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Why seek compliance with standards?

I work on an intranet site. I know that the company uses IE only.

I'm wondering if we should validate our Html code, or put effort somewhere else (eg. into a new function). If we see the page correct in the browser in that case it doesn't matter if we forgot to close a tag, or forgot the doctype at the top of the page. So why bother?

On the other side I believe that we need to add the extra effort to create correct Html files. If we don't do it now, we probably won't do it correctly in the future. And at some point we need to work with a client where this is a must have. And I know that it will be a pain in the ass.

What do you think?


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Standards compliance is a long-term investment in your code.  Well, not that long term, but you can be guaranteed that if the code sticks around for more than a year or two, at some point you (or someone else) will be cursing the decision to quick-and-dirty it at the start.

If there's no pressure to just get the damn thing up an running, I'd do it the standards compliant way first.

Justin Johnson
Sunday, July 25, 2004

It's a question of time and profitability.  Will taking the time to make your site 100% correct HTML increase your profit?  If yes then by all means go for it.  If no then why bother?

Are your customers complaining because they can't view it in Opera or Mozilla?  Have you tested it in Opera or Mozilla?  (Or that Mac browser Safari I think?)

If you tested it in all of the browsers and it displays and functions according to your liking then don't bother investing more time in it.

It's your time, your money and your priorities.  Do with them as you see fit.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Go for compliance. It doesnt have to be 100%, but make sure to do the doctype stuff. Otherwise the browser must guess how to interpret the page, and the next update of IE might well guess differently.

Eric Debois
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Who was it who coined the phrase "technical debt" to indicate that, when you take shortcuts at the beginning, you're incurring a debt that will later need to be paid off, with interest, because you'll have greater difficulties later on modifying or correcting the code?

Justin Johnson
Sunday, July 25, 2004

The problem is that it's hard to calculate profitability here. Maybe we get better profit for this particular project, but we know that this project will lead to the next ones. And customers choose based on quality.

The question here was not really html compliance, but in general, compliance for quality aspects of your work.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Writing compliant HTML requires NO additional effort once you learn the rules. Standard-oriented design is a bitch to learn, but a great time-saver and pleasure to use.

Egor
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Applications that were originally written for internal use only have a very nasty habit of hanging around for years, and then being snatched up by sales and sold to external customers. Then management starts complaining....

Do it right the first time, then you don't have to worry about it returning to bite you in the tuchis at some future date.

Michael Ealem
Sunday, July 25, 2004

After the latest round of IE exploits, the developers where I work switched to FireFox. Sure, IE is embedded deeply inside outlook and .NET studio and things like that, but as we started using Mozilla based browers, we learned how sloppy IE is at rendering, and just how far off of the HTML standard you can get.

As an example of the technical debt mentioned above:
<asp:panel> tags do not render correctly in Mozilla based browers (or anything that looks for a proper html page). You have to wrap them in html comment tags so that they can be seen by the user. So they should all look like <!--<asp:panel>-->

err. i hope that shows up

Peter
Sunday, July 25, 2004

nope. lets try

<asp:panel>

gets replaced with

<!--<asp:panel>-->

same for closing tags.

Peter
Sunday, July 25, 2004


There is little difference between making IE-specific pages and making standards compliant pages.  There are dozens of sources online which will layout the differences and the changes required.

Once you're doing it for a while, it just comes naturally.

If the application is used solely internal to your company, then you have some control over the environment which it it used.    Of courcse if you're interacting with any vendors or clients OR you marketing crew decides "hey this is useful and we can sell it", then you need to be prepared for more environments.


DISCLAIMER:  Our company makes dozens of apps, some used internally, some externally, some both, and some sold.  Prior to me joining in December, they were IE-specific.  I'm starting the movement to make them much more robust and flexible.

KC
Sunday, July 25, 2004

If you code to IE you're still coding to standards; you've chosen IE as the standard.

Choosing to code to a more portable standard such as the W3C's isn't much harder, it's just that you have to learn that standard instead.

T. Norman
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Compliance is not about running in different browsers, its about being able to use web pages under all circumstances. 

You may use a single browser but what proportion of your users have an eyesight defect, colour blindness, impaired use of one or more limbs that makes using a mouse difficult?

Can you, by removing all the styling, read the content or have it translated into voice by another system?

Can all the functionality of the site be managed by the user using only the keyboard?

Are there alternate navigation methods?

And if you have no users with special needs now, how can you be certain you won't in the future?

