Web design is a deceptively simple task: All one needs is a knowledge of a few HTML tags to start creating sufficiently impressive web documents. Due to the forgiving nature of web browsers, however, even if you make a critical mistake in your code, no error messages or warning lights will appear on-screen. As a result of this, the majority of web documents today are, technically speaking, full of errors.
Surprisingly though, some of these errors are actually intentional. In most cases, these errors are actually part of workarounds meant to combat browser incompatibilities. Different browsers render web documents differently, so what most designers do is to duplicate their code in such a way that browsers only read the parts that are meant for them. The trickery needed to accomplish this results in code that is difficult to maintain.
The detrimental effects of this become immediately obvious when one tries to visit these pages through alternative methods, whether it is with a simple text browser or an advanced web-enabled phone. Since it is impossible for the web designer to anticipate every possible setup the user may have when viewing their pages, the workarounds described above will fall apart, leaving the broken page exposed to the viewer. At its best, the page will still be readable from top to bottom. At its worst, the page will resemble a completely disorganized mess of information.
Coding according to the web standards as laid down by the World Wide Web Consortium will help solve most of the problems as outlined above. Contrary to popular belief, following the standards does not mean losing out on functionality or aesthetics. Instead, with the current availability of browsers complying to the latest standards, following the standards means that dynamic cross-browser code will be possible at last. Some of the benefits of standards-compliant code are as follows:
- Increased accessibility: If your document is W3C standards compliant, then any browser or device that is designed according to those standards will be able to access your document with any additional work on your part. As a result, your document will also be more accessible to the visually or physically disabled.
- Cross-browser functionality: With the recent releases of standards-compliant browsers, it is no longer necessary to code multiple versions of the same document for display on different browsers. Theoretically speaking, all these browsers will render standards-compliant pages the same way on every platform.
- Separation of Style: With substantial support for CSS in browsers today, it is at last possible to separate the style of a document from its content, eliminating the messy use of presentational tags to determine how a page looks. As a result, it is now possible to change the appearance of an entire website from a single file.
Besides these advantages, standards-compliant documents are also easier to maintain, since the resultant code is almost always neater and more organized. Besides, generic tags as defined by the standards allow for additional organization and the representation of meta-information, making the code more navigable than ever before.
Now that you know the advantages of coding by the standards, we invite you to learn more about these technologies and start using them for your web development right away. Our tutorials are but a starting point: More resources for standards-compliant coding are available all over the Internet, including the standards themselves, which are written in a concise and easily understandable style.
To help you get started, we have created some tutorials help you grasp the basics of three important web technologies: First, XHTML, a reformulation of HTML in XML. Second, CSS, the language used for specifying the presentation of XHTML elements. And third, the DOM, a programming interface for manipulating XHTML elements and their attached CSS attributes. If all this sounds complicated now, don't worry, because in reality these weird-sounding technologies are actually quite easy to implement.
Once you are ready to start working with these standards, you can also use our reference of all the tags and identifiers in XHTML and CSS. Although our tutorials will not cover everything that's available in the reference, it was not our intention to provide a thoroughly complete course on these subjects. That said, we hope you find our site interesting and useful nevertheless!