Web Standards

As I researched this week’s topic of Web Standards I was struck by how important they are going to be to me in my future of interactive media and web design.

Designing with Web Standards is going to separate the true professionals from the friend of a friend who knows a bit of HTML. Web Standards are definitely going to be in our future as web designers, I can see the handwriting on the wall. So, I better take control of my learning and make sure that I become very familiar with the Web Standards.

Web Standards are vital to your design for the following reasons:

1. Findability – can a search engine parse your whole site and can consumers find your site? If your design is having to rely on the error correction of a web browser, how much information is lost or hidden from the search engines? Instead of spending tons of money on Search Engine Optimization, why not a least start-off with a site that the search engines can parse.

2. Interoperability – can your website be translated to different platforms seamlessly? Can your design go from the web to mobile to printer effortlessly?

3. Longevity of your design – by using Web Standards, a designer insures the longest possible life for that particular web site. As technology changes, many of the older formats or pieced together formats will no longer be able to be accessed. This trend is only going to accelerate.

4. Legacy – even after the designer is gone, maintenance and alterations to the system will be less time consuming and less costly to the business if the design adheres to Web Standards.

5. Accessibility – by designing with Web Standards, the designer is at least headed in the right direction with web accessibility. While the W3C admits that Web Standards are not a guarantee of accessibility to those with disabilities, it is a great start. Already there are laws on the books about making your site accessible to disabled persons here and in Australia, (with Europe not far behind.) The ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) is about to be re-released and I am sure that there will be a section in there about web sites. From my understanding of the revisions to the ADA – everything is being thrown in there, including the kitchen sink – but I digress…

I now realize from my research that I will need to know and practice the web standards in my design. I might as well learn the correct way to design right from the start and then it will become ingrained and I will always use the standards without thinking. Learning something the correct way the first time saves a lot of frustration down the road. If I don’t learn the standards now, I will only have to constantly stop and rethink everything instead of just automatically doing the design.
An example of this is my fellow handbell ringer, we will call him “Bob.” Bob started in our handbell choir 10 years ago in the very deep bass. Our conductor is very treble-focused so she pretty much ignored Bob and let him figure out how to ring on his own. Needless to say Bob picked up a lot of BAD habits – he didn’t know any better, Bob did what he could figure out how to play. Contrary to what it looks like, there is an art to ringing a handbell and there are also many things you just don’t do as it looks bad (handbell ringing is very visual) and it can make the bell sound weird. Two years ago, Bob was moved “up” the bell table to play next to me. Now he is in “sight” of our conductor who is now correcting Bob left and right. Bob is really irritated and frustrated at the constant correction, and many times he falls back on his bad habits instead of playing correctly – it is just human. He is slowly getting better, but I think he would be enjoying the new position a whole lot more if he knew how to play correctly in the first place – again I digress…
I know that I may run into a legacy situation or the oddball problem that may require a unique work around, but if the foundation of what I do is always grounded in Web Standards, then I know that I will be creating the most professional and, in the long run, cost effective design for my client. This is one of the major factors in setting me apart from the mediocre web designers out there.

Comments, questions, tips on playing handbells? Please let me know…

Resources:
The Future of Web Standards – This is a chapter from Jeffrey Zeldman’s book, Designing with Web Standards, 3rd Edition. I got a lot of my information from this chapter and I think this book is definitely going to end up in my library – especially since it was just updated this year.

The Web Standards Project – again a very good article.

W3C QA – How to Achieve Web Standards – interesting Q and A about web standards from the W3C.

Why Should a Web Site by Compliant with Standards? – lightweight blog about Web Standardsow

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5 responses to this post.

  1. I think that it is exceedingly important that we have open standards when it comes to data and the internet in general. Everything we do today should still be available in the far future. We have learned by example in the US that not using standards sets us up for major headaches in the future. Case in point is NASA where they have some tapes that were recorded on a proprietary standard and now its nearly impossible to find machines that can playback the data which is invaluable to future manned missions.

    http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/FOSS_Open_Standards/Importance_and_Benefits_of_Open_Standards

    http://www.istl.org/05-spring/article2.html

    As a species we need to find ways to protect our future and the earth and all its lifeforms, open standards on our part cuts down on waste and it guarantees that information will more and more be open and usable by many more people. It insures that data is less likely to be lost and more likely to be included in the collective knowledge of humanity.

    Reply

  2. I agree that learning to do something the right way first is always the best way to learn. I am sorry to tell you that I can’t give you any handbell tips but I have played hardball. Anyway, I think that proper guideliness can be very useful in most things that designers do. Coming from a building/contracting background I agree that rules and regulations need to be enforced. However, I do have a problem when too many stipulations become part of every project and you find yourself trying to finish a job on time, and some rediculous rule was set in place that can’t be changed even when it is absolute common sense.

    I am not sure how closely related my comment will be, but In the construction industry things change over time and it is just better to start over than to try to fix what the last guy did. I am relating this to the comment about legacy. I do agree that if the project was done correctly the first time using web standards then there is a better chance of easily updating it than starting over, but in so many cases the technology has changed so much that the whole or most part of the project will need to be scrapped.

    Please digress all that you want, your points are enjoyable when you get to them.

    Reply

  3. with designers creating so many other designs with standards being what they are what happens when those standards when they are outdated?

    Reply

    • I do think that the web standards will evolve, but as they do they will still continue to be based on the old standards and hopefully designers will be able to make the new designs backwards compatible.

      Reply

  4. Posted by poster55 on November 30, 2009 at 8:02 am

    I like how you went into the actual details of what web standards are. When you think about it, it really makes sense to use web standards… as rude and anti-web as it sounds to run around saying “These are the rules to making a webpage, use them or we will hunt you down and ridicule you to no end.”

    The web is a different harsher world. People can get away with saying just about anything they want and they take full advantage of that most days. A lot of people see designing websites with the same liberty. Unfortunately as a designer you have a bit more responsibility to the community.

    Reply

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