What Are Web Standards and Why Should My Website Conform to Them?
To be perfectly honest, web standards do not exist.
At least, they don’t exist as many people understand the term “standards”. What most web designers and developers follow as “web standards” are actually just recommendations of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).
The W3C is an organization that issues recommendations about how browsers should respond to HTML and CSS code (among other things).
The idea is that all developers (those that write code) and all browsers will be using the same code, or language. That way, websites will display the same way no matter what.
For the most part, the browser makers conform to these recommendations. But there are some discrepancies.
Why Should My Website Conform to Web Standards?
One reason your website should conform to web standards is so that the site displays properly and consistently across multiple browsers.
If you use bad code, it might display alright in one browser (depending on how that browser decides to interpret the bad code). But in another browser the same code may behave in a completely different manner because that browser is interpreting the sloppy code in a different way.
Since web designers have no control over which browser a user might view a site in, it’s a good idea to use code that conforms to the W3C recommendations so that the end result is consistent across browsers (or at least as consistent as possible.)
Obviously, having a site display properly across various browsers is a good enough reason to use code that conforms to the recommendation. However, there are additional benefits as well.
A site written with good code is more easily indexed by various search engines such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. A properly coded site uses “semantic code”, which means using various HTML tags they way they were created to be used.
For example, headlines should be put into headline tags and paragraphs into paragraph tags. These examples, like most semantic coding, is pretty obvious. But when a site becomes huge and complex it can be easily overlooked..
Compatibility with other Developers
An additional benefit of using good code is that it makes your code easier to read and understand when another web designer has to go and make updates to a site.
The easier it is to read and understand code being updated makes the task much more pleasant and gets it done faster with less potential for breaking seemingly unrelated parts of a page.
So, if it is important to you that your website: displays properly and consistently across the various web browsers, is easily indexed by search engines, and easy to update in the future, then you should code your site with good, semantic code that follows W3C recommendations.