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The Official Blog of Acuity Knowledge Partners

Web standards and their importance in today’s digital marketplace – Part 1

Published on March 8, 2018 by Shenuk Alles

Browser wars were at their peak in 1998, and web browser makers such as Microsoft's Internet Explorer and Netscape's Navigator were trying to “advance” HTML to the point of collapse in an effort to one-up each other. Browser makers introduced new elements and new ways of manipulating web documents, and each browser interpreted HTML and Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) code differently; this escalated to the point where their respective versions were largely incompatible and some websites would recommend web browsers to be used for optimum viewing. This led to web users having to install multiple web browsers or web developers having to write additional code to ensure that their websites were compatible across all leading browsers.

Realizing that this fragmentation would inevitably drive up the cost of building websites and ran the risk of denying users access to content and services they needed, the Web Standards Project (WaSP) was founded to create a set of standards to make the web open, accessible and universal. These standards would go on to become ‘web standards’.

In 2001, with the browser wars largely over, the WaSP’s primary goal shifted to getting browser makers to support the standards set forth by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), the main international standards organization established for the worldwide web.

Web standards have been carefully designed to deliver the greatest benefits to the greatest number of web users, while ensuring the long-term viability of any document published on the web.

Benefits of following web standards include a reduction in the duplication of cheat codes to support content on multiple devices and browsers (e.g., duplicate CSS being added to support multiple browsers), avoiding legal ramifications in certain countries (more details on this in part 2), easier website management (less effort, hence less resources) and greater confidence in the design team.

The following are three types of web standards that are most relevant from a content-management perspective and will be discussed in this two-part blog post:

  • W3C standards

  • Web accessibility

  • Design library

W3C standards

Web standards are rules and guidelines established by the W3C to promote consistency in the design code that makes up a web page. It enables the viewing of web pages on a wide variety of browsers and computers, including via new technology such as iPhones, droids, iPads, PDA devices and mobile phones, greatly increasing the viewing audience.

It also promotes the use of CSS or design code, which is attached externally to the web page rather than integrated into the page. The use of style sheets significantly reduces the page file size, facilitating faster page loading and lower hosting costs for frequently visited sites. Design features such as colors and fonts can be easily changed by modifying just one style sheet instead of editing each individual page in a website, thereby reducing the cost of modification.

However, many appear not to be convinced by these benefits. The following are two of the most commonly asked questions about W3C standards:

“Lots of websites out there don't validate, including household-name companies.”

Do remember that household-name companies expect people to visit their websites because of their name, despite hosting dreadful websites. Can you afford that luxury?

“My site looks right and works fine. Isn't that enough?”

The answer to this is that markup languages are no more than data formats. So, a website does not look like anything at all; it takes on a visual appearance only when it is presented by your browser.

W3C validation

Validation is one of the simplest ways to check whether a page is built in accordance with web standards, and it provides one of the most reliable guarantees that future web platforms will handle the page as designed.

The URL or code can be uploaded to the W3C Validator, and the tool will output a list of errors, along with suggestions on how to fix them.

We will reflect on web accessibility and the design library in part 2 of this blog.

References

https://www.webstandards.org/

http://validator.kldp.org

http://www.minervaeurope.org/publications/qualitycriteria1_2draft/qualitypdf1103.pdf

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2001

http://www.soswebdesign.com/gallery/webstandards.cfm


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About the Author

Associate, Fund Marketing Services

Shenuk is part of Fund Marketing Services (FMS) at Acuity Knowledge Partners, where he focuses on the implementation of varied digital marketing strategies for clients.

He has over 11 years of experience in digital marketing and publishing, content management, business analysis, and client services. Additionally, he has experience in the application and execution of W3C standards, web design and applications, and web accessibility guidelines. Prior to joining Acuity Knowledge Partners, he was a Web Production Officer at a leading international bank.

Shenuk holds a Bachelor of Science (Business Information Systems and Management) and a Certificate in Telecommunication.

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