insight

Future-proof your site

How web standards can
save you money.

The past
The present
The future

Future-proof your site

And so to the future: how can web standards save—and even make—you money?

Using web standards allows sites to be built and managed more quickly, saving time and money. Sites built with standards load more quickly, saving bandwidth, and therefore money. Site visitors enjoy an unequalled speed of access to your site, so they're more likely to spend time on your site, read your message, buy your product, use your services.

But consider this: a standards-compliant site also means your message has the potential to reach an unknowable number of additional visitors, who were locked out of your old-style site by the limitations of their simpler browsing software. Now, with web standards, there is no-one who can't access your site, in some shape or form. Web standards can actually broaden the reach of your site. The size of your potential client base is significantly increased—at no extra cost.

Say you're a photographer. The key content of your site, the representation of the product that is the core of your business, is not words, it's pictures. So there's not much point in delivering a text-only version of your site, is there? True, and false. As we've just seen above, your standards-compliant site reaches everyone who can browse the Web, even if in text-only form. So the text content of your site, indexed by search engines, allows these visitors to locate your site. The power of CSS allows you to deliver a message to these visitors (which is not visible to those who don't need it; who can see the images): "Please visit this site using a graphics-capable browser to view images." ...or something similar. You get the point. Your site is a stronger, more widely-reaching marketing tool than it once was.

Let's be realistic. Using web standards is not a magic bullet. It's not an inflexible set of rules that must be followed at all costs. It's a continuum. It's a way of thinking. It's a tool that can be applied to site development, of great and lasting value—but that tool needs to be used in a thoughtful and productive way.

There will always be instances when it's desirable for the maximum number of visitors to be able to access your site in its full graphics-rich form. That's fine too; using web standards allows for a hybrid version of a site, using a mix of old-style layout techniques together with the newer approach to coding the pages. You get the best of both worlds; speed, accessibility and manageability.

Taking full advantage of what web standards can offer requires a change in perception of what web sites are. Too often, sites have been viewed as an electronic version of a printed brochure. This has never been true, and is now less so than ever. Web sites are a liquid, variable, user-controllable form of publishing. What you see in your browser will almost certainly be different in some small way from what I see in mine—unless we have identical versions of the same browser, on the same platform running the identical operating system.

As much as Microsoft might like it otherwise, there are literally hundreds of possible combinations of browsers and platforms. Add the newer devices—PDAs, mobile phones—into the mix and the number increases again. It's important to understand that not everyone will see your site in the same way; they never have done! Web standards is a way to build sites that allows all potential visitors access to your site. OK, some may enjoy a richer visual experience than others; but you won't be locking anyone out.

One last analogy: Say you run a retail store. Would you be happy to learn that the only people who could even find your store, let alone come in and look around, were those wearing a black suit and red socks? Or would you prefer it if anyone, regardless of their dress, had access? Which is the better business proposition?

Web standards are good for site visitors, good for developers—and good for business.

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