Web Standards, Who Cares?

5 comments | Posted: 17 November 05 in Tutorials, by Robert Evans

Introduction

For the uninitiated, this is a confusing and often meaningless question. Why should anyone who doesn’t design websites care about web standards? A simple reply would be if you use a website to display, advertise, sell, or interact on the web, and you care about it being presented and how it is presented to your target audience, then you should care about web standards.

Web standards are a set of best practices in using web technology to display content for an audience to view, read and learn about. This includes web languages such as HTML, XML, CSS as well as the DOM. Understanding these concepts is not within the scope of this article, but knowing that these languages help present content, design and functionality is.

Real World Examples

The purpose of so many different acronyms is not to confuse ourselves, though this often does happen. Rather, they are for dividing up the workload more efficiently. We see this in the business world. The manager has a set of employees to carry out different sets of tasks so he can focus on smoothly running the business.

Imagine if he did the tasks of all employees as well as overseeing the business. If this was a small business, it might be possible, but imagine if Steve Jobs the work of all his employees as well as running Apple. What would happen to the company? It would be a mess, literally! The same can be said for a website that does not divide up the work between content, design and behavior.

Understanding how content, design, and behavior should be separated for efficiency is just part of it. How does this affect you, the consumer? If you have a growing church, you may have a myriad of pages on your site: events, services, functions, audio sermons, video feeds, forum, etc.

What if you want to change the colors of your site because the old design is growing stale? If your site didn’t adhere to web standards, each and every page would need to be updated with your new colors. What if you have 100 pages or more? How much do you think a designer is going to charge you for this work? Or, how much opportunity cost will be lost, having a member of your staff wade through the code?

Reaching People

Now, compare this with a website that has followed web standards. There will be one or two files that are called Cascading Style Sheets, which could be changed. Then all of your pages, whether you have 10 or 1000 will reflect these changes. The cost would be significantly different than our previous example.

As a church or ministry website, your purpose is to reach an audience. Following web standards provides greater access to a larger audience. Now, I know this must sound obvious: You are on the web, so everyone should be able to go to your website. There is one thing to consider. How do people learn about your website who are not familiar with your church or ministry? Sites that follow web standards make their content easily accessible to search engines. This increases the possibility of a higher rating on search engines like Google.

Also, web standards make it possible for those who have disabilities to access your website. There are voice browsers that will read a page aloud for those who have sight impairments and there are programs that print websites in Braille. By not following web standards, you are possibly excluding this audience from knowing what you have to offer.

These examples I have presented are just a few of the important reasons why you need to be aware of web standards and make sure that your web developer adheres to them. You can save yourself money on the future changes site changes. You can reach a wider audience. Remember as Jesus did to help those with disabilities, and share what Christ has done for them.

Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Yannick

    Nice Article Robert. I was actually thinking of writing something similar but I guess you did it first. If I have any other points to add I’ll let ya know.

    Your Real World example brought across some of the benefits of using Standards and that I think is good and a prime reason why anyone including the church should use Web Standards.

    I think Nathan’s article on Web Terminology for Non-Geeks could also tie in a little with this in terms of letting people know what XHTML, CSS and the DOM is.

     
  2. 2 Heiko

    Interesting and excellent article and very nice page. I hope more and more people care about webstandards, that’s the reason why I created a blog about it. Wihtout standards at all, what a chaos!

     
  3. 3 Nathan Smith

    Heiko, welcome. That’s a nice looking blog you have there. That’s cool you have Particletree featured on your site. They’re a good group of guys. Feel free to share your thoughts about web standards on the forum.

     
  4. 4 Phillip A. Ross

    The Internet has changed drastically over the past five years, and shows no signs of slowing down. Conformity to web standards will help reduce the complexity that massive growth and technological development generate. One of the greatest problems regarding standards is not that web designers ingnore them, but that web browswers (I mean IE) ignore them.

    As important as standards are, there are also other web design concerns of at least equal importance, like site optimization, good copy writing, navigation and spam protection.

     
  5. 5 David G.

    Great article. I’m so tired of explaining the necessity of web standards to students who are only intrested in designing what they believe to be amazing web pages

     

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