If you spend enough time on the web, you will have seen some mention of web standards. Or perhaps you have just seen those little icons on the bottom of web pages like the ones shown at left… But what are web standards? And how can they affect your website?
Standards is to HTML as Grammar is to English
Web standards can be thought of as a set of grammatical rules which govern the HTML ‘language’. According toWikipedia:
Web standards is a general term for the formal standards and other technical specifications that define and describe aspects of the World Wide Web. In recent years, the term has been more frequently associated with the trend of endorsing a set of standardized best practices for building web sites, and a philosophy of web design and development that includes those methods.
Are standards important?
There are many answers to this question, and many web experts disagree. So we’ve listed the main pros and cons below:
- Accessibility. By adhering to web standards, you maximize the number of devices (computers browsers, smart phones, PDAs, etc…) that can access your website. It also helps to ensure cross-browser-compatibility with current and future browsers.
- Search Engine Optimization. Believe it or not, websites that have valid code generally rank higher than websites that do not.
- Lower Maintenance Costs. If every developer who updates your website uses the same set of standards, then there will not be any need to ‘correct’ previous work, resulting in a lot of time saved.
- Bragging Rights. You’ll be in an elite group of websites which adhere to standards. And if you are looking to submit your website to directories (for more inbound links), there are plenty of directories which only feature standards-compliant websites.
- Increased Development Costs. Web designers and developers who are trained in web standards usually charge a higher price. Additionally, standards may take a bit more time to implement. So if your web developer is charging by the hour, you might be charged extra.
- Websites Without Standards Still Function. Most websites on the web are not compliant, yet they still work. Additionally, standards does not affect the user experience. There is no noticeable difference between a website with standards and one without.
- Content Management Systems May Be Incompatible. Many content management systems (especially older systems) are incompatible with standards. However, there has been a movement towards standards, so you might be able to find an open source CMS which produces valid HTML markup.
We are big fans of standards. For the most part, they make no appreciable difference on the operation of websites. However, the small benefits of search engine optimization and accessibility are worth the effort.
Is Your Website Valid?
To determine whether your website is valid, you can use a free validator tool provided by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). And if you are interested in fixing your website, the tool provides helpful hints. Tags: browsers, cross-browser compatibility, css validator, html validator, maintenance, open source