Standards: Work still to do

Apparently the battle over web standards has ended; it is certainly true that 68% of web designers seem to favour it. But do clients understand the benefits?

As I have posted recently, apparently the “web standards war is won”. Indeed a recent survey on seems to indicate that 68% of web designers who responded use web standards “most of the time”. Of course that still leaves over 30% who don’t. A recent thread on my forum drove home the point that many designers are still struggling with the subject. One poster wrote:

Paul keeps talking about how the new method separates content from design this is to my mind a delusion and incorrect. Most true CSS designs are very much a compromise in this fundamental area. The only designs that truly manage to do this are in CSS text books like Andy Budd’s CSS Mastery or Rachel Andrew’s Standards compliant Web site using Dreamweaver 8

However, convincing designers is not the whole battle. We also need to persuade clients of the benefits as well. Admittedly in many cases clients are led by us as designers. However, there are also a large number that want to maintain their site themselves and may not yet have been exposed to standards.

Let’s be honest here. Standards are not easy. Working with tables is often the much simpler option and in many cases clients will be resistant to the change. However, it is the overwhelming business benefits that make it the right decision. The problem is that we often fail to communicate those benefits clearly.

There is no shortage of articles and tutorials aimed at designers, helping them make the transition. However, there is very little aimed at business owners.

In an attempt to help correct this balance I am making next week’s show entirely focused on the business benefits of standards. It will be aimed completely at web site owners and will hopefully put forward a convincing argument for the need to change. My hope is that those listening to the show, and indeed reading this blog, will distribute the presentation and make sure as many website owners as possible see it.

  • Indeed a recent survey on seems to indicate that 68% of web designers who responded use web standards “most of the time”.
    If you read sitepoint you’re a fairly switched on web designer anyway.
    I’d say that’s far from representative.
    It might be representative of web designers who work on large site slike multinationals and universities, but not all 2 pages for £99 web designers.
    I’ve worked with people that designed websites (I won’t call them web designers) for graphic design agencies that have never even heard of HTML. They just use dreamweaver and don’t even know there’s a code mode.
    There is no shortage of articles and tutorials aimed at designers, helping them make the transition. However, there is very little aimed at business owners.
    I think you’re 100% right to focus on business owners.
    Most corporate jobs I come across require XHTML, CSS and AAA Accessibility these days. I’m sure they’ve got no idea why in a lot of cases (except maybe with AAA) – just because it’s a standard.
    It does put pressure on web designers to conform to those standards – otherwise you’ll lose the work.

  • I think that Richard is right to say that the Sitepoint survey is far from representative.
    Looking around the web, the percentage of ‘web designers’ websites that are actually made using standards compliant, semantic code is far less than 68%.
    There is still a very long way to go, and I think that considerable care should be taken when interpreting what could be seriously skewed statistics- or else we will only be fooling ourselves.

  • Marmot

    It’s my experience that alot of designers SAY they work to standards but a quick code view shows that isn’t always true. I hire contractors from time to time and I reject 90% of the CVs I get sent because they wouldn’t know a standard if it slapped them in the face, depsite claiming AAA skills!
    I also work in an organisation that has a policy to only create AA+ websites – infact we’re mandated to but this very week someone in a commercial development department who is trying to buy an inaccessible web product that accessibility was “academic” and “nice to have” because it was the only product he could buy. I’ve got another similar argument wrangling on with another department. Infact I have the same argument at least once a month.
    SO the battle is far from over. Idiots in companies are still buying non-standards web products from stupid companies, employing developers who don’t give a monkeys!

  • I get the feeling that, because you now have to pay for the guidelines (making them not very accessible!!) and because there is no strict list of items you must do to be “Standards Compliant”, people are extremely fuzzy about what it actually means.
    I’m quite fuzzy about it too as I dont have a copy of the latest WCAG, and so I think Paul, if you could do a podcast or even an entry on here as to the main items which are required for each level of complaince that would be amazing.
    If I’ve lost the plot please just let me know. ;)

  • Leah Moulds

    Well this topic always rears its ugly head, so to speak. Even as a web developer student I am finding myself that completely knowing all the standards can be a rather mammoth task. One viewing the W3C website it can be rather daunting on someone who knows about the standards let alone for someone who has no idea. As I am a hand coder, I find it is my duty, if you like, to know about standards and keep up with what is required from W3C “big brother”. In the long run it will only make me a better designer and encounter less technical errors. Just a thought on hte statistics, how many designers validate their htnl and css?????