Heroes of the Web

4 November 2004


A Blue Perspective: Heroes of the Web

Sir Tim invented it, Dave Siegel killed it, Jakob made it usable and the samurai got it standardised. There have been some great people who have made some huge changes for the Web.

But there's some people that slip under the radar; whose hands go unnoticed in their manipulation of the World Wide Web. They mightn't have made as big a splash as the names you can read in the sidebar of every web design weblog – in fact, they might have disappeared without a trace – but their actions still echo through the routers and cables of the World Wide Web.

The person I'd like to nominate as my hero of the Web is that pixelacious pattern perfecto: squidfingers. You're probably familiar with Travis Beckham's work, namely his gallery of free-to-the-masses pixel patterns, but if the name doesn't ring a bell then you've probably been unconsciously affected by him when you visited this site, or this site, or this site, or this site, or this site, or this, this, this, this, and this.

I don't think Travis can lay claim to creating the first ever pixelated pattern, but the arsenal of eye catching backgrounds which he presents and allows anyone to use willy nilly is mind boggling. The accessibility and quality which he has brought to pixel patterns has played no small part in establishing their foothold in the current state of web design, whether it be the brief taste of his patterns in the sites above, or the inspiration that his minute meanderings give to other digital decorators.

Because of squidfingers and others such as K10K, the background tile has made a strong comeback in web design over the past 2 years and is now an integral design element on a vast number of sites – adding just the right amount of visual complexity to the 800-by-600-constrained vistas of our widescreen monitors. The aliased beauty of these patterns has also complemented a stream of design that prides itself on pixel perfection, be it through isometric artwork or through smoothly refined interfaces.

Travis Beckham, I salute you and your uber-hip pixel pushing.

So who's your Web hero?




  1. 1/27

    sosa commented on 4 November 2004 @ 03:46

    I want to nominate mr. Shaun Inman, best webdeveloper/designer for my personal taste. His contributions for the css-zengarden are quite inspiring, his absolute clearing methods... IFR... shortstats... and things about CGI to PHP ...

  2. 2/27

    Cindy commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:04

    I do agree, Travis Beckham has provided so much inspiration to those of us attemping to learn the art of website design. Happily I stumbled across his site early in my pursuit of learning html and css, and in all my surfing since I've never seen a site I thought was more beautiful. Guess he'll always be my first website love ! Um, I mean hero !

  3. 3/27

    huphtur commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:17

    Mr. Zeldman for the web standards propoganda and making the web design world a fun place to work in again.

  4. 4/27

    Tanny O'Haley commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:44

    I also nominate Mr. Zeldman for starting so many of us down the road to web standards.

  5. 5/27

    Jason G commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:44

    Mark Newhouse. His articles at A List Apart ( http://www.alistapart.com/authors/marknewhouse/ ); Practical CSS Layout and Taming Lists pretty much gave me the tools to start really working with CSS.

  6. 6/27

    Beto commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:45

    Tough call... I just can't stick to one alone.

    In no particular order...

    The first Blogger team - Evan Williams, Meg Hourihan, Matt Haughey and Paul Bausch, for starting a revolution probably without knowing it at first.

    Michael Schmidt and Toke Nygaard of K10K for raising web design to an art form and influence upon thousands of young creators.

    Dave Shea for getting CSS out of the geek and into the chic with his Zen Garden Project.

    And Doug Bowman for liking our coffee (seriously!)

  7. 7/27

    Jonathan M. Hollin commented on 4 November 2004 @ 04:45

    I would have to nominate Ralf S. Engelschall.

    Ralf who?

    Ralf S. Engelschall [1], the man who gifted web-developers with the stupendously useful Apache module, "mod_rewrite" [2].


    mod_rewrite: "a rule-based rewriting engine (based on a regular-expression parser) to rewrite requested URLs on the fly. It supports an unlimited number of rules and an unlimited number of attached rule conditions for each rule to provide a really flexible and powerful URL manipulation mechanism. The URL manipulations can depend on various tests, for instance server variables, environment variables, HTTP headers, time stamps and even external database lookups in various formats can be used to achieve a really granular URL matching."

    Without mod_rewrite, a large percentage of existing websites would have to be completely re-engineered. mod_rewrite enables web-application developers to do really clever things with non-cryptic URIs whilst being totally transparent to the end user.

    Furthermore, mod_rewrite allows the developer to reorganise his web-server file-system or deploy a new CMS without breaking existing URIs [3].

    Put simply, mod_rewrite is one of the most useful tools in the developer's toolkit.

    "Despite the tons of examples and docs, mod_rewrite is voodoo. Damned cool voodoo, but still voodoo." - Brian Moore

    Sure, it has a steep learning curve, but the effort is justified and the documentation is excellent ([2], [4] & [5] etc).

    Ralf S. Engelschall has had a vast impact on the Web, but he remains one of the unsung heroes. Ralf, I want to thank you for making my job so much easier.

    [1] http://www.engelschall.com/ho/rse/
    [2] http://httpd.apache.org/docs/mod/mod_rewrite.html
    [3] http://www.w3.org/Provider/Style/URI.html
    [4] http://www.engelschall.com/pw/apache/rewriteguide/
    [5] http://www.modrewrite.com/

  8. 8/27

    Dan Bowling commented on 4 November 2004 @ 05:10

    Whether he wants me to or not, I want to say I appreciate Kevin Davis at http://alazanto.org as my personal web hero. I happen to be a student at the school he is currently interim web master of, and a large portion of what I know came from his direct teachings.

    Kevin is willing to spend the time to get things done right, and to spread the word about good design and standards.

  9. 9/27

    David Mead commented on 4 November 2004 @ 05:11

    For me there are a lot of heroes out there but I think Eric Meyer has made one of the biggest impacts on my coding.

