Analogy for Web Standards

April 10th, 2010

I was watching an episode of Holmes on Homes today and found myself relating a lot of the things Mike says to my own profession. You may know that he likes to “make it right”. Well, so do I. And that’s why it disheartens me to see shoddy code on a site that someone paid for.

One thing Mike said on the show I caught today was “someone paid X dollars for this and it’s just a cover-up” (paraphrased because my memory’s not a DVR).

I thought of a site I’d seen recently made by a local design company. Curious about others in the business around here, I peeked at the code. Hidden under a flashy Photoshopped veneer were lines upon lines of useless code that didn’t display anything in the browser. They had been swept under the carpet, so to speak, by using inline styles to make them invisible. Anyone with an appreciation for web standards and semantic coding will cringe along with me on that one, I’m sure. It makes me think that whoever made the site was using the wrong tools for the problem, either a visual editor (no actual coding) or a content management system that was intended for a completely different purpose.

But a web design is not a physical thing like a house. It doesn’t show faults or wear in ways obvious to the average client. If web designers/developers were mechanics or carpenters producing sub-standard work, they’d likely have many unhappy customers and would soon be out of business. I think most people really don’t care about what’s under the hood of their website though, as long as it shows up in their browser and can be clicked on.

I’m not saying the average client is dumb, but they do need to be educated. Another thing Mike said on the show, again paraphrased: “if you can explain to them why a little more money is needed to make something that much better, most people won’t have a problem paying it.” So, good coders should be able to explain why standards compliant code is the best for a website. It may take a little more time for the developer to get it right, but when they do, the result is a website that will:

  • stand the test of time (new browsers and technology like mobile devices),
  • be friendly (to search engines and users, including those with disabilities), and
  • be a breeze to edit (by either the same or other developer) when it’s time to expand.

I could go on about this and go so much more in depth, but for now I think I’ve made my analogy and can leave it for a bit.

What do you think? Should standards in web design be enforced somehow or at least taught? Should clients care? Shouldn’t web professionals at least care?

1 Comment

  1. I wish clients did care about the state of their websites… Too many clients pay people who are not ‘professional’ web designers, but instead someone who has read a few articles online and picked up a copy of Dreamweaver.

    I’m not sure there is much we can do :(

    Comment by Henry — April 11, 2010 @ 4:41 pm

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