Recently, I joined the forums at Cre8asite, where I’ve been posting fairly regularly. One of the great things about this forum is that it is extremely active in advocating web standards, quality search engine marketing methods, and best practice guidelines for web businesses. There are some fantastic people involved with this forum – and I’m not going to name any names because there are simply too many great people to get started. You can read the forum and find these people at any time.

At any rate, one of the concerns I latched onto early in my web design career was web standards. The early days of the web were a zoo of design rules using custom tags from Netscape or Internet Explorer – and frequently a page could only be viewed using one or the other. Today, the World Wide Web Consortium has established a solid baseline for HTML (HyperText Markup Language) standards. Are there still non-compliant tags? Yes. Are there non-compliant browsers? Yes. Do you want your site to be filled with these? No.

I’ve found myself making frequent posts at Cre8asite helping people understand the reasons that it makes good business sense to follow web standards. I’ve been referring people regularly to a great article at Adaptive Path which talks explicitly about the business advantages of web standards. As a result, I’ve been giving this further and more in-depth thought myself.

  • Faster Development Times

    Got a display issue you just can’t resolve? Validate your code and you can find any errors you’ve made very quickly. If you’ve still got problems, then you may have found a bug – and there are great resources online for most problems you’ll come across.

  • Bigger Audiences

    If you’ve got one of those sites which is usable only in IE (Internet Explorer), you’ve got a problem. You’ve wiped out at least 10% of your potential market. Similarly, if you’ve got a site which isn’t using standards, you may have wiped out several other classes of users – those with alternate devices, such as screen readers, handheld devices, or perhaps some device which hasn’t even been invented yet. Standards checking will ensure that your site at least meets the most basic accessibility guidelines – and can do much more, if you use it right.

  • Reduce Costs

    A standards-based site is almost always smaller and leaner than a non-standard site. Eliminating all those pesky FONT tags, spacer gifs and tables can make a big jump in size. If you’ve got a popular site, where you pay excess bandwidth costs on a routine basis this change can be HUGE. If you receive 1000 visitors a day and you shave 10K off your website you’ve saved approximately 300 MB (Megabyte) a month. That’s not a huge savings – but the page savings can be quite a bit higher.

  • Faster Site

    It’s estimate that the average user will not wait more than 8 seconds for an unknown website to load. On a 56K modem, this is a website with a total page size of about 40k. If you’ve loaded up that 100k version of your company logo without compressing it, then you’re already looking at 20 seconds before your potential customer will even see that logo. Although standards based code won’t save the kind of bandwidth that total speed optimization can, it certainly could save 20 or 30K on a page, shaving several seconds from your download time.

A good search engine optimization program is based around bringing your site a higher conversion rate, not just more traffic or higher rankings. If your site is optimized to give better access to your services or information, you’ve got a better chance of winning that new customer – using valid code is simply one element towards a better business online.