The Importance of Web Standards

Monday, February 4, 2008 by Mistlee

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The Importance of Web Standards

By Dustin Brewer

There is a lot of talk amongst designers about why web standards are important, sometimes it is a bragging point to say that you know a lot about CSS and HTML and can make a good site within standards. Some of it is just a line to make whatever you are doing sound better. I hear a lot of local Oklahoma web design companies talk about web standards but for the most part I see some of them still designing in tables or not even getting the bare minimums in when it comes to web standards.

This article is going to be directed at web design firms, web design clients and web designers everywhere. The importance of web standards is more then just something to say, it is the way the web should be designed. There is more then just passing an HTML or CSS validator when it comes to standards. Even so there is more to making a site pass coding standards, accessibility being the primary objective. Accessibility is usability, it isn’t just about disabled it is about ensuring that your site will work from the time it is published until the end of time if it needs to. I’ll go over different web standards and accessibility guidelines and how they can be implemented, used and maintained better then just exporting a document out of Adobe Photoshop or throwing together an insane unaccessible image map.

Web standards are important for maintainability

When it comes to making something work, you don’t want to use duct tape where nails should be used or glue where something needs to be welded. Using the right tools for the job is part of any project, whether it be on the web or in your backyard. The solution to most problems when it comes to web is to ensure that you are adhering to web standards as best you can within any given project. This ensures for longevity of the projects life with little or no structure maintenance.

When you use web standards the way they are meant to be, like safety guidelines, you are separating out presentation and structure so when it is time for a redesign you are making it as easy as possible to simply replace a stylesheet or two rather then recode an entire site. This ability may not be necessary for all sites but when you are dealing with a large project it is very difficult to go back in and change all of the HTML within the site.

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Web standards are important for usability

Using web standards in your design will ensure that you are appealing to the majority of people that may visit your site. You don’t just want to make your site accessible to just one browser, such as Internet Explorer or Firefox, you need to make sure that it works across as many browsers as possible. It is sometimes difficult to get it working perfectly across all browsers but you really have to make sure you are paying attention to browser usage numbers. Right now most people should be checking Firefox, Opera, IE7, IE6 (there are ways to test multiple versions of IE) and Safari. These are the most popular browsers being used, I personally don’t go beyond that set of browsers for most projects.

The amount of people actually using some of the older browsers are so few that at some point you would be sacrificing design to make up for the 1 or 2 people a month you may see using these browsers. When you make your site in web standards, web compliant, you should be able to mostly get the web site to look the same across all of these browsers. When it comes to Internet Explorer though, you have to make exceptions some of the time. There are ways to target Internet Explorer using an if statement that can help you change some CSS to get your site to work right in different versions of IE.

But as long as you are ensuring that your design is semantic and standards compliant then you should be able to ensure cross browser compatibility in your web projects.

About the Author:
Dustin Brewer is a web and graphic designer with a passionate interest in everything that is technology. He currently is the webmaster and editor for tech filter, a technology news web site, as well as a writer for Gadgetell-- a similar web site about technology news with a strong focus on new gadgets.

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