There’s an old joke that says, “the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from.” But making sure your website complies with web development standards forms a key part of any successful online strategy. While we don’t normally get up to our elbows in the gory details of how to build websites here, every business can benefit from knowing enough to ask the right questions whether you build the site yourself, select an outside agency or use a hosted service. Standards compliance means using things like the right version of HTML along with CSS to provide your information to customers. Why does it matter? Here are the top 5 reasons:
- SEO benefit – We all want our sites listed in Google, Yahoo and Live, right? Why make it hard for those sites’ crawlers to access your content? Sites that aren’t standards compliant can easily limit Google’s access to your content – which limits your access to customers.
- Ease of maintenance/lower cost of ownership – Change is inevitable and never more so on the web. Want proof? Check this out:
- The folks at BusinessWeek point out Engadget gets 96% of its mobile traffic from iPhones. iPhones didn’t exist 18 months ago. By extension, neither did most mobile traffic.
- Consumers are increasingly choosing Firefox on Windows and both Safari and Firefox on the Mac over Internet Explorer. IE now comprises around 70% of internet traffic. And it’s falling fast. Can you afford to turn off 30% of your visitors?
- Microsoft is bringing out a new version of its browser with all kinds of special tricks in it. Sadly one of those tricks appears to be screwing with standards, but I don’t expect that to last.
- Why not? Google introduced its own browser. Think your visitors won’t use that? Me neither.
That’s just this week’s news. You don’t want to be in the business of worrying about whether your site keeps up. Standards compliance takes that worry away. Plus, building compliant sites gets easier with practice. So what are you waiting for?
- Support for disabled customers – Many of the same standards that make it easy for Google’s crawler to find your site also make it easy for customers with disabilities to use your site. And when you consider how many individuals deal with some challenge, it represents a huge market opportunity. It can also limit legal risk. And, at the end of the day, it’s just the right thing to do for your customers.
- Improve your site’s speed/lower page weight – OK, this is the gory, techy one. But, with folks like Comcast planning to limit bandwidth for its customers and the impact that slow sites can have on Google Quality Scores (i.e., reduced rankings and higher costs for paid search) and the hosting cost for high bandwidth sites – to say nothing of the negative brand perception your customers may have if your site is too slow – improving your site’s speed with clean, standardized code is a Very Good Thing.
- Reach more customers – Finally, more than anything else, you care about ensuring customers can access your information. When you limit customers’ options – whether to certain browsers, operating systems or devices – you limit your sales opportunities. Ultimately, standards compliance makes it easier for more customers to see your site. And that’s the only thing that matters.
Standards compliance doesn’t look sexy at first glance. It’s not in your face. And no one will acquire your business or push you to go public just for maintaining a standards compliant site. But it can save you money and drive more sales. And that might do the trick.
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