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Is your website standards compliant?

Mark Edwards
22-06-2003

The Internet is a rapidly evolving environment, however, there are standards of design, accessibility and operability of websites set by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).



As their website www.w3.org explains:

"The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops interoperable technologies (specifications, guidelines, software, and tools) to lead the Web to its full potential."



Whilst these recommendations are not binding, there are many reasons why they should be a part of how your business does business online.



Here are some of those reasons:



1. Accessibility.



Complying with W3C guidelines increases access and usability of your Web site for all visitors including those with disabilities.



Discrimination laws require governments, educational institutes, corporations and businesses to provide equal opportunities for people with disabilities. This includes equal access to electronic information and services in the same way that physical access to facilities is required. The Disability Discrimination Act 1992 can be found at:

www.atcbiz.com.au/index.php?d=f72a



In addition to users with physical disabilities, some users may find themselves in noisy environments where audio content is not easily heard. In a situation like this, having a text-based alternative is important. Increasing numbers of users access the Web with hands-free or even eyes-free devices.





2. Reduced maintenance costs.



One of the key elements of standards compliant design is to separate web page content elements from design elements. In maintenance terms this means the design or look of a site can be changed without changing each page individually.



Personally, I have found standard compliant websites require much less programming code. Less code means less time to write and makes the result much easier and cheaper to change later on.



Old coding technology using a nested table structure to lay out graphical elements on a website is very common and extremely difficult to modify without "breaking" the site design.



Making the decision to build a standards compliant site is a wise strategic move.





3. Better search engine rankings.



Search engines look for text elements in a web page. They do not understand graphics.



Following the W3C guidelines for standards compliance ensures that text elements predominate and the meaning of pages is clear from the text elements in the page. These pages are designed to be easily accessible to both users and the search engine software that does website ranking.



If you design a standards compliant site, users will find you more easily with search engines and your website will rank higher.





4. Increased speed of website downloads.



Standards compliant websites use a lot less code and graphical elements. As a result, they download much faster, which is a benefit to your visitors and your webserver.



My personal experience has seen around a 65% reduction in page size when moving to a standards compliant design. This means the resulting pages will load about 3 times faster!



There are many other technical reasons why a standards compliant site will respond more quickly than a non-compliant site.





5. Demonstrate your professionalism and social responsibility.



Owning a standards compliant site shows your visitors that you are a professional firm, aware of online standards and not using deprecated techniques.



Increasing the accessibility of your Web site and online services to a wide range of people with disabilities and other disadvantaged members of the community demonstrates your organization's socially responsible attitude. Importantly, our population is ageing, and with older age the incidence of disabilities increases. Raising awareness of the requirements of people with disabilities through the creation and promotion of an accessible website can help to influence your internal operations and attitudes, thus creating a workplace that is more attractive and accessible to people with disabilities.





6. Device independence.



While the primary Web device for some may be a multimedia-capable desktop computer with a high-bandwidth connection, those same people, and others, may also choose to access the Web with personal digital assistants, mobile phone browsers, or other, less capable Web devices, possibly over lower-bandwidth connections.



A standards compliant website is easily configured to suit other devices whilst a non-compliant design may become inaccessible.

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