HTML - not so simple

A while back, Patrick Griffiths at HTML Dog wrote about the need to take HTML seriously. I agree with what he is saying. It seems like many who wouldn’t recognize an HTML document if they opened it in a text editor still think HTML is “easy”. Well, it can be. It can also be quite difficult and complex. Like so many other things, HTML is easy to learn but difficult to master.

There is a need to make those who do not work with web development and design understand that coding HTML or building websites is not something anybody can do well without spending plenty of time learning how to do it. Actually, plenty of those who do work in the web business need to understand this as well. It’s amazing how rare it is to come across a web designer or web developer that really knows and understands how to use HTML and CSS the way they are meant to be used. On the other hand, it’s very common to meet people who refuse to unlearn the bad coding habits from last century because this new web standards thing is too difficult and the old way still works. These people haven’t made a decision to ignore semantics and keep coding presentational HTML; they don’t know or care about semantics or structure, so they have no clue that good HTML is based on just that.

So who or what is to blame for this? I believe WYSIWYG HTML editor applications like Frontpage, Dreamweaver and Golive are one culprit. The tendency of clients, managers and graphic designers to focus only on the visible part of the web is another. What you see is what you get. Or so some want to believe.

It’s very hard for many to accept that you really need to know what you’re doing to build a good website. I find that a bit strange. After all, most people accept that you need a driver’s license before you’re allowed to drive a car, or that becoming a world class athlete requires talent and countless hours of practice and training.

So, what can we do to make people realize that it takes skill, experience, and a bit of talent to create good looking, usable, standards-compliant and accessible websites? Can anything be done? I’ve been thinking a bit about this, and I’ve come up with some ideas, all based on the fact that not everybody is up to par on web standards, semantic markup and accessibility:

Just a few ideas on how to get started. What do you think? Is this the right way to go? Do you have other, better ideas?

Posted on December 31, 2003 in Web Standards, (X)HTML