insight

Future-proof your site

How web standards can
save you money.

The past
The present
The future

Future-proof your site

First, some context: the past. Consider this scenario:

You want to invest $20,000 in a vehicle for your business, which you project will have a useful working life of four to five years. But when you sit down with the salesman, you discover that the vehicle will only work in your home town; if you want to drive interstate, you'll need a different set of wheels (at extra cost, of course). In fact, you'll need a set for each different state you want to visit. Oh, and sorry, but those wheels will only give you really, really bad fuel economy.

That's what building sites used to be like. Browser manufacturers, in an attempt to corner the market, loaded their software with specific features that meant that, in order to work properly, sites had to be built for that browser. In other browsers, the site would display, but poorly. Sometimes the site would "break" to the point that navigation was impossible.

So web developers learned workarounds so that sites would display acceptably—if not correctly—in most browsers. Those workarounds meant redundant code, parallel pages, detection scripts, and more, in an attempt to allow the maximum number of visitors access to the site.

In addition, because there wasn't really any choice, sites were being built with structural tags to define layout. Convoluted nested tables, invisible spacer images, and other presentational hacks were routinely employed—but which all resulted in bloated, oversized pages of code. Software manufacturers contributed to the mess by creating WYSIWYG site editors that generated appallingly "fat" code.

[Flashback]
The Internet was originally built with a new, special language: HTML. That's HyperText (the ability for text to be linked to another file or location) Markup Language. What's a markup language? It's a way to label, or "tag" the text content of a document to define its structure in a semantically meaningful way. <h1> means a major headline. <h2> is a headline of lesser importance. <p> is a paragraph. You get the idea. And a <table> is for tabular data—it's not a layout tool.

But the Internet was also, originally, entirely text-based. There were no photos, graphics, or animations. The development of the media-rich component of the Internet that became known as the World Wide Web was made on a completely ad hoc basis. Computer jockeys around the world experimented, and tested, and hacked HTML into something it was never meant to be: a presentational tool. The code worked, but boy, did you need a lot of it!

To compound the problem, browsers were made to support this inherently wrong way of coding sites—because that was how the Web worked. And so a vicious circle of error was established...
[ End flashback ]

Back to "fat" code. More code meant bigger files. Bigger files meant slower download times. No wonder the WWW became known as the World Wide Wait.

But now there's a better way to build sites. A way that ensures that sites can be accessed by all browsing devices, and which looks forward to those we haven't yet seen, rather than struggling with the no-win prospect of "backward compatibility". That way is with web standards.

Next: The present

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