This post is mostly applicable for Swedish readers, but I believe most of you in other countries stumble across this fairly frequently too.
Here in Sweden we have a publication called Internetworld , whose target group is mostly private users and small businesses. Their articles mostly deal with business gain, short press releases what has happened in the field of technology with things like new services on the web, Firefox increasing its user base etc. Out of general interest I read it, amongst a lot of other publications, just to stay on top of what’s going on and what people are talking about.
When I had worked a while in the internet business, I soon realized that they aren’t always exactly spot on with their articles, especially when it comes to technology choices, coding tips and its likes. However, what they’ve written has mostly been harmless and can at least be of some help to amateurs starting to code.
However, I just browsed through the latest issue with an article entitled “Web standards part 1 – Adapt the web site for different web browsers”. Just reading the headline, I realized it probably wasn’t going to be good. After going through it I came to the conclusion that it isn’t as bad as I first thought, they do, at least partly, try to convey the message that there actually is something out there called web standards and it is there for the device “Code once, run everywhere” kind of equivalent for web code.
Unfortunately, though, they have some parts and quotes that I sincerely think will hurt new web developers’ attitude towards web developing and that’s the reason for me writing this. They briefly touch on the fact that there are different interpretations by web browser vendors how web standards should be implemented. While that is to some degree true, it’s seldom knowledge that beginners need to know, it’s usually only interesting on a pretty high level, as long as you start out the correct way when you build your web sites. And it’s rarely a problem when you write HTML/XHTML, it’s usually when you code CSS that this will be more evident (which will, as I understand, be touched on in an upcoming part in this series).
The conclusion of the article is to follow web standards if you have no idea about your target group; otherwise, offer them an enhanced and web browser-specific version that only works under certain circumstances. Another conclusions is that web standards is an “advanced technique” and question if it’s worth to require that out the users to have such modern web browsers to be able to use your web site; talk about not understanding web standards.
I don’t know where to begin with to describe how damage such an attitude will do. Sure, naturally most if not every web site out there will work better in a later version in, say, Internet Explorer or Firefox than in Netscape 4 but that doesn’t give you the right to shut out users with an older web browser. It’s all about progressive enhancement.
Another thing is that even if you do know a lot about your visitors and the statistics, that situation can almost change overnight. Build an Internet Explorer-version on proprietary code just to realize a month later that many of them have started using any other web browser out there. Also, does anyone really know how many web browsers there are out there? Hundreds and hundreds, let me tell you that. Different web browsers on different operating systems, PDAs, cell phones, digital TV boxes et cetera. The only way to make sure that your code will work is to follow web standards. No, web standards will not solve your every problem, but that’s the closest you can get and definitely your best bet if you’re serious in what you do.
Let me quote some pieces in the article:
There are a number of reasons where you gain from following web standards, but here are also occasions when you don’t, which we will explain in some of the following tips.
After that, I never find any tip where the difference is proved. Also, that’s just the mindset that’s so dangerous and there has to be a realization that while web standards maybe won’t save the day automatically, they will never hold you back either.
In modern HTML, that is often referred to as XHTML…
What kind of crap is that? There’s HTML and there’s XHTML; they are two different things and none of them are really more modern that the other. Something that really bothers me is that that isn’t even mentioned and doctypes are totally left out. No wonder you think there are differences out there if you don’t know how to choose a doctype and what effects that choice will have on the rest of the code.
Usually the unit px (pixels) is the one unit that gets interpreted most alike amongst the web browsers
While I kind of get what he’s going for, like percentage rounding errors in some web browsers and its likes, talk about killing the accessibility factor. You can’t make such a statement that will give such repercussions without explaining it in a more detailed way. And what about
ems? Ever heard of those?
Conclusively, maybe I’m way too hard on this guy. After all, I do sincerely believe that he meant well with the article and tried to help people, but my fear is just that he did as much harming as helping; hence this post.