What is the point of web standards?

Like most decent, respectable, knowledgeable people I don’t use Microsoft Internet Explorer to browse the internet. I much prefer to use Mozilla’s Firefox as it is regularly updated, has nice features and looks a lot nicer. This isn’t the problem, it is the uneducated people out there who still use MSIE “because its already there for them and why should they go and waste space on their precious computer by installing TWO web browsers” who make the job of developing websites harder for the rest of us.

I’m not trying to be picky here but in this day and age of everyone sueing everyone else just because they looked at you in a peculiar way having a website that is compliant with the W3C standards as well as any accessibilty ones you care to throw in seems to be a fairly good thing to have.

This is why the site I am currently maintaining no longer uses images without their ALT tag or has fixed size fonts defined in the pages. It has a single CSS stylesheet with fonts labelled as “medium”, “xx-large”, “smaller” etc and I haven’t gone table-tastic to create a layout that “looks good” because that just doesn’t cut it for text-only browsers or screen readers.
Where images used to be used to display text as a banner this has now been done by formatting the area with CSS and a background image applied.

Now, because I am educated and was taught about Accessibility in websites, I have been testing my site as I go through with the W3C HTML Validator, W3C CSS Validator and Watchfire’s Bobby to make sure that I am making it as usable as possible. I have also been using Firefox to ensure that the pages look as I intended them to and apart from a small few layout problems (the site is still in dev) it looks as I expected.

Foolish me to not think about the millions of people who use MSIE because when Microsoft were developing their browser they decided that they wouldn’t follow the W3C’s standards they would go off and write their own ones that only work with IE and cause pages to look completely different as a result.

This leaves me with a dilema. Do I:

  1. ignore all the visitors to the site who use MSIE and just do some basic JavaScript browser detection and send them to http://www.mozilla.org/products/firefox/ to let them get a decent browser
  2. ignore the fact that IE doesnt display pages correctly and just hope that people can cope with the site not working correctly in IE
  3. forget the web standards and bow to the idiocy of the MSIE supremacy
  4. Spend masses of time trying to iron out the different problems with MSIE & standards to get a site that works well for both browsers
  5. Give up and stop maintaining websites until everyone uses a proper web browser.

Whilst my decision of choice would be for (1) this will most likely cause more problems than it’s worth and I will no longer be developing/maintaining the website. If i did (2) I would get just as much grief as if I did (1). (3) is a non-starter – whilst I will admit to being a fan of Outlook and some other Microsot apps it doesn’t mean I won’t give them up for something better and to have an inaccessible but working site goes against the principles of any good developer. This leaves a choice between (4) and (5) and I think it is going to be a case of (5) winning out simply because I dont have the time to fully maintain the site and its going to take more than 4 hrs per week to make the site work properly.

So If you are thinking of developing web pages you have 2 choices. Either make sure that everyone who ever looks at your site is using a browser that is compliant with W3C or don’t bother because you wont be able to satisfy yourself that it’s working correctly.

2 thoughts on “What is the point of web standards?”

  1. Hell yea.

    I’ve seen a site that said “you’re using IE. It’s crap. You can’t see our site properly with it. Go get a proper browser.” Then had links to Mozilla and Opera. 😛

    So #1 IS a viable option 🙂

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