Searching for a web designer, part two and a half

I realized about two-thirds of the way through my last post that it was getting a bit long and since I wanted to finish with the story of my client who switched designers, I didn’t give as much detail about standards as I would have liked.

So without further ado, a little clarification on what I may have glossed over the last time.

What were we talking about?

If you recall, web standards are technologies used to create and interpret web content and there are benefits to finding a designer who develops standards-based websites. These benefits include;

  • Simpler development and maintenance
  • Faster download and rendering of web pages
  • Compatibility with future web browsers
  • Better accessibility
  • Better search engine rankings

A little background and theory…

Web page code can fall into 3 categories;

  • formatted content – the content on the website formatted with headers and paragraphs.
  • the presentation – the code that is used to style the formatted content by adding colors, layout, images etc…
  • scripts – code which helps make the web page interactive (not required).

When the web was young, having all this code on one page was the norm because the code was relatively simple, as were the browsers used to display it. As the web and all its parts continue to get more complex, designing a web site like this is still acceptable, but it is not the most efficient way to do things. One of the goals of standards based design is the help remove some of this complexity by separating these 3 code types into their own files, especially the presentation and scripting, which can then be easily reused throughout the website.

How do standards do all that?

When these 3 parts are separated, the benefits just start rolling in.

The webpage has been reduced to just the main message of the page formatted into headers and paragraphs without all the presentation code that used to be intermingled with it. Scripts have also been removed. This can literally cut the amount of code on a web page in half which;

  • Simplifies maintenance due to less code on the page – saves you development costs.
  • Helps your web pages download faster – keeps your website users happy.
  • Makes your site more accessible because the removal of extra code helps other technologies (like screen readers for visually impaired users) work better – more reasons for users to be happy.
  • Improves your search engine rankings because search engines actually read your website to rank you. With less to read, your message is clearer and can rank better – more hits for you.

The presentation code and scripting (if used) is now in one (or possibly several small) file(s). These files are referenced on each webpage and you benefit because;

  • Simplifies maintenance and design changes to your site because now, how the whole site looks is controlled by the presentation files. To change the color of a header throughout the site the designer simply needs to go to one place and make one change, instead of editing the values on every page in the site – saves the developer time and you development costs.
  • Helps your web pages download faster because the presentation code is read once and then kept in the users computer memory instead of repeated and downloaded with every page – keeps your website users happy.
  • Makes your site more accessible and improves your search engine rankings since all this code is no longer on the webpage itself – benefits you and your users.

What about future compatibility?

If you have been following closely, you may have realized I did not mention the future compatibility benefit I referrenced initially. To make it simple, future compatibility is an added bonus of using standards. Web standards require use of specific coding standards and the site developed by the standards aware designer should be free of the issues and deprecated code that could bring it down in the future.

In summary…

This one page post is not meant to be a replacement for all the information available regarding web standards and the reasons you should find a designer who codes to them. Instead, consider it a way to help you be more aware of what to look for in your search for a web firm who has your best interest in mind. As always if you need more info, please contact me. Advice is always free.

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  • [...] In some of my past posts, Searching for a web designer, part two and part two and a half I talked about standards and separating presentation from content, and threw out words like download and rendering. I still believe that finding a designer who understands all that is extremely important, but a redesign project I am currently on brought another point to my attention. The software a designer uses may have considerable impact on the final project. [...]

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