Standards – for a better Web experience

If you've reached this page, the chances are it's because you followed a link to find out "Where's the image?"

That means you're viewing the site in text-only mode—which is how it's delivered to non-graphical browsing devices like PDAs, screen and Braille readers, or even mobile phones, as well as older browsers (like Netscape 4.x) that don't know how to correctly render modern, standards-based code. Or you may just be interested to know why standards are a Good Thing. Read on.

Old browser versions relied heavily on proprietary code and inconsistent support for the programming language that drives the Web, keeping it (and your experience of it) from being all it could be—as well as raising the cost of your Web development project, due to time consuming code hacks and workarounds, and extensive testing, to ensure "backward compatibility". Even then, sites would display only acceptably, and not correctly, in some browsers.

But browser manufacturers are now routinely producing software that supports web standards—a set of coding standards that minimise incompatibilities between browser types and operating platforms, and support the principle of "code once, publish anywhere". Backward compatibility has been replaced with forward compatibility. Sites coded with standards will display in all browsing devices—even those that haven't been invented yet.

So what are standards? Briefly, it means building sites using XHTML code for actual document content, CSS for presentation, and the DOM for functionality.

Web standards are good for site visitors, good for developers, and good for business. What can standards do for you? Here's how to future-proof your site.

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