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Earlier in 1990's, the web was mostly huge list of text documents linked together with the html tag. In those times there was no need for any standardization in web but today it is better that all websites follow the standards. Web Standards are defined by the W3 Consortium to ultimately standardize the WWW. Web Standards are the key for the transformation of attitude in the web design community (Jeffrey, 2003). These standards help the designers to make sure that the information provided by them is accessible to everyone and it also makes the web development faster and enjoyable.
There are lots of advantages in following the standards while designing a website and it makes the website even more special. Today there are many ways to access the web which was decided as impossible and there are lots of accessibility issues which need to be solved. These are possible only by following the standards which are defined to design the web. There are many that think the standards do not cover the most important things needed to design the web and they simply deny in following the standards (Jeffrey, 2003). Web Standards have so much to offer and in this report I have critically analysed the importance of the web standards in the accessibility, device-independency, backwards compatibility and interoperability.
HTML (HyperText Markup language), the first ever standard that is declared by the W3C and it is widely used on the Web. The HTML is usually referred as the backbone of the WWW because it is the most common tool use for designing the Web pages. The HTML tags are widely used on the web pages for adding structure to text documents (Molly & Shirley, 2002). Browsers intercept those text documents and represent the structure to the user in a specific way. HTML is one of the main reasons why the Web has become so popular over the years.
XML (Extensible Markup Language), is almost like HTML, but it allows the user to define their own elements and it also supports most of the fixed set of elements contained in HMTL (Jim, 2006). The XML allows the user to customize new tag elements according either to a pre-set DTD (Document Type Definition) or to one that can be personally defined. XML is much more flexible than HMTL and is totally future-oriented. XML is the standard through which the Web's full potential can be achieved.
CSS (Cascading Style Sheets), is a mechanism for changing the appearance of HTML or XML elements, by assigning styles to element types, self-defined classes of elements or individual instances (Jim, 2006). The overall appearance of entire websites can be defined with the use of CSS. This Standard was brought forward by the W3C to create a simpler and more structured WWW.
DOM (Document Object Model), allows the full power and interactivity of any scripting language to be used on a web page. Accessing the structure, content and presentation of the document which is written in such languages like HTML and CSS with the scripting language are very easy (Molly & Shirley, 2002). The DOM is compatible with future improvements in technology and it will allow any scripting language to interact with whatever languages are being used in the document. So the programming in dynamic HTML and adapting to future internet technology becomes much easier because of this standard.
The W3C is planning to introduce two more standards called the XHTML and the XSL and the W3C is now working on those standards. XHTML (Extensible HyperText Markup Language) is a transformation of HTML 4.0 into an XML application. XSL (Extensible Stylesheet Language) will be a mechanism though which XML documents will be transformed and displayed using a vocabulary specifically designed for XML.
ADVANTAGES OF WEB STANDARDS:
There are lots of advantages of using the web standards to build the web pages. There are lots of problems in designing a website like cross-platform and cross-browser which can be solved only by using the standards. The main advantage of using standards is the accessibility. It means the website which we build should be accessible in lots of ways.
Accessibility, Device-Independency, Backwards Compatibility & Interoperability:
It is easy for the non-disabled person to use the web and can understand things provided in the web easily even though those doesn't follow the standards. But in the case of disabled persons they use extra gadgets to help them use the web, known as assistive technologies (Michael, 2000). Some blind people use the web with a help of the program called the screen reader, which has the speech synthesizer that reads the contents of the web page. Braille browsers that translate text into Braille, hand-held browsers with very little monitor space, teletext displays, and many other unusual output devices are used for accessing the web by the disabled persons.
As the number of ways to access web increases, adjusting to satisfy all the needs will become increasingly difficult some even say that these are impossible even today (John, 2003). To solve this huge problem the standards should be followed. Making the websites standards-compliant will make sure that it works properly in all old and new traditional browsers but also they will work with unusual browsers and media.
There are some consequences to be faced by ignoring standards. The most basic consequence is that the restriction in accessing the site. If the access to a site is restricted for many users then the loss will be heavy for both the user the owner (Michael, 2000). This can be explained clearly with an example, for a business site, denying access to even small portions of a target audience can make a big difference to the profit margin and for an educational site, if the access is restricted to some users the school-children will be affected a lot and also to children in regions with poorly-developed infrastructure who are best served by text-only browsing, or disabled students using specialized browsers.
This applies to all types of websites. When the standards are not followed and taking advantage of browser-specific features may be tempting but the increased accessibility which comes from following the standards will lead to far greater rewards in the long run (John, 2003).
Some of the most basic and most important ways of reading a website can improve the reading by a search engine spider. So in order to improve the search engine rankings for the website which build should be complied with the web standards. The search engines index the websites more accurately by accessing and evaluating the structural information present in compliant documents (John, 2003). The use of web standards makes it easier for server-side as well as client-side software to understand the structure of the document and adding a search engine to the website becomes easier and gives better results.
Standards are written so that all the browsers can display the content of the website and even the old browsers will still understand the basic structure of the web pages. Even though the newest and coolest additions to the standards are not supported in the browser, they'll be able to display the content of the site (Joe, 2003). The same, of course, applies to robots - systems that collect information from the site on behalf of search engines and other indexers.
The Compliant code gives you the opportunity of validating the web page with a validation service. The Validators process the web page and finds the list of errors (Simon, 2008). This makes finding and correcting errors a lot easier, and can save a lot of time. Compliant documents can easily be converted to other formats, such as databases or Word documents. This allows for more versatile use of the information within documents on the World Wide Web, and simplified migration to new systems - hardware as well as software including devices such as TVs and PDAs (Joe, 2003). The web interoperability also has some elements like separating the structure, presentation and behaviour in web pages, structural and semantic markup with the XHTML and DOM scripting based on the W3C DOM standard and ECMAScript.
Most web standards are basically developed with forward and backward-compatibility, so that the data using old versions of the standards will continue to work in new browsers and data using new versions of the standards will also produce an acceptable result in older browsers. In the lifetime of a website, it may go through several teams of designers and it is important that those people to understand and edit the code easily. Web standards offer a set of rules that every Web developer can follow, understand, and become familiar with. When one developer designs a site to the standards, another will be able to pick up where the former left off.
There are lots of problems faced by the web developers like developing different pages for different browsers and browser version. This leads to time consumption in developing two or more types of coding for a same page which makes it harder and even impossible to provide access to all the users. This situation gets even worse because of the addition of different hardware and software like telephones, pagers and PDA's which can be used to browse the web.
Web standards are developed by the organisations which are highly dependent on web and those standards are not so hard to follow in the process of designing a web page. Writing web pages by following the standards shortens the time taken to develop a website and makes the pages easier to maintain. The debugging and troubleshooting becomes much easier because the code follows the standards. The universal adaption of web standards are becoming much more important. The web developers who like to make the web a better place for everything they should and will follow the web standards to make that possible. All the web developers should know the importance of the web standards and should have all the knowledge about it to reach great heights in the designing a great website.