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Web Standards – Why They Matter

Written by Sam Bishop | January 8th, 2009 | SEO, Web Design | Comments


Web standards. Some of you may know exactly what they are and some may have no clue. I like to think of them as a sort of coding practice for any website project. Those of you in the industry have all heard of separation of structure, layout/presentation, and behavior. Most of the time this just means your structure is contained in your (x)html, layout/presentation in your CSS, and your behavior in your javascript.

I am going to list some of the benefits and hopefully anyone from a site owner to a developer can take something from this.

Makes maintenance a breeze
I have worked on too many sites with inline styles or even styles declared in each individual html file and the maintenance is almost NEVER easy. The Find and Replace tool is not perfect so the time it takes to make a site wide change is exponentially larger than if it would have been created with web standards in mind.  This gets especially painful when there is a mess of javascript as well. So to website owners, you could save a lot of money in web maintenance if your site is developed following web standards.
Search Engine Optimized
Because search engines spiders use content when determining where a site should fall in search engines (as well as a handful of other factors) it would make sense that the majority of your (x)html should be content. When you have all sorts of CSS (layout/presentation) and javascript(behavior) mixed into your code it makes it that much harder for search engine spiders to grab all of your good content. Another piece of web standards would the accurate use of (x)html tags. You would be surprised how many sites still do not use header (h1-h6), strong, and appropriate list tags (ul, ol, dl).
Faster Page Load Times
When you separate your code in separate files you can greatly increase page load times. For example just yesterday we recoded a single page that had javascript, html, and css all mashed together into 2 clean files. Our xhtml was cut from 167 lines down to 46 AND our css file was even a few lines smaller. Turns out the javascript was not even necessary thanks to css hovers. The load time decreased almost a full second through a cable modem page load (3.04 seconds to 2.1 seconds). This might not seem like a big difference but imagine someone trying to view this page on a DSL connection or worse still, a dial-up connection!
Sites Look Good Across Multiple Browsers
Now this is something I am seeing more and more and it’s not always the easiest to show someone. First of all ALWAYS bring a laptop to any client meeting that has multiple browsers functioning on it. You can always send screenshots but it is much easier to see it in action. What many people do not realize is that unless coded properly, web sites can look completely different on different browsers (IE, Firefox, Chrome, Safari, Opera, etc). Not only that but they can look completely different on the same browsers of different versions (IE6 and IE7 almost NEVER render pages the same with the same code the first time you test it). By coding with web standards you run the least amount of risk when looking at your site across different browsers and browser versions. I am saying that coding with web standards will give you the same results on every browser? Of course not but it is a step in the right direction and makes troubleshooting your code much easier when it’s laid out properly.

Hopefully you were able to get something out of this. If anyone has anything they’d like to add go ahead and comment away. Web standards are always evolving and have greatly helped CWS in its successes over the last 2 years.

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