Simon Lucy
Sunday, July 25, 2004

The output of HTML to the browser should be the easiest, quickest, most flexible part of your application. Go with standards now, do it later - nobody will notice or care, and if they do, you should be able to change it all in an afternoon.

I wouldn't worry too much about it. It's not hard to follow the standards, and frankly I like XHTML because it's nice and anal, but do whatever gets the job done. The browser is the standard, not some document at the W3C.

Thom Lawrence
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Also, just because your page looks fine with the current version of IE doesn't mean that it'll look fine with the next.

If you follow published standards you'll not only have a better shot ogf running on different browsers, but you'll have a better shot of being compatable with different versions of the same browser.

RocketJeff
Sunday, July 25, 2004

I used to manage an Intranet, and brought it from 800 pages to 5,000 pages. The standard browser was netscape 4.x for the longest time & I always insisted on something that, if not standards compliant, at least worked on both of the major browsers, even when the company started going over to IE only, up until the point where we were given new computers with only IE & were told not to install any new software on them. (Strange, restrictive company policy for programmers, I know).

I also had a no-flash policy because not everyone had flash.

My general rule when designing web pages is: KISS - Keep It Simple, Stupid. Given the choice, I won't do anything more complicated than Google (view the source on their page) or Yahoo!

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Google fails a W3C validation check :)

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, July 25, 2004

Google "fails" gracefully. if a browser doesn't support CSS, it still renders the page, just with the default font. That's what I care about, more than actual standards compliance.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, July 25, 2004

That's what would happen anyway? I'm not sure why it would have to not support the standard to achieve that.

Looks to me like there are font tags and unquoted attributes causing most of the validity problems - http://validator.w3.org/check?uri=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.google.com%2F - which shouldn't really be that much of an effort to clean up.

Walter Rumsby
Sunday, July 25, 2004

The the doctype stuff is mostly fluff. It looks like mostly they're non compliant because a) the old stuff just works, and b) they want to shave a few bytes off of every page served.

www.MarkTAW.com
Sunday, July 25, 2004

i saw once that one of the w3c site was using invalid html based on their validator :) - at least they fixed that after a email within 2 hrs.


Monday, July 26, 2004

none of the top sites validate.

google.com
cnn.com
yahoo.com
news.bbc.co.uk
msn.com
msnbc.com
nytimes.com
weather.com

or any of the other top sites.  Until they do there is no proof that seeking standards compliance has any real meaning except feeling getting the geeks to stop bugging you about it.

Gregg Tavares
Monday, July 26, 2004

Remember that a Standard is only of any use if it survives.

Joel made a point that if a standard is too difficult to understand, then you can safely ignore it.
http://www.joelonsoftware.com/oldnews/pages/April2002.html

He was talking about he cost of understanding, but I think the same goes for the cost of implementing.  If you find that the amount of effort required to produce standards compliant pages is so great you are going to have to sacrifice other important areas then that standard is probably too expensive to implement.

If a standard is not implemented, then it will die.  In a few years time you will be cursed for following a now defunct standard just as much as if you had followed no standard at all.

On the whole I would say it is better to pursue flexibility over compliance.  If you stay agile then you can adapt to meet whatever standard.

Don't produce you web sites in standards compliant XHTML.  Produce your websites in the format convenient to you that can easily be transformed into standards compliant XHTML.

That way, if the XHTML standards fall by the way side, you only have to update your transformation templates to fit whatever standard wins.

Ged Byrne
Monday, July 26, 2004

espn.com and wired.com do (or should) validate - there was a fair amount of hype when they went all standards compliant.

Walter Rumsby
Monday, July 26, 2004

The document located at <http://www.wired.com>  was checked and found to be valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional.

The URL you gave me, <http://www.espn.com>, returned a redirect to <http://espn.go.com/>.
This page is not Valid HTML 4.01 Transitional!

www.MarkTAW.com
Monday, July 26, 2004

Ged's argument has a fatal weakness. It implies that you will be following another defacto standard instead of the official one, but in practise that doesn't happen.

Imagine what would happen if you ignored the standard of driving on the left, or right. Of course if you live in India you don't need to imagine.

Stephen Jones
Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Douglas Bowman - who lead the conversion of Wired to a standard-compliant site - talks about the benefits to Microsoft if they changed their site to a standards compliant one:

http://www.stopdesign.com/articles/throwing_tables/

Executive summary: they'd achieve "924 GB in bandwidth savings per day".

Walter Rumsby
Wednesday, July 28, 2004

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