Ten reasons to learn and use web standards

If you're a web developer or designer new to the concept of web standards and are undecided on whether you should spend the time to learn all about them or not, here are some of the most important reasons for doing so.

For web professionals who are already using web standards, this list may come in handy when you need good arguments. And feel free to add any additional benefits you can think of.

1. Make yourself look professional

Other web developers and potential employers will be able to look at your work and know that you are a person who likes to keep up with changes in technology and make sure that your knowledge and skills are always current. It will make you look like a real web professional.

2. Make your clients look good

Use web standards combined with best practices for accessibility and give your clients a chance to talk about how they cater to all people, and how they find it important that everybody can use their services or find information about their products. You will also avoid the bad publicity that can be caused by shutting out visitors like disabled people, Mac users, and mobile phone users.

3. Maximise the number of potential visitors

You don't know which device visitors will use to access your site. You may think you know, but unless you're building an Intranet for a company that has a policy on which browsers may be used you really have no idea.

The only thing you can be reasonably sure of is that they are using something that can parse HTML. By using web standards properly you make sure that you have done your part in making your site work with the largest possible number of browsing devices.

4. Faster loading and reduced bandwidth usage

Well-structured markup that separates structure and content from presentation is generally much more compact than table-and-spacer-image-based tag soup. Documents will be smaller and faster for visitors to download. Like it or not, there are still many, many people connecting to the Internet through dialup.

If your site has a hosting plan with a limit on free bandwidth usage, smaller documents will reduce costs - provided traffic doesn't increase.

5. Provide the foundation for accessibility

Using web standards does not guarantee that all aspects of your site will be accessible to people with disabilities, but it is a very good start. Make sure your documents are valid, well-structured, and semantic, and you're well on the way towards having an accessible site.

6. Improve search engine rankings

Well-written content delivered through clean, well-structured, and semantic markup is delicious food for search engine spiders and will help your rankings. This, of course, will lead to increased traffic, which is what most website owners want.

7. Make your markup easier to maintain

Would you rather wade through many kilobytes of multiply nested tables and spacer images or just browse through a clean and well-structured document when you need to update your site?

Removing, inserting or editing presentation-free content is much easier and more efficient than having to make sure you get all the presentational cruft right. Using CSS to control layout also makes it much easier to make site-wide design changes.

8. Future-proof content

There is no way anyone can guarantee with 100% certainty that the documents created and stored electronically today will be readable in a hundred years. Or even fifty years. But if you separate content from presentation and use current web standards, you have done the best you can to ensure that your content can still be read even after you're gone.

9. Good business sense

Why would any business owner say no to more visitors? A faster site? Improved search engine rankings? Potential good publicity? It doesn't make sense to do so.

10. It's the right way to do things

The web standards way is the way we should have built the web from the beginning. And now that we can, why not do something the right way and have a really excellent reason to feel good about yourself.

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Posted on December 6, 2005 in Web Standards