Be Good Not Bad by Brian Warren

17 May 2005

U.S.’s new Dollar Coin and the Web

The U.S. is talking about doing another dollar coin. We seem entranced by this idea of catching up with the rest of the world with our money. We recently tried, somewhat half-heartedly, colorizing our $20 bills, though I’d say we have a little ways yet to go there.

The dollar coin makes plenty of sense if they do it well. The coin needs to be thicker than the current Sacagawea dollar, but not as big around. Thicker so you can tell what you’re about to pull out of your pocket, not as big so that it’s not cumbersome. In Europe I saw some great examples of this, and I enjoyed using their 1 and 2 euro coins.

One Euro Coin Two Euro Coin

I also suggest a $2 coin for the U.S. One annoying thing about the current dollar coin is to have $10 in my pocket, I have to have 10 rather large coins jangling around. If we have a blend of 1 and 2 dollar coins, I’d be more likely to have 5 or so coins. Much nicer.

Europeans have done great in this regard. Those who haven’t gone with the euro have their own “dollar” coins. The U.K. have one-pound and two-pound coins. The swiss have one-franc and even five-franc coins.

So, as much as it makes sense to go the coin-based route, the U.S. idea of having multiple standards for one denomination is just crazy. Right now we have the Eisenhower dollar coin, the Susan B. Anthony dollar coin, the Sacagawea dollar coin, and the George Washington dollar bill.

Sacagawea Dollar Coin Susan B. Anthony Dollar Coin Eisenhower Dollar Coin

This shows that the U.S. hasn’t tried very hard to get people to use anything but the dollar bill.

Three years after its introduction, a General Accounting Office poll found that 97 percent of American had not used the coin within the past month, and that 74 percent could not remember ever using one.

Nonetheless we keep trying to enter the foray of dollar coins. But the problem is that the U.S. never jumps in with both feet. Congress makes it clear that “any new coin would augment—not replace—paper currency.” At the same time they’re trying to get people to adopt the new standard while assuring people that they don’t have to adopt it.

The parallels with web standards are painfully apparent. Advocates for proper web standards design like myself get grumpy when we try to move forward with good design and proper coding but are held back, or at least slowed down, by bad web browsers to which we constantly have to cater.

Typically Microsoft was the major culprit here, as in the 90s they pretty much broke the web for the rest of us by introducing and persisting with multiple standards for website coding. However, this summer they are going to release a beta of their new web browser, Internet Explorer 7. They stand a chance at actually doing a good job of adopting web standards (I know I’m being overly optimistic here). This could be very good for we designer folk, however not everyone will upgrade. For a good long while we will be adding hacks in our code to cater to those stuck in old browsers. Moving forward takes time.