.