10 Direct Routes to Reduced Website Costs and Risks: That’s what web standards are about!?

“Web Standards” is like another of these modern-day web buzzwords, like “Web 2.0″ and “The Blogosphere”. But buzzwords become popular for a reason – let me give this one a simple definition, and explain the business benefits of web standards, namely reduced website costs and risks.

Web standards are, quite simply, a set of coding guidelines developed by a consortium of experts to reduce the risks involved in producing a website. The simple principle is that if everybody codes in the same way, the standard way, then everybody is compatible.

If Netscape reads code in the same way Microsoft does, then we only have to write one piece of code to serve customers using one or the other.

And because we’re all standards-compliant, we’re interdependent, and thus enjoy reduced risk. If I code in a non-compliant manner, I risk not reaching all those customers using Microsoft and Netscape browser software. Similarly, if either brings a non-compliant version of their browser, they risk those customers not using it, because it won’t serve our compliant webpages.

Thus we all comply with the standards to ensure optimal business performance, and those standards are managed by a group of experts (the W3C) to ensure they meet the needs of each stakeholder.

Show me money!
Not yet convinced that this will reduce costs of your website? Let’s look at some of the extensive business benefits of web standards.

  1. Reduced Development Costs
    Non-Compliant webpages commonly consist of 600-800% more code that an equivalent standards-compliant webpage. Reduced costs source from not paying coders to write that extra code.
  2. Reduced Content Management Costs
    Searching for that line of code requiring an update among 6-8 times as many lines is like searching for a needle in a haystack. Your scope for human error is growing exponentially.
  3. Reduced Redesign Costs
    If your website is standards-compliant, redesign is a breeze – you won’t touch your 100′s of content files, your HTML. Instead, you’ll just edit one small CSS file, and as if by magic, your while website will change appearance. This powerful practice is referred to as ‘separation of content from its presentation’. If your site is not standards-compliant, you’re facing the meticulous removal of presentational elements from 1000′s upon 1000′s of lines of code . If you remain non-standards-compliant, you’ll have to put them all back again different!
  4. Reduced Running Costs
    It’s not unusual to compress a non-compliant page of over 100kb to less than 15kb in size using standards-compliant code. Consider a site with 1000 users a day each downloading 10 pages of your site – this equates to 850MB a day of saved bandwidth costs!
  5. Remove liability
    It is now a legal as well as moral obligation to ensure that your website complies with accessibility regulations to ensure access to disabled users. Non-Standards-Compliant coding practices violate these regulations, and place you at risk of legal action.
  6. Accessibility: Broader Customer Base 1
    Further, it is potentially of direct business benefit to you to comply with accessibility guidelines – you extend your target market to include this sector.
  7. Search Engine Optimisation: Broader Customer Base 2
    Standards-Compliant code is easier for search engines to read, and thus achieves significant competitive advantage in the search engine rankings.
  8. Portability: Broader Customer Base 3
    Although it may seem at times like the world interacts with the web via IE6 on a Windows PC with a 17″ monitor, statistics remind us that there are a range of browsers, Operating Systems, and monitor sizes. Further, a colleague at Microsoft regularly browses the web using his smartphone – that’s a different game altogether. Non-Standards Compliant code is rigid to the platform is was designed for, and thus risks alienating customers on other platforms. Standards-Compliant practices however are inherently more compatible, but also more flexible in a non-compliant environment, thus further broadening your customer base.
  9. Retain Customer Base
    Webpages don’t come with manuals, are evaluated by users within seconds, and face stiff competition just a click away in the search engines. Standards-Compliance ensures your site presents a consistent interface, and helps reduce errors that will disillusion your users.
  10. Future Compatibility
    Let’s face it – computers are truly difficult to use. They force us to endure day after day at our desks in front of screens that hurt our eyes. But this motivates change, a potential risk to your business model. We may not be able to predict the change, but we can ensure we’re standards-compliant, as will be the designers of any successful new technology.

But as they say, rules are made to be broken. Tune in again soon to understand when it’s ok to bend, if not break, web standards.

"solid ability in all aspects of creating a successful user interface"

Denise Ross
UX Designer Barclays Bank PLC

Think we may be able to help you? Why not start a conversation - chances are, you'll go away with some new ideas and knowledge.