Bloggers: 8, Gurus: 0

This one might only be for those of you who are HTML-inclined, but it’s a still a good read (it’s worth reading if only for Herasimchuk’s hilarious commentary). Andrei Herasimchuk over at Design By Fire recently ran a little competition that pitted the websites of various Web design and usability gurus against those of some well-known Web design bloggers. But ​“competition” might be a bit too generous, as the bloggers soundly trounced their opponents.

Personally, I loved it. I spend a fair amount of time reading gurus like Jakob Nielsen, but I seem to spend a lot more time at the sites of bloggers such as Zeldman. Why? I’m not really sure, but it’s probably because I have much more in common with them.

Mind you, I’m not comparing myself to the likes of Zeldman and Greg Storey (good gracious, but Airbag is a handsome site), but they come at things from a perspective that is much closer to mine. That of someone who is down in the trenches, trying to fight the good fight and bring the Web kicking and screaming into an XHTML and CSS-designed promised land, one site at a time. They’re wrangling with browser deficiencies and incompatibilities, wonky code validators, CSS hacks, box-model designs, and whatnot, same as me.

I’ve been trying to get my co-workers to start moving towards standards-based XHTML and CSS, showing them examples that highlight the advantages (and hurdles) of such an approach to Web design. Which means spending many an hour wrangling with code that renders fine in every browser except for Internet Explorer, thanks to some minor difference in how float values are handled (which usually involves me hurling many obscenities at my computer). The bloggers feel my pain, because they’re dealing with it just like I am, whereas the gurus, for all of their punditry, always seem rather removed. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to Zeldman or Airbag and have come away inspired and refreshed, confident that there is hope, or at least reassured that someone else understands my frustration.

And of course, the fact that all of the bloggers’ sites feature really smart, slick designs certainly doesn’t hurt, either. I find it slightly ironic that many of the ​“experts” have such incredibly lacklustre designs. Their content may be indepth and detailed, but the presentation always leaves something to be desired (and in some cases, is so underwhelming that it actually hurts their credibility). Heck, with all of those big consultation fees that come rolling in, maybe the gurus should hire the bloggers to have a go at their sites!

Last year, there was an unofficial competition to redesign UseIt, Jakob Nielsen’s site (in case you don’t know, Nielsen is probably the most recognized expert on Web usability). Some of the designs, such as my personal favorite, were really solid, such that I’m sure plenty of individuals and companies wouldn’t mind having them as their own.

I certainly can’t see how it would hurt Nielsen, or any guru, to pony up for a more attractive design, one that maintains the usability and organization they so cherish while enhancing their content and professional, ​“expert” image.