Usability & Accessibility, Web development

10 reasons to learn web standards

10 reasons to learn web standardsI was just talking to an acquaintance of mine (a php developer) about website design when we started discussing accessibility and usability. His response was:

Accessibility and Usability? Is that this web standards stuff people are all so afraid of? Nah f*** that, who needs to learn those anyway.

Well, so why are web standards beneficial, here is my top 10…

1. Improve the quality of the client’s website

Especially in these days of DDA-compliant websites, developing a website using web standards for usability and accessibility show that your client cares about everyone being able to access their website and products or services.

2. Create a foundation for accessible content

Using web standards do not fully guarantee that a website is going to accessible to everyone around the globe from day 1, but it sets a great foundation a for well-structured, valid and semantic website structure for your client’s website.

3. Increase the number of (return-)visits to a website

Looking at the amount of browsers and operating systems people are using, it may well be that your website looks fantastic in FireFox 2, but abysmal in IE5, potentially to a stage where functionality such as drop-down navigation is not working. If your website is a pleasant experience for everyone then you can guarantee that your website will receive a lot more (return) traffic.

Also, text lines like “This site displays best in FireFox 1.5” are a thing of the past. Please don’t use them. Ever.

4. Reduce bandwidth usage and loading times

Structuring your markup language well and separating structure from content is pretty much always more compact and smaller to download and display. Many people are still using very slow or dialup connections, and the competition only being once click away.

5. Improve search engine rankings

Search engines like well-structured, clean markup. Crawlers will find all relevant content easily, which in turns may increase your rankings. And higher rankings may mean more traffic, potentially leading to more enquiries.

6. Its makes business sense

Business appreciate a faster loading website, improved search engine rankings, more visitors and potential customers. Why wouldn’t you take advantage of that?

7. Web standards can speed up some maintenance work

If your website requires minimal changes then using CSS to control the look and feel of a page can be beneficial – just a few minor CSS changes and all your links are much easier to spot and body copy much easier to read.

Sadly this point is a bit of a double-edged sword, because depending on the changes required (and who does them – it could be that someone completely new to the site has to do the changes) it can take 5 minutes or 5 hours.

8. Content becomes somewhat future-proof

Tastes change, and so do corporate websites on a regular basis. By using web standards you can be sure that most of the content on the site will still be usable after a redesign. Not only that, having an accessible website that adheres to web standards means that this site can survive years without requiring massive amounts of maintenance work to cater for IE9 and FireFox 4.

9. Improve your skillset

Showing that you know about standards and know how to apply them is a skill that many employers and clients are looking out for. Over the last couple of months being a standards compliant web developer pretty much guarantees you an interview.

10. Web standards increase job security

Using web standards means there is less chance of your job being taken away by someone working in-house or is a friend of the boss. Learning and understanding web standards takes time, and if you are good at what you are doing then clients will keep in close contact with you throughout the years.

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