Your website needs to look good, but it also needs to be accessible. For that reason we are firm believers in the use of Web Standards such as CSS and XHTML when designing and developing websites.
Developed by the W3C and other international standards bodies, web standards are more like a set of guidelines than inflexible rules. They offer a comprehensive set of best practices that help produce high-quality websites that are accessible to as many users as possible. Using web standards helps to reduce the cost and complexity of development while increasing the accessibility and long-term viability of your website.
When a website is said to adhere to web standards, it means the document consists of valid HTML or XHTML, uses CSS instead of tables for layout, is properly structured and semantically marked up, and—most importantly—works in any web browser.
It is important to note that “works in any web browser” doesn’t mean “looks the same in every web browser.” Making a website look identical across browsers and platforms is next to impossible; not even by using only images can you make a website look the same everywhere. Documents published on the web will be accessed by an ever-increasing variety of browsing devices on several operating systems, with monitors of varying size and quality (or no monitor at all), by users whose proficiency ranges from expert to beginner. Using web standards ensures that all of them can read and understand your message.
Benefits of using Web Standards include but are by no means limited to:
Decreased time required for development and maintenance. By using properly structured and clean HTML, we’ll help make it easier for you and anyone else to make future changes to your website. By its very nature, web standards also aid in the separation of design from content. Using CSS as the presentation language for your site means you can easily update the look and feel of the entire site without having to change one line of copy.
Future-proof. When you build a website using defined standards and valid code, you future-proof your documents by ensuring that future web browsers will be able to understand the code you have used.
Accessibility. Standards-compliant code plays nicely with everything from Google to assistive reading devices and everything in between. Browsers that don’t offer compliant CSS implementations can now simply skip the style and go straight to the un-modified content—ensuring that your message gets across.
Reduced bandwidth. Standards-compliant documents are often 40-50 percent less bulky than their non-friendly counterparts. Add to this the fact that CSS style sheets are cacheable and never need to be downloaded more than once, and it’s pretty easy to see the reduction in your monthly bandwidth.
Search engine optimization. It’s no big surprise that when Google comes knocking at your website’s front door it’s going to take away anything and everything that it can find. Using semantically correct mark-up for your content ensures that both you and the search engines have the same idea about what parts of your page are most important.
Improved experience. Sure, it’s easy to quantify cold hard cash, but there are other less measurable benfits, as well. Smaller pages mean quicker load times for your viewers, and we all know a lively site will nearly always translate to a better user experience than a huge interface squeezed through a pokey modem connection. The lasts thing you want to do is make your audience wait.
Adaptation. A semantically marked-up document can be readily adapted to print and alternative browsing devices like PDAs, cellular phones, and Power Point presentations, just by linking to a different CSS file.
—Joe Shindelar, web ranger