Web standards? You can’t afford to ignore them anymore.
Just two years ago, coding your site to the emerging guidelines from the World Wide Web Consortium was next to impossible. After all, many surfers were still saddled with browsers from the days when Netscape and Microsoft deliberately built incompatible products.
But now, thanks to outspoken advocates such as the Web Standards Project (aka WaSP) and developers who refused to choose sides, browser makers have stopped using HTML as a weapon. Today’s browser offerings are more and more alike in their support of standards such as CSS and XHTML. Microsoft and AOL-Time-Warner-Netscape seem to have taken their battle to lock up consumers elsewhere.
The change comes just in time:Most sites’ million-dollar boom budgets have been cut to as low as a few thousand bucks. According to the WaSP’s official estimate, supporting incompatible browsers adds an average 25 percent to site budgets. So maintaining different code for two, three, or more browsers is no longer an affordable option.
Instead of trying to support multiple versions of the same pages, it’s much more cost-effective to piggyback on the millions of dollars Microsoft, Netscape, Opera, and others have spent building standards-compliant browsers and just stick to using standards-compliant markup on your site.
If you don’t, you may be relying on bugs instead of features to deliver the goods. They won’t work forever. And by focusing on specific browsers instead of one syntax that works for all of them, you may be locking out surfers with alternative Web gadgets or special technologies, such as talking browsers for the blind.
Still, times are tough. As one developer said, “Try telling your boss about standards when she just found out her accounting firm didn’t have any.” With that in mind, here are three simple, fast, cheap things many sites can do to come up to speed on standards and make your site less costly to maintain.
The first:One line that makes all the difference in the world.
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