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Web Design All-in-One for Dummies® by Sue Jenkins

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Chapter 1: Following
Web Standards
In This Chapter
Following Web standards
Finding out about W3C standards online
Using the right DOCTYPE
Understanding the differences between HTML and XHTML
Discovering why CSS is better than HTML for styling
Writing Section 508–accessible code
W
eb standards are an important part of the Web that every designer,
coder, and programmer needs to understand and use. The standards
generally focus on how a Web page works under the hood, but they can also
have some significant implications for a site’s design. Most importantly,
these standards help ensure that anyone and any device (such as a screen
reader or search engine robot) using the Web — regardless of their browser,
device, or operating system — can view the content on a Web page.
In this chapter, you find out about the World Wide Web
Consortium (W3C) and some of the goals it sets forth for
Web design. You also find an introduction to following
some of these standards, including using DOCTYPEs,
styling page content with CSS instead of HTML tags,
and writing valid semantic HTML and XHTML code.
In addition to the standards that keep pages acces-
sible and running smoothly across the Web, the
federal government outlines another set of stan-
dards for making Web pages accessible to people
with disabilities. At the end of the chapter, you find
a discussion about accessibility issues and how the
federal government’s Section 508 amendment to the
Rehabilitation Act prescribes additional ways content
should be coded for the Web.
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Working with Web Standards
484
Working with Web Standards
In the early days of the Web (which was developed in 1989), it was a lot like
the Wild West. Anyone who was willing to take the time to explore its
uncharted territories was welcome to do so, making up his or her own
coding and presentation rules along the way to survive in the then largely
unknown Internet world. Because designers had no rules to follow, Web site
navigation took on any and every form, making many Internet users feel
frustrated and confused as to how they should go about finding the informa-
tion they sought.
The Internet, at its start, was primarily a place for sharing information and
not really a place for commerce or artistic expression. Yet as more and
more businesses began using the Web space as a way to market and adver-
tise their products and services, the urgent need for Web standards became
apparent. Regarding standards compliance today, thankfully, most of the big
software companies are on board. This means that as you find out more
about creating Web sites, your HTML and WYSIWYG code editors should be
guiding you along the way by writing standards-compliant code. Of course,
you will still likely encounter issues with incompatible scripts, IE-only fea-
tures, and other browser-specific coding concerns, but for the most part,
standards have helped smooth a path to make the job of the Web designer a
little easier. As with acquiring many new skills, if you follow the right way to
do things from the start, you shouldn’t have any bad habits to break later
on to keep improving your skills.
In the following sections, you find out more about the importance of design-
ing sites that follow Web standards, the W3C recommendations for Web
standards, and layering Web content.
Understanding the importance of writing
standards-compliant code
First and foremost, designing Web sites that follow Web standards helps
ensure that anyone using the Web — regardless of their browser, device, or
operating system — can view the content on a Web page. Additionally, fol-
lowing Web standards also makes sites easier to maintain and thus makes
them an even more cost-effective method for communicating with site visi-
tors than traditional methods of marketing and communication. The more
all Internet software and hardware manufacturers comply with these W3C
Recommendations, which are described in the following section, the better
all Web visitors’ experiences can be. That’s where you come in.
As an added bonus, besides being accessible to the widest possible audience,
standards-compliant Web sites are more likely to load faster in a browser and
tend to have better search engine rankings than their nonstandards-compliant
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