Why Web Standards Matter

We talk a lot about the importance of building standards compliant (specifically validating our sites xhtml 1.0 “strict”) semantic websites. Sounds like a lot of gobley gook . . . RIGHT? Well, until you consider that “xhtml strict”and semantic sites provide greater accessibility to a whole range of users employing any number of devices to access the web. We validate every site we build with the W3c validator and one of the primary concerns of the W3c is accessibility!

Standards Help Ensure Accessibility

The W3c standards work to try ensure a uniform and consistent user experience regardless of your browser, connection speed, screen size, user physical limitations, and so on. Just like businesses that are required to provide access to clients, customers, and guests regardless of physical limitations, the day would come when web sites would HAVE TO guarantee they provided access to users with certain limitations too.

Class Action Lawsuit Against Target

What I thought was a future concern, is now squarely here today, as reported by the LA Times on October 3rd, 2007:

Target Corp., the second-largest U.S. discount store chain, lost a bid Tuesday to dismiss a lawsuit claiming the company’s website wasn’t accessible to the blind.
U.S. District Judge Marilyn Hall Patel in San Francisco rejected Target’s request to dismiss the case. She also certified the case as a class action, ruling that all legally blind people in the U.S. who have been denied access to services at Target stores because of deficiencies in the company’s website can join the suit. Read Full Article

It is rare for a clients to ask, “What will (insert name of your favorite web design company here) do to ensure users with physical limitations can access our site?” But can you afford to ignore this issue? If so, for how much longer? The case against Target has gotten the go ahead to go to court and if the plaintiffs win expect more to follow.

What Will This Mean for You?

At the very least, it may entail a costly redesign of your current web site. So why not ask these questions now? At some point, as more of the world jumps on the web this issue will come to the forefront. So doesn’t it make good business sense to be ahead of the curve? I know for my business it does! Are we (GWS) completely there yet? . . . No and neither is the W3c. But, the W3c has drafted guidelines called the Web Accessibility Intiative (WAI). For Gorilla Web Studio this means, validating our sites xhtml 1.0 “strict”, working to make our coding of web sites as light and flexible as possible, and keeping abreast on current recommendations regarding accessibility guidelines.
The Bottom Line

Why should your company worry about web standards? Here’s 5 reasons why:

1. Maintenance and adding additional content is much easier. Faster/less manitanence = less $, when your site uses CSS and xhtml, rather than table based layout.
2. You ensure the greatest number of users can and will access your content. More users = more $$.
3. Standards based design works to minimize code and file sizes which allows your site to load faster. Better user experience = more $$$.
4. Search engines can read clean well structured mark up better, ensuring higher search engine rankings and relevance. More traffic = more $$$$.
5. Standards are the best bet that your current site will be compatible with future web technology. Re-designs = BIG $$$$$.

And who knows, a standards complaint site may save you from future litigation!


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