    His easy-to-follow approach and in-depth knowledge has opened wide CSS and the potential of the web.

    Name check for Jeffrey Zeldman, Andy Budd, David Siegel, Douglas Bowman and Hillman Curtis.

  10. 10/27

    Florian commented on 4 November 2004 @ 06:05

    My web-hero is my colleague Helge Grimm who's kinda like the german Zeldman I'd say. ;)

    After hearing of web-standarts he was and is like possessed from the idea to make the web a better place for everyone. ... and stuff.

    He's the best colleague you can have when building table-free standard conformal web sites.

    His blog (in german): http://www.helge-grimm.de/

  11. 11/27

    Josh commented on 4 November 2004 @ 08:43

    The following two prolific gentlemen were teaching newcomers about Web authoring back when the heroes* of today's young Web authors first began polluting the Web:

    Jukka Korpela

    Alan Flavell

    * http://web.archive.org/web/19961219051816/www.zeldman.com/toc.html

  12. 12/27

    Dan Mall commented on 4 November 2004 @ 09:21

    My web heroes:

    1. Jason Santa Maria. http://www.jasonsantamaria.com. Jason has the largest degree of attention to detail that I've ever seen. His versatility throughout his work and work ethic is truly inspiring.

    2. Kevin Cornell. http://www.bearskinrug.co.uk. Kevin is the best illustrator I know and his sense of applying design concepts is unmatched.

    3. Shaun Inman. http://www.shauninman.com. Developers and designers must have gotten together and bred Shaun. That's all there is to say.

  13. 13/27

    Andrew Krespanis commented on 4 November 2004 @ 09:40

    Good call Cameron. Right on the money as far as the level of influence vs. lack of noteriety is concerned. I greatly appreciate Travis' work and have used one of his patterns before, but I wish he would officially deprecate the flower pattern on the top left of this page:
    He's done a great job of replicating a traditional wallpaper pattern, but if I see that one slapped in as the background on another random blog I'm going to be physically ill

  14. 14/27

    Yuan Qing commented on 4 November 2004 @ 14:32

    For me it's Dave Shea for CSS Zen Garden, Paul Scrivens for the Vault, and lastly Mr. Zeldman for his orange book.

  15. 15/27

    Bruno Czekay commented on 4 November 2004 @ 18:33

    Dave Shea! Undoubtly, he is _my_ hero. Just because of ZenGarden, of course. There are many others I should also point, but Dave was the first one to show me the power of CSS and tableless way.
    Later I've discovered (and I still discover) works of other persons, designing beautiful and well structured pages. Big Kudos for all of you, I'm proud to be able to bow my head before you.

  16. 16/27

    Nathan commented on 4 November 2004 @ 19:30

    To many people to mention I think.

    So I'll say anybody who cares about their work enough to do the best they can, I admire.

    Those that don't know how to do it, but work to find out, I admire also.

    I'm still learning so much, were it not for people like that, I would have no one to learn from.

  17. 17/27

    Patrick commented on 4 November 2004 @ 19:45

    Peter-Paul Koch. I find myself returning to his website whenever I've got a DOM/JavaScript query, and invariably finding answers.

    Oh, and his more than healthy pragmatism (at best!) towards web standards zealots resonates with me ;-)

    Go visit ppk at http://www.quirksmode.org

  18. 18/27

    Timmy commented on 4 November 2004 @ 22:59

    No doubt, Dan from SimpleBits is my Web Hero... everything he designs look good, simple (hehe i guess the name has something to do with it). He makes no waves, but does great Job...
    *** I vote for Dan from Simplebits ***

  19. 19/27

    Unearthed Ruminator commented on 4 November 2004 @ 23:38

    1. Zeldman
    2. Daniel P. Benjamin (HIvelogic fame)
    3. http://www.accessify.com/ - Ian Lloyd and crew have a great site.

  20. 20/27

    John commented on 7 November 2004 @ 09:52

    I restrict it to three generous innovators..
    Russ Weakley of http://maxdesign.com.au/ http://slayeroffice.com/index.php http://www.youngpup.net

  21. 21/27

    Filosof commented on 7 November 2004 @ 23:35

    My personal web heroes:
    Dave Shea, Eric Meyer and Paul Scrivens :-)
    But there are many more.. (for example you, Cameron Adams).

  22. 22/27

    The Man in Blue commented on 8 November 2004 @ 01:34

    Awwww ... shucks :o]

  23. 23/27

    John Serris commented on 10 November 2004 @ 01:02

    My heroes are the people creating tools which make my life easier:
    - Nick Bradbury for http://www.bradsoft.com/topstyle/
    - Chris Pederick for http://www.chrispederick.com/work/firefox/webdeveloper/
    - All the Firefox crew!

  24. 24/27

    Prabhath Sirisena commented on 12 November 2004 @ 20:29

    There are many heroes to name, but I'm really indebted to Russ Weakley, Doug Bowman, Dave Shea and Eric Meyer for showing me the way when I didn't quite know what I was doing or what to do next.

    And kudoz to Paul Scrivens for the CSS Vault

  25. 25/27

    Web commented on 22 November 2004 @ 15:32

    I have to say it's Larry Wall. Even thought Perl was not intended to serve the Web, it does now. And it makes my life 1000 times easier every day!

  26. 26/27

    Peter Locke commented on 13 January 2005 @ 21:03

    I'd have to say Rob Ford. He created the FWA. Without that, why else would we create anything?

  27. 27/27

    Athyrius commented on 10 February 2005 @ 18:48

    Lets not forget all the Uber-Innovators who hacked away at the NASA tech transfer prog that brought the net to the world at large.. Including Dr. Clark.

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