What is a good standard? According to my economics professor, a standard is just the dominant design in an industry. This means that if your company is first with an application it might create the standard. It also means that a standard might not be the best design or the most efficient, it is just the one with the widest use.
What are Web Standards?
Benefits of Web Standards
Standards give us lots of things:
- web standards allow us to write web pages that display consistently in most browsers
- web standards allow us to write XML applications that will work in other locations than where we wrote them
- web standards allow us to switch between computers and software and still build consistent sites
But even with all the benefits of standards, it's still very common for developers to write programs that are not standards-based.
Why Do People Not Write Standards Compliant Web Pages?
There are many reasons why people might not write standards compliant HTML, CSS, or web pages.
- Some things are not reliable in the standards - like video - it's really hard to put up video in standards compliant HTML and CSS
- Some companies require aspects of HTML, CSS, or browser support that are outside the standards - such as support for older browsers or video like I mention above
- Some companies, especially browser makers, want their extensions and browser features to become the standard, and the only way that will happen is if these features are used so people can see them
- A lot of web designers think that writing standards compliant code is just too much work
- And finally, some people just don't realize there is a standard
Web Standards Have a Purpose
One of the reasons that it is possible to learn HTML in just a few days is because there are standards. This means there are rules that you can learn to follow. Without standards, HTML and CSS could do anything that anyone could come up with, which would be much harder to learn.
Standards mean that when you write
<a href="http://webdesign.about.com">Learn Web Design</a> a link is created on the page like this: Learn Web Design. Without standards, some browsers would support
<a href... and others would support
<link ... and others would support
<anchor... and so on. Web designers would have to learn all of the different tags. If you think it's hard now to learn the different IE hacks, it would be even worse without standards.
In the world of the web, having standard tags for bold, italics, lists, links, and other tags ensures that we can have a choice of what browsers and applications we want to use. If we're comfortable using Notepad we can still post pages just as well as someone writing in an online tool on their hosting provider or someone using Dreamweaver. But when the standards aren't followed, we can't use standardized tools, we can't use standardized browsers, and we lose all the benefits of standards.
How to Use Web Standards
- Know the standards. If you're not familiar with them, you won't know if your pages are compliant.
- Use standards compliant browsers. This means upgrading to the most recent version of your favorite, most of the current versions are compliant.
- Use standards compliant authoring tools and editors. If you don't know if your favorite tool is, find out.
- Validate your web pages for compliance.
- Hold other web developers up to the same standard. If you see a site that is not compliant, ask them why not. And before you email me, I know the About pages are not compliant - it's not up to me. Write to About.com's Customer Care to comment.