Library > Why Use Web Standards?

If you ask a 10-year-old whether standards are a good thing or a bad thing, she would probably say "good thing." Almost all industries eventually develop and enact standards. Web development is no different, though you'd be surprised and probably shocked to learn that most web developers hardly ever follow them.

Fortunately, web standards seem to be gaining some momentum within the industry. The winner of the last browser war, Microsoft's Internet Explorer, has become something of a benevolent dictator. One of Microsoft's winning strategies was a tighter adherence to web standards. For a while, IE actually became the browser of choice for developers because it was easier to develop for. Microsoft has since fallen behind the vanguard of standards compliance, but the benchmark has been moved much higher.

Web standards are changing the way web sites are produced. A big focus of the movement is the separation of information and style. Think of a web page in two packages: the content (headings, paragraphs, tables, lists, forms, etc.) and the instructions for how the page should look. The latter is called a style sheet and it describes the colors and layout of the page. By separating what a page says from how it looks, it becomes easier to view in different devices, easier to maintain and easier to produce.

We know intuitively that standards are a good thing, but why, specifically, should web development customers insist on them?

Lower Production Costs

Until recently, it was quite common for web development companies to make different versions of web sites to ensure that users with different platforms, operating systems, or browsers see web pages that look exactly the same. In the last few years we've seen a improvement in the adoption of web standards, so that this costly practice is not as necessary.

Lower Maintenance Costs

You can see the benefits of standards when doing any kind of maintenance. Replace a light bulb, a fuse, or your muffler and you know that when manufacturers employ common standards, things get easier to fix. Same thing with web development. The evolution of a web site can be a normal, healthy and painless process, if the site is created with standards.

Accessibility

People are using many different devices to view web pages. In addition to the common computer-based web browsers, more and more people are using PDAs, cell phones, televisions to view and navigate the web. People with disabilities also use a number of different screen readers. By using current standards, developers can ensure that their web pages will reach the widest possible audience.

Search-ability

If you've ever used Google, you know how powerful and important searching can be. Many pundits believe that searching will become increasingly important—over the world wide web or within a specific site. By using standards, a web site is more accessible to computers.

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