Coding with Jesse

How do web standards benefit visitors?

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.

Published on February 1st, 2006. © Jesse Skinner

About the author

Jesse Skinner Hi, I'm Jesse Skinner. I'm a web development coach focused on reducing developer burnout. I work with web development teams to reduce stress through automated testing and deployment, scalable infrastructure, and the modernization of painful legacy systems.

Through customized training and coaching, I empower teams to adopt new technologies to improve their workflows and make work more enjoyable. Feel free to email me. I'm eager to hear about your challenges and see how I can make your life easier.