CSS Design

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web standards

If you ever get Nico running his mouth about the Web, you’ll probably hear something about Web Standards, standards compliance, the W3C, and a few other things that sound awfully bureaucratic like the Web Accessibility Initiative.

That’s a fair assessment of complication, so we’ve cornered Nico into writing up a short introduction to Web Standards and why they’re so crucial when developing effective business websites.

The Pros and Cons

There are five key benefits to building your site to standards:

  • Compatibility with web browsers today and in the future
  • Accessibility to all people and web browsing devices
  • Friendliness to search engines like Google and Yahoo!
  • Shorter page load times (for your visitors) and reduced bandwidth (for you, since you pay for bandwidth)
  • Faster aesthetic redesigns down the road

Sounds great, right? It is! But you know there’s a trade-off, so in this article, I’ll attempt to explain in layman’s terms the situation with Web Standards and how I like to handle it.

An Analogy

Well I see the Web Standards and Accessibility as one thing really the best analagy in in the form that is of a Blackberry Mobile Phone charger.

Stop that I can hear you laughing… Not literally and no I have not lost my mind! My dad recently bought a Blackberry Mobile Phone and we were all completely surprised and elated to find that straight out the box the phone came with an International Charger. No extra money needed to buy, just simply grab your phone and your charger and go anywhere in the world and you will have hassle free use of your phone.

So that is W3C and Accessibility, an all purpose fix with a go anywhere, use anywhere attitude. The extra bonus of Web standards and Accessibility is that you then also tend to generate a better friendship with our pals Google and Yahoo and gain brownie points in your Search Engine Optimisation strategy and your ranking.

On the flip side of the coin, I bought my girlfriend an iPod for Christmas and straight out the box it only came with a USB charger. That sucks big time as she now had to go and buy a wall charger for her iPod and then a separate charger for each and every other country she wanted to visit and have use of her iPod. To make matters worse you have to fire up your PC or Mac and leave it running simply to charge a stupid iPod. Great eco design Apple, I am sure the environment thanks you whole heartedly.

Mmm… need I say more?


So what the analogy was really about is developing products according to specification. And of course, the beauty of using these specifications is that it’s “future-proof”, so instead of redeveloping your site annually it now lasts on average for three years.

What about the sites that are not developed to specification? Trial and error, I’m afraid. We’ll IE8 has the “Compatibility Button” which will allow you to use a non specification site. Failing this I am afraid that your company has to go back to the drawing board. Whilst with a specifications ready site it will simply start looking a bit tired and out of date yet work as well as it did the day it was developed.

So What?

Well, okay, that’s a valid question. I’ve stretched that analogy far past its limits anyway.

On the Web, standards compliance means that your site will work as well in three years time as it does today, and if it’s time for a redesign, you won’t have to scrap the whole thing and start over. Your site will work out of the box on all standards-friendly web browsers.

It’ll work on mobile phones with under-powered browsers and limited bandwidth. It’ll work for people using assistive technologies like screen readers, disabled page styling or large font sizes. It’ll work for people whose IT department turns off their browsers’ bells and whistles.

Put concisely, your site will work for everyone, everywhere.

In addition, standards-compliant sites are better coded. Search engines are more able to determine what your site is about, so your site shows up in relevant searches more frequently, remember our old pal Google, yep you got it. Your pages will be leaner and lighter weight without all the craft and hacks we developers were forced to use in the past.

But it’s hard. Standards compliance is a lot of work. We create all our sites “by hand” remember your in Handmade CSS Design, we spend a lot of time keeping up to date with news, trends and the tricks of the trade. It’s a necessary investment, though, one that will pay out in dividends and stand as testimony to the quality of our work.

More Information

The Internet…

  • The Web Standards Project — a grassroots coalition fighting for standards
  • W3C – World Wide Web Consortium
  • WAI – Web Accessibility Initiative
  • WAVE – Accessibility validation
  • Colour Oracle – Colour Vision Impairment Assessment tool

Inside Handmade CSS Design…

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