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Adhering to Web Standards to Improve Business

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Taking web standards into account when designing a website may not be the primary concern for many site owners, but when it comes to finding an extra edge to improve their business, they are more than willing to do anything required to increase revenues.

Let’s see how complying with the Web standards can help a business website.

What are the standards?

On the Web, the main standards are the languages used when creating websites. The most wide-spread ones are HTML, XHTML and CSS. HTML or XHTML are used to create the backbone of websites – the structure. (The difference between HTML and XHTML is that XHTML was formed from XML and is forward compatible.) CSS, in turn, is used to style, format and position the structure and content.

What is web standards compliance?

Put simply, web standards compliance is using the web languages correctly. This involves using HTML tags properly and the way they were and are intended to use. For instance, one of the most common felonies against the web standards is using table tags for layout, while the correct usage is to use them only for tabular data (information to be put in tables).

Benefits of standards compliance

Creating quality, standards compliant code has a number of benefits:

  • website forward compatibility
  • increased site download speed
  • browser compatibility
  • easier site maintenance
  • broader target audience

How can this help the business?

Perhaps every entrepreneur asks himself right now, “And where is the money here?” The probably every benefit can either increase revenues or save expenses. Let’s look at them in detail.

Site forward compatibility

Web standards, such as XHTML and CSS, are designed to work forever. They will also be supported for an almost unlimited period of time. Designing a site with the web standards will ensure the website backbone will not need to be redone any time soon, which reduces the amount of work on the site and the expenses of the site owner.

Increased download speed

When using XHTML for content and structure and CSS for styling and formating, the page size is lower, when compared to a page, designed with tables for layout. For instance, a site with relatively small amount of images is 50% less than a table-based website. As users enjoy fast-loading websites (they start leaving after eight (8) seconds beyond clicking on a link), they will be more likely to become a clients of a web standards compliant website.

Browser compatibility

A web standards compliant site is displayed correctly (and looks the same) in all standards compliant browsers. Adjusting the site to suit a less helpful browser (Internet Explorer, for instance) is much easier with CSS than with tables. This saves enormous amounts of time for a web designer.

Easier site maintenance

When separating content and styling with XHTML and CSS, it is much easier to edit any of those, because they are located in different files. Should one need to adjust the look of the main page heading (

), he/she will just need to change a line or two in a style sheet to change the appearance of all headings on the website. Editing content is easier as well, because no styling and formatting is in the way and it is easy to spot the content in clean and semantically correct code markup.

Broader target audience

Furthermore, web standards are used not only on computers, but also by PDAs (hand held devices, palm computers), phones and other devices. A site, adhering to the web standards, will be either displayed correctly without edition or will require very little work to be able to display correctly on a platform, other than a computer. Such easy availability will make the company site easily accessible for a wider range of potential customers, increasing the chances of business success as well.

So what to do?

Naturally, there may be several choices for a business site owner:

  • do nothing and wait till something more noticeable becomes obvious about the web standards
  • wait, research the topic, get more proof and redesign with the web standards and the visitors in mind
  • redesign the site right now, either with the help of an in-house web designer or a professional, specialized company

Any of the choices above solely depend on the situation of the business site. Most probably, making a site web standards compliant will be most beneficial to starting or young websites, which will reduce the amount of work needed in the future. Mature websites can consider adjusting their websites to improve the quality of their visitor experience. Those, whose sites are barely important can live as they are, provided the site works. Thus, it all depends on the site owner and the situation the business is in.

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Yuri Filimonov is a freelance website optimization and usability consultant, who writes about improving websites to gain more visitors,
customers and profit at his blog, http://www.ImproveTheWeb.com.

Adhering to Web Standards to Improve Business
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