Web standards explained

Today I have once again been working on the new Headscape site (yes, one day it will be finished I promise). One of things I did was write a brief introduction to web standards and I thought you might want to see what I have written.

For years, web designers have been secretly holding together your site with sticky tape and string. The code that underlay many sites looks like some kind of HTML soup with random nested tables and font tags roaming wild. However, things are changing… there is now a better way to build your web site.

Enter web standards

Web standards are about completely separating content from design. This means that the content on your site is held in the HTML and your design is defined by a special CSS file. This allows the content to be described semantically in the mark-up rather than being cluttered up with design elements.

So this:

<font color="#FF0000" size="6" face="Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif"> This is a heading </font>

becomes this:

<h1> This is a heading </h1>

Now isn’t that tidier, at least us geeks think so.

Why should you care?

It is important that your site is built using web standards because it offers you:

  • Better accessibility – Sites built with web standards find it easier to conform to disability legislation
  • Better print facilities – Have a separate print style designed especially for printing. No more badly printed sites! Try printing this page to see what we mean.
  • Backwards compatibility – Web standards ensures that your site will be useable on any browser no matter how old.
  • Delivery to multiple devices – By separating content from design you can deliver your content to a mobile phone or a touch screen kiosk just by changing the design.
  • Increased speed – Web standards produce cleaner code and smaller files. These download quicker increasing the speed of your site.
  • More flexibility – Because design is controlled by a small set of files, it is possible to quickly and easily change the look of your site without a complete rebuild.
  • Improved search engine placement – Search engines do not care about design, they only care about content. By separating the two, it makes it easier for the search engines to understand your site.

Avoid the sticky tape; make sure your web design company builds this way.