The Importance of XHTML compliance
In order to make the internet accessible to all people, standards in programming were introduced. W3C is an organisation that promotes accessibility in web design by publishing specifications and guidelines and providing tools and software. Many web designers do not follow these standards because it requires more technical skill and because it is more time consuming. Although unless you create a handwritten HTML website, it is virtually impossible to be standards compliant. Even our handcoded static HTML websites may due to design contraints, cross browser compatibility or the use of Flash are only able to achieve 99% compliancy.
Why do so many websites fail compliance?
The failure of standards in website design is attributed to many popular website design tools and CMS systems that add in garbage HTML code. This is code that serves no purpose and has been put into the web page because either the website design cut and copied from WORD without editing out the HTML code that WORD inserted or through the very nature of these tools that in their attempt to make it easier for novice uses to create webpages, has the side effect of creating non compliant code. These programs try to preempt the HTML code the user should enter but computers unfortunately through their logic, insert HTML code where it doesn’t belong. As a result, website code is produced that may not necessarily render properly in all browsers and is usable for people with disabilities in co-ordination and visual impairment.
Also, the popular tools used to design and update websites fail to comply with W3C standards and because many website developers choose to use programs like Dreamweaver, Contribute, and Frontpage to design or update websites, the internet is littered with websites that are not XHTML compliant. As a consequence the visually impaired and people who cannot use a mouse to navigate webpages are being denied access to information on the internet. Increasingly many CMS systems claim to be standards compliant but every CMS we have tested to be compliant has failed compliancy. We will not list all these sites here, but if you find a site that claims to have a CMS system and also be compliant to standards, then simply, enter the URL in http://validator.w3.org/ . We are sure you will find that standards compliant CMS is a ghost.
Why, because the very nature of WYSIWYG editors, is a tool that writes HTML. Unfortunately, there is no tool that can write pure HTML like a person can.
Allow equal accessibility
If companies do not wish to hire website developers that can write strict HTML code that is standards compliant and they insist on using a CMS system or website design authoring tools, then they should ensure that disabled people have equal access to information and bookings through the Post or telephone.
Governments and organizations must understand that the internet is a great tool but it is not the answer to everything and by using the internet they are creating a social divide for those who cannot use the internet, are computer illiterate or do not have the capacity to maintain computer hardware and internet connectivity. To ensure fairness, every organization should consider how they can assist the disabled and socially disadvantaged to access the internet and ensure that very important information is always accessible to the blind and disabled by hiring the website developers that can write compliant code. This code should be tested and not just assumed to be compliant.
Advantages of compliance
Apart from protection from litigation, there are advantages to complying to web design standards which include
- ensuring that your website is widely accessible to people across the range of computers and browsers means that you will not lose a potential sale because your website did not render properly on the website visitors computer
- compliant sites rank better on search engines, increasing exposure of your website
- changes in technology, such as new versions of browsers are less likely to affect the way your website renders
- the design of your website will look similar for different browsers and computers. Without compliance, your website may look bad and it may not allow visitors to navigate your website. (However, for technical reasons which we will not discuss here, it may not always be possible to get 100% compliancy if you are after a particular look)
Why compliance is important to the internet?
The internet is about connecting individuals, businesses, governments and the key to its success has always been that it was developed on an open platform. Mobile devices and PDAs are now able to access the internet and regardless of whether you own an IBM compatible machine or a Macintosh computer, you are able to connect to the internet.
The free flow of information has fueled the growth of the internet but without standards, the growth of the internet is hindered. Imagine if you could not access certain sites because it did not support your browser or because of the type of computer that you had, eventually if it happened often enough you would stop using the internet altogether.
XHTML compliancy is a standard that all website should adopt, especially websites that are in the process of being redesigned or developed. Learning how to edit code for compliancy is not difficult. Passion Computing do not claim that our content management system is 100% compliant to standards but we have taken all reasonable steps to ensure that it is mostly compliant. If you do not update your website regularly, you are advised to use a static HTML website and learn to edit the code..