What are Web Standards and Should I Care?

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Web Standards is a broad term describing the use of “best practices” when developing a website. Quality website development includes a wide range of considerations to build sites that are fast, clean, CSS-based, accessible, usable and search engine friendly (in addition to what the owner wants).

Some of the considerations that go into building a quality site:

Quality of code

  • Does the site use a correct Doctype?
  • Does the site use a Character set?
  • Does the site use Valid (X)HTML?
  • Does the site use Valid CSS?
  • Does the site use any unnecessary CSS classes or ids?
  • Is the code well structured?
  • Does the site have any broken links?
  • Does it have the best speed/page size?
  • Does the site have JavaScript errors?

Separation of content and presentation

  • Does the site use CSS for all presentation aspects (fonts, color, padding, borders etc)?
  • Are decorative images in CSS or (X)HTML?

Accessibility for users

  • Are “alt” attributes used for all descriptive images?
  • Does the site use relative units rather than absolute units for text size?
  • Do any aspects of the layout break if font size is increased?
  • Does the site use visible skip menus?
  • Does the site use accessible forms?
  • Does the site use accessible tables?
  • Is there sufficient colour brightness/contrasts?
  • Is colour alone used for critical information?
  • Is there delayed responsiveness for dropdown menus (for users with reduced motor skills)?
  • Are all links descriptive (for blind users)?

Accessibility for devices

  • Does the site work acceptably across modern and older browsers?
  • Is the content accessible with CSS switched off or not supported?
  • Is the content accessible with images switched off or not supported?
  • Does the site work in text browsers such as Lynx?
  • Does the site work well when printed?
  • Does the site work well in Hand Held devices?
  • Does the site include detailed metadata?
  • Does the site work well in a range of browser window sizes?

Basic Usability

  • Is there a clear visual hierarchy?
  • Are heading levels easy to distinguish?
  • Is the site’s navigation easy to understand?
  • Is the site’s navigation consistent?
  • Does the site use consistent and appropriate language?
  • Does the site have a sitemap page and contact page? Are they easy to find?
  • For large sites, is there a search tool?
  • Is there a link to the home page on every page in the site?
  • Are links underlined?
  • Are visited links clearly defined?

Site management

  • Does the site have a helpful 404 error page that works from any depth in the site?
  • Does the site use search/user friendly URLs?
  • Do your URLs work without “www”?
  • Does the site have a favicon?

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