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Web Standards

The Question -

One of my customers asked me this question: “My website looks good to me, so there shouldn't be a problem, right?” And it was a valid question and it prompted me to write this brief article.

Consider this:

While your website may look good on your computer in your choice of web browser, how does it look on your customer’s computer? They are looking at your business, maybe for the first time, with their own choice of web browser, or with their own personal settings (larger font size, images turned off, etc.), on their Windows P. C., or their MAC, or a PDA or iPhone, etc. So taking care to ensure your website adheres to standards is an important step in ensuring you are projecting your business to the widest possible audience you can in the best possible light.

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C): A brief overview:

So the W3C (acronym for World Wide Web Consortium) is the standard to go by in website coding. This consortium is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web, and as such, among other things, develops standards for the World Wide Web. It is jointly administered by the MIT computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, European Research Consortium for Informatics and Mathematics (ERCIM) (in Sophia Antipolis, France), and Keio University (in Japan) with World Offices in sixteen regions around the world (Wikipedia, 2010).

“With almost 500 companies and organizations from the IT world contributing R&D efforts to the production of the W3C standards, these standards are truly the leading edge of the Web” (Hazael- Massieux).

Set your site up for success:

So choosing a website designer who designs websites that are W3C compliant is a very important first step in setting up your site for success. When I create your website I run the first page of the site through a W3C validation. The validation process runs the page through a set of standards and rules, ensuring compliance. If errors are found I correct them to ensure the site architecture is sound and I have a firm foundation to build upon. I make sure the website is up-to-date with the latest technologies. I continue to run the website's pages through the process as I build out the site.

Two main validation processes:

There are two main validation processes I go through on the W3C:

  1. valid xhtmlW3C XHTML: I code using XHTML, which is forward compatible to enable the use of XML, extensive mark-up language. XML allows for more flexibility: It is fully compatible with applications like Java and is platform independent. Valid XHTML code also helps with web browser compatibility: in older versions and better rendering on the latest ones.
  2. valid cssW3C CSS: I use Cascading Style Sheets (CSS): My web pages are linked to style-sheets that separate markup structure (XHTML) from layout which has numerous advantages such as: faster and easier site maintenance, faster page download. The style-sheets have their set of rules.

It's worth the effort:

While making sure your website compliant with the latest standards may take a little more time and effort up front, it can save costly time, money, and God forbid, customers, if not done at all. Going back and recoding an entire site to be compliant after it is done is putting the cart before the horse.

I have worked on, and still maintain, some older websites that are not compliant. These sites were not originally designed by me and the clients don’t want them redone. If I run a page from their site against the W3C validator I get pages of errors. While the site may look OK visually, the horrors behind the scene cause numerous issues: the pages load slower, search engines don’t like them, they don’t look good when viewed with some browsers, and the pages take me much longer to work on. This adds up to more costs to my clients. But, alas, I have to respect their wishes to let sleeping dogs lie.

Other additional checks and balances . . .

In addition to running my website's through the W3C validation process, my web design software includes a validation checker, link checkers, and web-browser compatibility checkers. These tools all help me produce more powerful, stable, accessible website's for my clients.

See how your page scores: Contact me for a one page analysis of a page on your current website. I will send you a brief report on how it stacks up according to standards. You can e-mail the web address of your page, or call me at 815-214-1004 to discuss it.
Hazael-Massieus, Dominique. "Buy standards compliant Web sites." W3C.org. W3C, 04072009. Web. 12 May 2010.
"World Wide Web Consortium." Wikipedia. May 1, 2010. Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. 13 May 2010