I participate in a couple forums where I am asked to opine on the quality of web sites. While there is a "beauty is in the eye of the beholder aspect to this, the first tool I use to do this is Chris Pederick's Web Developer Toolbar (for Firefox). Specifically, I do one of two things with the Toolbar: either, I use the "Display Page Validation" tool or I open "Validate HTML" and "Validate CSS". All of these tools are on the Tools menu of the Toolbar in the current version (1.1.3).

Why I am a Web Standardista? (Alternatively, I have described myself as a Standards Nazi, but Standardista is probably less offensive.) Why do I feel it so important that a page's unseen markup validates? Well, there are several reasons.

Like English, Hypertext Markup Language (HTML), which is the language creates web pages, has proper structure and grammar. If I say "I ain't interested in Web Standards", I sound uneducated and unprofessional, as opposed to if I said "I am not interested in Web Standards." To craft a web site using just any tag soup that would render properly in the browser seems amateurish, unprofessional, and unpolished to me.

The standards have a purpose. As in English, the grammar and structure serve to enable understanding. "The jumped over fox brown dog red quick lazy the" makes no sense, where as "The quick, red fox jumped over the lazy, brown dog." tells a story of one animal jumping over another. HTML was developed by researchers at a premier institute of physics to allow information to be stored and retrieved locally and remotely. To disregard the standards disorganizes that information and causes more work to have to be done to interpret its meaning.

The standards offer freedom. A few years ago, I switched from using Internet Explorer to Firefox. Web standards allow me to look at the same page and get similar renderings out of both programs. However, pages written without regard to the standards do not. Sometimes, I go into my cell phone company's office to pay my bill. I like to play with the web-enabled phones they have and surf to pages I built. I am proud that the pages I built still are readable because they were built with web standards. In this same vein, using web standards is a practical way to only have to write a page once.

Finally, web standards are a major step towards accessibility. Not everyone on the web has sight or the ability to work a mouse. In the past couple years, we've heard of Section 508, a United States government regulation mandating accessibility, and the retailer Target being sued by the National Federation of the Blind because their web site is not accessible. The web was built to share information, why do we want to take the easy way out and build pages that can't be shared?

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