Building websites that comply with basic web standards is now something that is common place. Those who regularly build professional sites are building to a basic sets of technology web standards primarily maintained by the W3C. I used to ask a class of students on my CSS Web Design course to list their favourite websites and then I’d show them how poorly constructed many of those sites were. Over the past year or so, I now find myself saying, Oooh, look, it’s built pretty well. The change in 2 years is still something I find pleasantly surprising.
There is however, something dark and sinister about the reasons behind this change though. Yes, I am being a little over dramatic and skeptical, but I believe that a lot of this change is down to the realisation that well built web pages improved Search Engine Optimisation and therefore ranked higher in Google.
It’s true that the separation of content from presentation certainly helps, but is getting better rankings really the reason to do things properly? What happens when search engines no longer care about the semantics and are intelligent enough to look at a page and place value on the content merely by it’s context? Do we then forget good practice and move onto the next traffic driving technique? For now I’ll satisfy myself in knowing that a lot of people are adopting the current web standards and will hopefully continue along the “path of enlightenment” even if or when search engines stray way from the path.
And of course, one of the pleasant side affect of this adoption of web standards is that they lend themselves naturally to web accessibility. A tweak or two here and there and a well considered site (no more table based layouts!) can comply with many of the accessibility guidelines without too much work. The web has become a much more accessible place in the last 2 years in the search to satisfy the web’s most famous blind user. Thank you, Google.