Standards Aren’t Exciting
The word Standards is not one to excite anyone. Standard was once used as the name for the banner of flag that was carried ahead of the king or the army. The standard lead the way. Standards were exciting then.
Then the marketing people adopted the word. The standard version of a product became the less glamorous, utility version. Of course the implication was that any savvy purchaser would buy the Professional version with all its bells and whistles.
Even Stars Don’t Make Standards Palatable
A recent Associated Press item confirmed that standards aren’t getting respect, even when they’re glorified with stars. The 105-year-old Michelin Red Book of Restaurants bestows stars only on restaurants that can meet and maintain its high standards.
However some French chefs, who have had Michelin stars for 50 years or more are giving up those stars. Philippe Gaertner’s restaurant in Ammerschwir, France, has had a Michelin star since 1938. He now feels he can better serve his customers with a different balance of quality and cost. He will lose the star but his customers will get equivalent quality with up to 40% lower prices.
Standards Should Work
To be useful, standards must reflect reality. They must be legitimate and useful in that a goodly number of suppliers want to observe them. They must also ensure that customers receive the product benefits they have paid for.
So what About The W3C Website Standards?
Standards for the programming of websites are set by the World Wide Web Consortium, often shortened to W3C. There are standards for different parts of the website codes and also for different levels of complexity of website coding. Unfortunately it is only a minority of websites that succeed in meeting the standards.
Do Standards Matter?
Different visitors to a website may be using different browsers. If a website does not validate according to any standards, then the browser adopts a Quirks mode. In other words, it uses its own best judgement on what the website designer probably intended by his non-standard coding. In this guessing game, it may well be that the website visitor does not see what the website owner hoped they would see. If the website does not follow the standards, the web designer can give no assurance about the quality of the work they have done.
So Why Don’t More People Follow The Standards?
The problem is that the way of doing things has been set by an 800 lb. gorilla. Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, particularly in earlier versions, worked with coding that is not valid according to the Standards. Since the majority of website visitors will be using Internet Explorer, some website designers take the easy way out. If the website looks OK in Internet Explorer, they say the job is finished. If the website owner uses Internet Explorer as well, then her or she may accept the website based on a quick visual inspection. They are not requiring that the website comes with certified quality.
This is somewhat paradoxical behaviour. Many organizations invest much cash and staff effort in ensuring their organization operates on the production side according to the latest ISO standards. Yet on the marketing side, where the penalties for poor quality may be much more severe, they accept a visual inspection of the sales tools they are buying. This is done even though objective standards are readily available.
Why Worry About Other Browsers?
If the website works in Internet Explorer, isn’t that enough? Unfortunately as time goes on it becomes less and less satisfactory. If the potential customer uses another browser, say Mozilla Firefox, they may well not wish to switch just to check out one potential supplier. If the website ‘breaks’ in Firefox, that potential customer may well assume that this may be typical of the products from that supplier. Overall at least 20% of website visitors may be using a browser other than Internet Explorer and this percentage is growing. This percentage may also be higher for visitors in highly technical markets.
The W3C Standards Are More Likely to Ensure Website Visitor Satisfaction
The best solution is to follow the W3C standards. All browsers then know exactly what the website designer had in mind and can display the web page in a predictable way. Even though some browsers have some unusual ways of interpreting the standards, there are usually well-known ways of accommodating these known anomalies. This is the surest way of designing effective websites. So your potential customers will see exactly what you hoped they would see.