Coding with Jesse

How do web standards benefit visitors?

February 1st, 2006

Why do web standards matter? It's easy to say that web developers who ignore standards are unprofessional, but it's not so easy to explain why.

(If you haven't yet, read my last post to see what I mean by 'web standards'.)

Web standards are fun, cool, exciting. Right? This might be reason enough to use them on your own web sites, but you won't be able to convince your clients to use them just because they're cool (that is, unless your clients really wants to impress their web developer friends).

What do your clients care about? Visitors, of course. The people actually using the web site. If they don't notice a difference, what's the point, really? Sure, your visitors might judge your web site with the W3C Validator, but face it, only other web developers are ever going to view source. On this web site, my visitors ARE web developers. But what about the 300 billion other web sites?

Now, hold on a sec, I didn't just say we should go back to designing with nested tables and invisible GIFs! I'm just saying we need to focus on the goal here: benefiting our visitors. So how do web standards benefit our visitors?

  1. Faster web pages.

    The site will download faster because the HTML will be smaller. If there is a single external CSS file for the entire web site, visitors can download it once and cache it, making the whole site download faster. Also, browsers can draw borders and background colours using CSS a lot faster than downloading border and background images.

  2. Usable by more visitors.

    If you've separated design from content, users without CSS can still get the content and use the website. If you've separated the site's behaviour from the content, users without JavaScript will still be able to use the site without a problem. If you addressed accessibility, you allow visitors with disabilities to access the site. The last thing we want to do is turn visitors away just because of how they choose to surf the web.

  3. Search Engine Optimization.

    How can people benefit from your web site if they can't even find it? (That is, unless your web site doesn't benefit them at all, in which case web standards aren't going to make any difference.) The search engines don't award points for design. All the extra tags and attributes will just distract away from the content. Using text instead of images and using semantic HTML (especially h1 tags) lets the search engines better index the content and interpret the structure, and this will help the page rank higher in search results.

These should be reasons enough to stick with web standards when creating web sites, and certainly enough to convince sceptical clients that web standards are the best choice. Next, I'll list some ways using web standards benefit web designers and developers.

Update: When I say 'web standards', I really mean 'Best Practices'. Read more here.


1 . Jim on February 7th, 2006


Faster web pages? Nope. You are confusing adherence to specifications with separating content from presentation.

You can use external CSS with invalid code. You can use font elements with valid code.

Usable by more visitors? Possibly. But Javascript has nothing to do with it. You can write a valid page that is completely broken without Javascript and you can write an invalid page that works fine without Javascript.

Please, do yourself a favour and stop treating "web standards" as a meaningless buzzword that you use as a synonym for "code I like".

Complying with the standards does NOT mean:

* Separating content from presentation.

* Writing accessible code.

* Using text instead of images.

It means one thing and one thing only: to comply with rules described in "the" standards (in reality there's many standards to choose from).

2 . Jesse Skinner on February 8th, 2006

Jesse Skinner

As I addressed in my last post, you're absolutely right that valid code isn't enough. When I talk about following 'web standards', I'm talking about a lot more than validity. I'm also talking about following the recomendations of the w3c. I'm talking about following the "philosophy" as much as the rules.

But you're also right that I'm abusing the term "web standards". Unfortunately, I don't know what else to call it. "code I like" certainly isn't the point... maybe we should just call it "w3c recommendations"? Any better ideas?

3 . Jim on February 8th, 2006


"Best practice".

It's a term that's used throughout many fields, and it fits the bill exactly.

"W3C recommendations" is a bad term because it confuses it with the term they use for finished specifications.

4 . Jesse Skinner on February 8th, 2006

Jesse Skinner

That's really great. I'll be sure to use it for now on. Thanks, Jim.

5 . ConversionJunkie on May 27th, 2006


This is an awesome post. I learned a lot of great tips and pointers. Thanks for the information!!

Comments are closed, but I'd still love to hear your thoughts.