Friday, August 31, 2012

Website Insurance - Web Standards Ensure the Business Value of Your Website

<p>You have come up with a new idea for your website. This new idea involves some new technology for the web that is becoming hot and your company can take advantage of this and ride that wave. You go to your web developer or internal development team and ask the question:</p><p><strong>We need to add this to our website. How soon can it be done, and how much will it cost?</strong></p><p>At some point soon after, you get an answer you were not expecting that is some version of the following:</p><p><strong>If you want that new technology you will have to rebuild your website or make some major upgrades to accommodate the new technology.</strong></p><p>What just happened? Most likely the major reason you are in this fix is that your website was built in such a way that the "new thing" does not "fit". Similar to having a custom built car that cannot use off the shelf parts, so are you doomed to forever "rebuild" every time something new comes along.</p><p>That should rarely ever happen if your website was built using what is called "Web Standards".</p><p>How you and many others got into this fix could be the subject of a book but there is little comfort in knowing the details. The bottom line is that there is a standard that is becoming the focus of new web technology development and if your website does not adhere to those standards, you will soon discover that your website is a dinosaur and will soon become extinct without a costly rebuild.</p><p><strong>The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)</strong></p><p>The business consumer of web development services is not currently well served. The majority of small businesses' websites are built by amateurs with no understanding of the scope and consequences of what they are doing. A few courses at the community college is all it takes to put up your shingle and become a "web developer". It is no surprise when asking them, "What is the W3C?", will get you a blank stare. I have personally asked this question a meetings with "web developers" and found that most of the room could not answer that questions.</p><p>The W3C was formed back in 1997, so you would think by now that it would not only be "standard" but also ubiquitous. Sadly, it has been a very slow process because of the ignorance of the consumer and lack of standardized training of web developers. Fortunately, the realization of the importance of these standards is becoming of age in the last few years because of the rapid pace and demands of technology. So how do you ensure your website is built correctly?</p><p><strong>First Step: Validate.</strong></p><p>Go to (link available later in article) and then paste or type your website URL (address) and click validate. You will most likely discover you have more errors than you ever imagined. Your first step is to get those error fixed or if you must rebuild, make this validation step a central part of your development requirements.</p><p><strong>Second Step: Check the Code</strong></p><p>This can be the hard part because unless you are familiar with HTML it will all look like gibberish to you. Your first problem is: How do you look at the code? If you have Internet Explorer, click "View" on the menu and then "Source". If you have FireFox then also click "View" on the menu and select "Page Source". In both cases a new window will be opened and will contain the HTML source code of that page. HTML is made up of tags which are mostly pairs of labels that have the "greater than" and "less than" symbols with text in between. You will be looking for the following types of code and structure with an associated negative or positive point value for keeping score:</p><p><strong>Negative Values</strong></p>No "DOCTYPE" on the first line of the document. Minus 15.&#13;
Do you see one or more "style" tags? If it is very short (one or two lines) a minus 2 if longer a minus 10&#13;
Do you see one or more "table" tags? One or two is ok, Minus 2 for each after two.&#13;
Do you see the word "style" as part of any tag? Minus two for each.&#13;
Do you see one or more "font" tags? Minus 2 for each.&#13;
Do you see one or more "img" tags? Images that directly relate to the content and have "alt" descriptions that match that content are good, but all others are a minus 2 for each<p><strong>Positive Values</strong></p>Do you see "DOCTYPE" on the first line of the document. Plus 10&#13;
Do you see one or more "link" tags? Plus 5.&#13;
Do you see one or more "div" tags WITHOUT the word "style" as part of that tag? Plus 2 for each.&#13;
Do you see h1, h2, h3 tags? Plus 2 for each.<p>You should have a score of at least plus 20. If less than 20, you are at risk. if a negative number you are in serious trouble. Your website was built incorrectly and you will have problems going forward. What type of problems or issues will a poorly built website result in? There is no short answer unfortunately, because it depends on how poorly your website was coded and structured. One thing for sure is that you will miss out on the following benefits of a well built web standards compliant website:</p><p><strong>Web Standard Benefits</strong></p><p>Cost Benefits&#13;</p>Content it easy to manage and edit because the code is simple and free of garbage tags&#13;
Updating the website design will not involve the content since that is in a separate document&#13;
Updating the website content will not involve the design, since that is in a separate document&#13;
SEO is less costly for equivalent results<p>Management Benefits&#13;</p>You can delegate responsibilities between the content management tasks and the design tasks&#13;
Content changes and updates do not affect the website style or require style changes&#13;
Design changes and updates do not affect the website content<p>Visitor Benefits&#13;</p>Pages load faster&#13;
Design is consistent across all browsers&#13;
Ease of content updates encourages more return visits&#13;
Ease of design updates encourages more design updates and more interest from visitors<p>How do you ensure that your website is built correctly?</p><p>The reason there is so many websites that are poorly built is because you need a certain amount of technical knowledge to ensure it is done correctly. Here are some tips that will help:&#13;</p>Your ace in the hole is the W3C validator at <a target="_new" rel="nofollow" href=""></a>. It should become your friend and is the single non-technical way you can monitor your site.&#13;
Separation of style and content. If you have a static website this is easier to monitor, with a dynamic website link WordPress, Joomla or Drupal this can be harder. Use the "point system" listed above to help you evaluate the site.&#13;
Specify W3C compliance in writing, in our agreements. As more consumers of web services demand compliance it will become more common. YOU, as a consumer, have more power that you realize to improve the quality of web development.<p>Hopefully, you now have more information to ensure you get a quality website and can reap the benefits of web standards.</p>
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<p>John Moore is the Technical Director for SonicSpider LLC. A full service web development company. He writes web based software, reviews and consults on systems for companies and is involve in educational articles and presentations on web technology. SonicSpider has developed two programs to help small businesses and the web developer community.</p><p><a target="_new" href="">SonicWebTech Program</a><br/> Tools and Services for the Web Developer and Business Community</p><p><a target="_new" href="">The RightStart Websites</a><br/> Re-inventing website development for small businesses</p> </div><p>Article Source:
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