What sets Vistasmith apart from other web design companies? My passionate focus on web standards and accessibility will improve the quality of your site and allow for easier site maintenance. This will save you money and make your site available to more people.
For the details, read on.
Why web standards?
Web design is not print design for the Internet.
With print design, generally you have a degree of control over how your design is printed and a clear idea of how it will be used.
On the web, you have little control over how your website is viewed.
Site visitors use a wide variety of different computers and web browsers, including different versions of those web browsers. The size of the screen used to view your site can vary widely. Your site might even be viewed on an iPhone, a Blackberry, or even a Wii. Somebody might want to print out a page from your site, and a blind user might even have a page from your site read out loud.
That flexibility is one of the biggest benefits of the web and one of the greatest challenges. Ultimately a site is created with code, and one of the dirty little secrets of the web is that each of those different browser versions might interpret that code slightly differently, changing the appearance of your site… unless you’re careful with how you code and test, test, and test again.
The trouble with tables
In the past, one of the main techniques for designing sites was to use a table to line up all the graphics and text, which is a little bit like designing a poster in a spreadsheet, like Excel. In some situations, it might look ok, but it can be difficult to make changes to such a design, and sometimes, a table-based design can cause a lot of problems. When a blind user has your web page read out loud, a table-based design can be quite confusing. That might not seem to be too big a problem until you realize that the most important visitor to your site is blind: Google.
The web standards movement grew out of an effort to find a solution to the problems caused by inconsistent browsers. One way to do that is to write code that validates to a specified standard. You’ve likely heard of HTML, the code used to create web pages. XHTML is an updated version of HTML that follows a few more rules. Good code can be validated against the XHTML standard, and that makes it easier for web browsers to clearly interpret the meaning of your website.
Another important element for web standards is CSS, which stands for Cascading Style Sheets.
Old web design techniques mixed the content of a site with all the code that creates the design and layout of the site. Mixing together the code that creates the content and the presentation makes it difficult to make changes to the design of your site.
With standards-based CSS, the code used for the presentation of your site is stored in a separate document linked to by each of your web pages. This file, a stylesheet, only needs to load once for each user. This means all of your web pages load a lot faster. If you want to make changes to the design of your site, you only need to change one file, rather than changing every page on your site.
You can also link to multiple stylesheets for different situations, such as having specific stylesheets for when a web page is printed or viewed on a mobile phone or PDA. This helps fulfill one of the key goals of the web standards movement, which is to design a site once and have it viewed everywhere.
In general, using XHTML and CSS and other web standards techniques helps fulfill the promise of the web by making your content flexible across a wide variety of mediums and browsers, without having to recreate your site for each and every one of them.
All of these techniques are useful in pursuit of accessibility. Accessibility is a term used in many ways.
Some say accessibility means making sure websites work for users with disabilities, particularly those who are blind, deaf, color blind, or have cognitive disabilities, such as dyslexia.
Others say that accessibility means universal access, so in addition to the above, it can also mean making sure your website can be accessed by those using a slower modem, an old web browser, a mobile phone, or even by those who speak another language.
Either way, the reason for you to care whether or not your web site is accessible is to ensure that your services or products are available to as many people as possible. Why risk losing a potential customer by having a website that cannot be used by somebody? In some cases, there may even be legal requirements that your website be accessible. To protect yourself, and to prevent losing customers, focusing on accessibility is a sound business decision.
Luckily, achieving basic accessibility benchmarks isn’t too difficult, if a web designer knows how to do so. Many of the web standards techniques described above also help you achieve accessibility for your site. The few extra techniques necessary usually involve care with coding and color choices. Accessible video can be a challenge, but standard content for a small to medium site is very doable.
In summary, the benefits of a site built with web standards are that your site will be easier to maintain and available to more people. Your pages will also load more quickly and show up better in search engines. In the long run, web standards will save you money and increase the effectiveness of your website.
Beyond all that, web standards are the mark of the professional web designer, and by extension, the professional website.
If you are interested, you can continue to read more about web standards.