Web Standards is defined as a set of rules or specifications that should be followed when developing a website. The main objectives of web standards are to separate data from the presentation, to enhance compatibility, accessibility, extensibility and maintainability and to make user experiences richer and more enjoyable.
"The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), along with other groups and standards bodies, has established technologies for creating and interpreting web-based content. These technologies, which we call ‘web standards’, are carefully designed to deliver the greatest benefits to the greatest number of web users while ensuring the long-term viability of any document published on the Web. Designing and building with these standards simplifies and lowers the cost of production, while delivering sites that are accessible to more people and more types of Internet devices. Sites developed along these lines will continue to function correctly as traditional desktop browsers evolve, and as new Internet devices come to market." (Source: Web Standards Group – http://webstandardsgroup.org/standards/)
Contrary to popular beliefs, Web Standards are more than just table-less CSS layouts or validated HTML and CSS sites. While having a validated site is necessary to adhere to Web Standards, there are much more to Web Standards than just validated code.
Web Standards include, but not limited to:
Being accessible to everyone
Accessibility has become a major challenge for the World Wide Web, with the Internet becoming a much-used source for information. Accessibility, in its simplest form, means the information or services offered on the Internet must be approachable by everyone, regardless of any disabilities. Abiding by web standards helps achieve accessibility to the greatest extent possible.
Being compatible with all platforms and devices
As with Accessibility, the information or services offered on the Internet must be reachable from any browsers or devices. For example, a user accessing a website from a handheld device should be presented with the same information as a user accessing it from a desktop computer. However, being compatible does not mean having to be the same or identical and browser compatibility can easily be attained by adhering to web standards.
Structural and semantic markup
Building websites with structural and semantic markup may sound easy and some might argue that having a validated code means having a semantic markup. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Semantic markup means the elements used to depict the content should correspond to the meaning of the content rather than presentation. For example, to be semantically correct, the heading of the page should be enclosed in <h1>, a list of navigation items should be defined as list-item elements, etc. Using semantic markup enables computer programs and technologies (such as Search Engines, Speech Browsers) to more accurately interpret the content and retain its logicality.
Separation of content and presentation
To successfully separate content from presentation, one must have a good understanding of semantic markups. Separation does not mean isolating different versions. Therefore, rather than creating a different version for a different device, separation of content and presentation should be achieved through the use of semantic markup and abstraction of the content from the appearance. Conforming to web standards to carry out the separation increases reusability, flexibility and maintainability of any websites.
“Usability is a term used to denote the ease with which people can employ a particular tool or other human-made object in order to achieve a particular goal.” (Source: Wikipedia) A usable website means an effective, efficient, easy-to-use, error tolerant and user-friendly website which enables users to accomplish their specified goals satisfactorily. The web standards and best practices will help you build websites which enables you to offer a better user experience.
By adhering to web standards, not only does it deliver future-proof websites which are user-friendly, accessible, adaptable and maintainable, it can also be ensured that the World Wide Web is utilized to its full potential.
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