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Design without Standards? Pay the Price

Last updated Oct 17, 2003.

If there's one thing that motivates the check writer for a Web design project, it's to keep costs low. Remember the days of BETA and VHS video formats? The tapes weren't interchangeable and film companies had to shell out money to produce it for both formats or make the decision to roll out one format neglecting owners of the other. Eventually, BETA died and manufacturers created VCRs that worked with the standard VHS format.

The concept applies when not following Web standards. If the design works in only one browser, it takes more time and money to design it to work with other browsers. The workarounds aren't always easy and fast to implement.

Designing and building with Web standards increases the chance reaching greater audience no matter the Internet device used. Using XHTML 1.0 strict and CSS, the Web Standards Project (webstandards.org) Web site shows up nicely on a Palm handheld (http://www.zeldman.com/daily/pilot.html). No WAP code. No other special code.

Figure 1Figure 1 PC screen view of an older version AOL.com, which doesn't list a DOCTYPE or DTD in its source file.




Figure 2Figure 2 PalmOS handheld computer screen views of AOL.com are cluttered.




The Web Standards Project (WaSP) (webstandards.org) came to be when browsers makers failed to follow W3C standards. Designers were forced to create multiple version of a Web page to accommodate non-standard browsers. Users were missing bits and pieces of information because they used the "wrong" browser. When users couldn't perform tasks or transactions, it hurt the business. People with disabilities or special needs struggled to access incompatible Web sites.

Visual publishing tools that are used to generate Web pages spit sloppy code by adding extra unneeded mark up and neglecting to include a closing tag for <p> or <li>. The result is a Web site that can only be viewed on specific browsers while neglecting others, read potential customers. Out of motivation to address the problem and to educate the industry on the need for standards, WaSP formed. Since its initial formation, the browser makers have released or will release browsers that support standards. Having accomplished its original missions, the WaSP moves towards educating designers, clients, and site managers on the benefits of creating standards compliant Web sites.