Interview with founder of Fadtastic - Andrew Faulkner


I have known Andy Faulkner for a few years now. He is always a pleasure to be with. His eyes glint with excitement whenever we discuss his favourite subject - web design trends. He is a man of enthusiasm, a man obsessed by functionality, usability and aesthetically pleasing websites, a man who loves to push the boundaries of what technology can do for a user, a gentleman, a man with a horrendous sense of humour but most of all he is THE man behind the web design movement which is Fadtastic - the multi author web design trends journal.
Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, may I present to you a very special treat: an interview with founder of Fadtastic - Mr Andrew Faulkner...

Heya Andy. Its great to chat to you today. Firstly, introduce yourself...

Well, well, well. When you asked to meet up for a chat I didn’t think I’d be interviewed for fadtastic! I just turned up for free coffee. ahem.

As most of you readers know, I am currently the admin here at fadtastic. (fadmin?) ahem... again.

I design websites in Nottingham (UK) with the motto “Accessibility doesn’t mean boring.†I love the world of web standards and design and obviously have a soft spot for all the little design clichés and trends out there. I like to push the boundaries of accessibility and believe that accessibility is not (solely) about the validator. It’s about the audience – ALL of the audience.

Right, now the formalities are over – lets get down to the nitty gritty. You are the founder of a respected web community. What made you start it?

Good question. The first thing to mention is that I’m glad I started it. It’s brought a lot of joy (and sometimes frustration!) to me and I feel like I’ve given something back to the design world. It’s worth remembering that it’s the authors and readers that make this place what it is. Without them it would be just me and my soapbox. And an empty comments section.

The honest version of the start of fad goes something like this:

Back in the day (August 2005) I got wind of a new (to me) publishing tool called WordPress. Being a freelancer at the time with no programming skills, I was looking for an effective way for clients to manage websites. So I downloaded WP and gave it a try. But what could I use the test blog I set up for?

I obviously adored the world of design and so I started writing about something that never goes out of fashion – design trends. Trends can’t go out of fashion. After a week of playing with WordPress (and its plugins and themes), I had something that I thought I should build on. I used it just to practice blogging/CMS with. Then after a while I removed all the content and decided to go multi-author.

So a lot of passion and a little bit of luck started it off. The rest really is history.

Nice one, that’s really interesting and I’m sure all of us in the industry appreciate your efforts. Has anybody every told you anything negative about Fadtastic?

Of course. I think it is healthy. A site which doesn’t get any negative feedback does not evolve or innovate properly in my opinion. Everyone learns from their mistakes.

On feedback: It’s very easy to write “It sucks.†It’s also very easy to ignore those kind of comments. Always, always, always give constructive criticism. Without a reason, feedback really isn’t feedback.

It is also very easy to jump on the defensive when given feedback. Take comments onboard, mull them over and then thank the person who gave the feedback before deciding whether to take action.

What do you see in store for Fadtastic in the future? Will it evolve or stay the same?

The core subject will stay the same for sure. I don’t see this could change and I don’t believe we will need to change the subject for our beloved readers to benefit from great content. With design trends, something new is always around the corner.

As for new projects, this year saw the launch of TrendWatch and our reviews section. TrendWatch will receive attention from myself in the New Year and I aim to really polish it and get it off the ground.

Johan and yourself are currently reviewing books and brands which in my opinion is a really interesting path to go down. A simple idea with the fadtastic spin.

I’ll open a playground to test some works in progress if time allows so readers can see what features we may offer in the future. It’s likely that we’ll try some innovative article formats and some audio/video soon too.

Rest assured that with all the changes happening ahead we’ll still keep our articles at the forefront of he site.

You mention accessibility and the appeal to ALL the audience. Explain what you mean for those readers who may not be familiar with these terms – what is accessibility?

Absolutely. I wrote an article/rant (http://fadtastic.net/2006/10/17/accessibility-let-it-be-for-all/) where I mentioned that in forums and blogs it is so often mentioned that accessibility is for disabled users. It is, of course. But not only for disabled users.

I think that accessibility should be discussed in a general sense in these arenas otherwise we may fall into the trap of newcomers to standards thinking that accessibility is all about ‘blind people.’ It’s simply not true – disability is a subset of accessibility. An accessible site allows all users to use a site as they expect to.

Recently there have been a few reports on websites which use accessibility logos and statements being inaccurate and sometimes false. Do you normally put statements or logos on your sites? Do you think they do much good?

On most sites I tend to avoid using the ‘valid XHTML’ and ‘valid CSS’ logos. For the average user, this doesn’t mean anything. For the world of standards to reach the mainstream world a more meaningful message should be used. An accessibility statement (or even better a general help section including accessibility pointers and why the website was constructed with standards in mind) will impress the user far more. This is real-world standards and means so much more to the end-user.

Saying that, I have no qualm with the buttons when used around the design/development circles. In this case it actually means something to the visitor.

Recently many usability “experts†have been criticized for the image they are giving accessibility. It is generally thought that people like Jacob Nielsen have been so extreme in their estimation of how sites should look that it has scared many graphic designers off bothering with standards. What are your views on people like Jacob Nielsen?

This could get controversial! Many graphic designers are turned off from the world of accessibility and usability after viewing a site like Mr Nielson’s. When reading material from a usability expert, it is important to understand that the content covered is often very technical. I have read two of Jacob’s books and his understanding of usability is fantastic. His ability to put across his points his also first-rate. But at no point does he say that a site cannot look good. One can follow his guidelines and still come up with an aesthetically pleasing website. His site is regarded as dull by many designers but there are many other sites which look great after following his advice.

So my conclusion is take his advice, but by all means use your own aesthetics to build on his work. Usability does not stifle creativity. It actually enhances it in my opinion.

Ok – great advice Andy. Lets finish up now. What is it you would most of all like to tell the readers of Fadtastic as we start a new year?

And so people, there ends my interview with Andy. I'm sure we would all wish to thank Andy for his efforts thus far and wish him all the best for the future.

Andy will be checking this post to answer any questions that you, the reader, may like to ask. So please, pop him a question or comment.