Ten years later

Ten years ago today, we pulled back the curtains on a redesign of Wired.com. The actual design and the code that rendered it are long gone. But they were significant in their time.

The redesign of Wired News in 2002 marked the first time a large, well-known, daily-content publisher had dropped tables for layout, and embraced the separation of markup and style in a rather new (at the time) approach to web design. Several prominent blogs, and niche content sites (zeldman.com, meyerweb.com, alistapart.com) had broken ground, and were already using and evangelizing a greater adoption of Web Standards.

Halfway through the redesign process, I started plotting how Wired could support the standards movement not just by publishing stories about it, but by adopting it outright. If pure, valid XHTML to mark up the content and simple CSS for layout and style was enough for other sites, it should work for Wired too. I contacted Jeffrey Zeldman and Eric Meyer to let them know what we were up to. Their excitement over the prospect of Wired jumping on board hinted that this might be a big deal. We dove in head first, and never looked back. Not long after Wired took that leap, many other large, well-known sites and companies began following suit.

I note the tenth anniversary of this redesign, not because of what it was then, but because of how far we’ve come since then, and everything that has been set in motion since. Ten years is a good chunk of time to take note of progress, large and small. Some folks say common tools like HTML and CSS haven’t evolved much. But that misses the point of everything we’ve been able to do and experience because of our use and adoption of them.

Governments, news organizations, retailers, and individuals all around the world use our inter-connectedness in dramatically different ways, compared with ten years ago. Shopping, storing, organizing, and interacting online is now second nature to a massive global population. And increasingly, we’re doing all of this with small devices that fit in a single hand or a pocket.

As I look back on the past ten years, I can easily see how the path of my career, interests, friends, and professional connections were partially shaped by a little redesign in 2002 (now insignificant by today’s standards). A cascade of events and opportunities followed that point in history for me. It was just a matter of spotting them, and jumping on a few.

Where were you ten years ago? What were you doing, and what was your craft like then? Who do you know now that you didn’t know then? What brought you to where you are today? It’s fascinating to think of the journey from the events of ten years ago, all the way up to today. Just think of the next ten years…