Derek Featherstone describes something that seems to be a common feeling among “web standards advocates” right now. For those of us who have been using and evangelising web standards for the last few years it all seems so obvious. In my own company our use of web standards saves us time. Over and over again the benefits are there – cancelling out a hundred fold any extra bit of time puzzling over an IE CSS bug. This is just the way we do things and, over the last couple of years lots of other people have started to see that working in this way, validating mark-up, creating semantic and accessible web pages is a good way to work.
However, as Derek describes in his article, there are sites being launched every day that are full of nested tables, spacer gifs, paragraph text styled as headings – even font tags. When does web standards stop being an added extra and just become the way things are done around here?
I don’t actually remember at which point I realised that valid mark-up, or CSS for layout, or creating accessible web sites was the way to go. Although looking through my archives I found this post, written just before I launched my first CSS layout for this site. Despite having learned to handcode HTML, prior to there being tools like Dreamweaver available, I remember those first CSS layouts being a great struggle and I don’t think I would have got anywhere had it not been for the layouts at Glish.com.
Times have changed though, there are so many excellent resources if you want to learn CSS, or web standards or accessibility. However, the people who will go out there and learn the new thing, and keep themselves informed of best practices have already learned this stuff. How do we get to those people who don’t even know that the issues exist, or don’t care? You only need to look in your average basic web design magazine, or hang around on a design mailing list that doesn’t have a strong web standards evangelist user base to realise that the battle of getting people to realise that web standards are important, or even that they exist, is a long way off being won.