css naked day

on
April 10, 2008

For those of you who hadn't noticed, yesterday was css naked day. A growing initiative that asks site owners to disable their css for a whole day each year, leaving only the bare html of their site to guide visitors around. But is this really such a good initiative?

the sad silhouette of a dead forest

If you take a look at their homepage, you'll see that the list of participating sites exceeds the 2000 mark. Not an immense amount, but nonetheless quite an accomplishment. Furthermore, the rules of css naked day are tailored to pick busy web days to reach as many people as possible. They intend to make themselves heard.

me: the tech nut

When I first heard about this initiative I was pretty enthusiastic. html and css are a huge part of what I do each day, so the idea behind the project was something I could instantly relate to. It's nice to show that you have built a site that is still accessible and usable even though css is fully disabled. A good showcase of your strength and skills as a professional.

Furthermore, you introduce people to the whole world of web accessibility and the benefits of semantic and well-structured code. Sounds great, right?

me: the site owner

So I thought about signing up myself. I have a blog, I spent a lot of time thinking out a good structure and I spent time separating design from structure and semantics. But would I really subject all my visitors to a bare bones version of my site?

I thought about it some more, and decided I shouldn't sign up. From an accessibility and usability point of view, well-structured html and well-written css are important. But they are our responsibility, not that of our visitors. Accessibility measures are meant for those people who need them, which are still a minority. They are a big issue in our line of work, but they are not the problem of regular people visiting our sites. They expect to see a website, not to be subjected to the world of accessibility problems.

Even though the site of css naked day suggests linking to their site for extra information, is this really something we want to bother regular visitors with? Should they care about css and accessibility on the web? I think not. Furthermore, I believe that many people will just consider the site to be broken, or worse, crap. And who could blame them. After all, we didn't just add a design to our site to make it look nice. A design is also supposed to be functional, and it is crucial for branding. Something I consider to be quite important.

me: conclusion

So I didn't participate in css naked day and I would urge others to reconsider why they are participating. Maybe if you have a site or blog that is solemnly targeted at a html/css crowd you could participate, but if not you're bothering a lot of people that simply don't and shouldn't care about the problems we are facing. These are our responsibilities and the only way they should find out about them is when we have done a bad job.

So with all due respect for the people who set up the initiative, I can relate to the idea, but as a site owner I will not participate, and I hope others will think twice before signing up next time.