Web Standards have been developed and are in place to promote (or even preach) the need for consistency across code languages that are used when producing web pages, the same web pages that we all access and use in our day to day lives.
The W3C‘s work is centred around the standardisation of web based technologies and form the base from which web developers can choose to tap into the groups open resources and use them as a guide to produce high quality, accessible content. There are many standards that the group and its community partners have collaborated to develop and all of them point toward greater web access for all. Some people fear that standards are limiting but by following them we are in true fact, enhancing our web presence and preparing for the future. Developers that adopt these standards are allowing their web pages greater visibility in web searches and on a practical note, aiding a smoother transition when new technologies emerge. Standards are open to future improvements and mindful of past technology.
Outlined below, I have highlighted the standards and the importance they hold in continued and accessible web use.
Standards in Web Design and Applications point to the two fundamental technologies employed for building web pages and web applications; HTML (HyperText Markup Language) for structured content; and CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) for styling and formatting. Along with graphics and scripting, HTML and CSS are the cornerstone of web development. These are standards of code languages and are to be considered a priority in web development. The W3C provides an online code validator that allows developers to check the markup validity of their web documents. The validator identifies errors that need correcting and even suggests alternative solutions.
The W3C‘s WAI (Web Accessibility Initiative) looks to standardise web development so that it can be accessible to all including those with disabilities. The consortium have published the WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) guidelines for developers to achieve this type of reach into the diverse communities around us. The WCAG is considered as a priority standard and its importance is touted by professionals who work and specialise in different areas of web development. The topic of web accessibility was discussed in a previous blog post, linked and titled Web Accessibility – General Accessibility Standards and Requirements.
Accessibility standards also stretch toward the Internationalisation of web content. The W3C has set in its sights the mission of designing technology that is accessible across different cultures, languages and religions. HTML and CSS Standards are built on Unicode, a computing industry standard that uses character sets for translating the worlds languages.
The Web of Devices standard promotes the idea of web accessibility anytime, anywhere and with any device. Mobile web use has exploded into our lives with smart phones, tablets and other portable devices allowing users to access the web, whenever and wherever they wish. The W3C promotes ‘One Web’ that is available on any device. The groups Mobile Web Initiative helps developers understand how they can create content that provides a reasonable experience across different devices, contexts and locations. The W3C has developed standards of web technologies such as XHTML for Mobile, CSS Mobile and SVG Tiny address the specific nature of mobile devices while the latest generation of mobile browsers support these web technologies. The Mobile Web Initiative’s mission is to make the web accessible on as many types of devices as possible. The fact that the group have set the initiative, highlights this type of web access as the future and a distinguishable priority of web development.
Other web standards include and in brief, Web Architecture which refers to the foundation technologies that sustain the web. Its principles offer guidance and assist in the design of new web technologies, which is where XML Technologies step in. The XML (Extensible Markup Language) standard is a text based meta format that can be built upon and allows developers to write new application specific languages or vocabularies. Meta formats are the future and hold the key for the continued development of web based applications.
User agents which provide us with an interface to the web play an important role in web standards. The end users of these agents who speak foreign languages, use differing devices to access content and those that require assistive technologies are just some the issues that the user agents need to be thinking of.
With that said, If you as a publisher of information would like to reach or even exceed your intended audience, web standards are important. If you as the recipient of that information (now and into the future) and would like to interpret that information then web standards are very important to you too.