HTML and CSS Coding Standards - Who Cares?
May 28th 2015
As a tech I think every business owner should realize the importance of HTML, CSS and W3C Validation. What is that you ask? I'm glad you did...
HTML – is the markup language used to create a web page.
CSS – is the stylesheet language used to style a web page.
W3C is the organization that works within the industry to establish standards for the world wide web.
In a nutshell, HTML and CSS are the key components that allow website developers to combine images, text, video and whatever else comes along into what website visitors see as your “web page”. A lot of people think that web pages are created by dragging and dropping things around and the internet takes care of making it all work automatically. While there are programs out there that add to this perception, the fact is that websites are made out of code. W3C helps the world set standards for how this process works so that visitors to websites can be reasonably sure of a good experience.
Today, website browsers like Firefox, Project Spartan (now known as Edge),and Chrome use the code that your website sends to your visitor and does it's best to turn that into a working web page that reliably portrays the look and feel you are trying to convey. One of the challenges in this is that browsers such as Internet Explorer and Safari may not follow the same standards or implement the same features available in HTML and CSS resulting in a page that does not work or display in the way you had intended – even on a website that is fully HTML and CSS compliant.
Another challenge is that today's visitor is coming at your site using everything from their wristwatch, iPod or SmartPhone to their laptop, Smart TV or super duper desktop computer with dual-monitor displays. In the 90's through the 2000's, most visitors were visiting your site using a standard resolution such as 800x600. Today, they may be visiting your site on a device that supports 272x340 all the way up to 3840 x 2160 and it doesn't stop there. All this variation means that your website code is being processed on many different systems and that can mean each visitor may get a very different result. To help ensure your site looks and works well for the vast majority of your visitors you need to make sure your code is properly W3C compliant.
Wait a second... I think there's something else that's very important I haven't mentioned. Something that is as important as your target website visitor, or perhaps even more important. Yes, you've probably guessed it. Google and of course Bing, Yahoo and the rest of the search engines. Search engines go through the internet looking at websites and their powerful servers make decisions on what websites to rank and what keywords they will be ranked for. Since search engines are computers, they generally pay a lot of attention to HTML and CSS standards – even contributing to the standards themselves – so that they have some way of automating the process of going through your website and getting accurate results to display for their search engine visitors. Where a human may not see the errors on your pages, chances are good that the bots and spiders search engines send to check out your site will, and these errors may be the difference between a good search engine ranking and not showing up where need to.
Ok, that all make sense but doesn't my website designer takes care of all of this for me?
Maybe... Maybe not. A lot of business folks make the mistake of thinking that a website designer and a website coder / developer are the same thing. Website designers tend to be trained in graphic arts. They often use powerful graphics programs to make visually stunning looking graphics. Some web designers use programs that help them turn their designs into HTML and CSS. Others may have staff or contractors that take their designs and code them out into web pages. Some designers actually code the web pages themselves. Often, however, someone more on the technical side is responsible for turning the design into HTML and CSS code, and that person may be the website coder or website developer. Whatever the case may be, it is usually up to these folks to provide you with pages that have W3C compliant code. The unfortunate reality, is that it is very common that websites are launched and often go for years failing to be W3C compliant.
It is also important to realize that the internet is evolving at a very fast pace, and that standards are constantly changing. What may have been fully compliant 3 years ago may not be up to the standards of today. What matters here, is that your visitors and the search engines don't care about 3 years ago, they care about right now. It is important to be aware of how your website displays today.
As the owner of a website, you should not assume things are ok with your online presence. To help you make the most of your website investment, you should be checking on this regularly, making sure that any issues are being handled quickly and effectively. Our recommendation is that everyone should be checking over their website on a monthly basis. It's kind of like visiting your doctor for check-ups or taking your vehicle in for it's regular maintenance and oil changes. If you take care of your website, and treat it like it's an important asset to your business, it can help take care of your business needs. If you neglect it, it might result in lost opportunities or let you down when you need it. For most websites, it's a small investment that can lead to great results.