Friday, August 26, 2005

Quality on the web

I recently was asked to review some changes to a corporate website, and it got me thinking about what I expect for web sites from a quality perspective.

One thing that I think should go without saying, (but obviously doesn’t) is validation. I would say at least the 2 biggies xhtml and css validation are a must. These validators check through either your xhtml or css code and verify it against the generally accepted standard. Now if your designing a site that you know is ONLY going to be run with Internet Explorer, or whatever browser happens to be the flavour of the month for you target audience then fine, code to that browser if you really must, however, if your website is public facing you have no such control, and with mobile devices becoming more and more popular, you can never guarantee what your web site will be viewed under. I challenge anyone reading this blog to validate their corporate website, you’ll probably be very surprised what you’ll find, I know I was surprised just doing a minimal amount of research for this article.

I actually made the suggestion in the review that anyone doing web development should have every browser known to mankind and a few others installed on their machine, NOT JUST INTERNET EXPLORER. I am always frustrated when I’m using firefox, and I come across something that doesn’t look quite right, and have to exit and view it in ie.

Another big thing for me is that tables should NEVER be used for formatting. Tables are great... For tabular data. Nothing else in xhtml renders tabular data more elegantly and describes it more precisely than tables. But when it comes to formatting they suck. I know in the dark ages of web development there was little other choice and I myself used them prolifically before I stumbled upon the css zengarden. This is one of my favourite sites ever, and gave me the impetuous I required to sit down and learn css properly. I can also recommend a book "HTML Utopia : Design Without Tables Using Css". The other advantage as can be seen by css zengarden is that if you write your page properly, when marketing come down and say "we want to change our corporate look" as marketing are want to do (they have to justify their existence during the quiet periods somehow), it is a matter of replacing a few css files and putting up the new corporate logo, and suddenly the entire website looks completely different. You can then spend the rest of the month it would take for someone who formatted their website with tables doing something far more productive like getting your site up to accessibility standards like 508 or WCAG 1.0.

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