Wednesday, 9 May 2007

W3C . . . who, what, when? . . . NOT!

W3C is the World Wide Web (W3) Consortium. It was formed by Tim Berners-Lee (Sir Timothy John Berners-Lee, KBE, FRS, FREng, FRSA - the acknowledged 'father of the web' and a Brit, no less) with the aim of setting standards & rules for all users of the WWW to abide by. Of course it doesn't happen, but the more 'anal-retentive' people like myself try very hard to meet their standards. Hand over heart, I can say that all but one of the 12 sites I've built (and currently administer) meet those standards, and if you stumble across one of my sites and see the W3C button proudly displayed, you can be assured that clicking on it will confirm that it is so!

Imagine my horror to find that a 'virgin' Blogger site (this one), with only the template loaded and NO posts, did not meet the validation standards, and managed to serve up an error count in the high 80's. Further checks on other Blogger sites I visited confirmed that this is the norm. A search for an answer to this anomaly threw up an explanation that, since Blogger changed to their new format, NO site validates correctly. And that all users are advised to accept this state of affairs until such time as things are rectified. If they ever are!


I am not about to launch into a discourse on the advantages of standards validation; it is a boring subject and you need to be a bit 'geeky' to even want to investigate it. But I will mention that if you don't try to meet the basic requirements of "Accessibility" then you aren't being very kind to some of your visitors.

  • Visually impaired users ( some are even blind) make up a large number of web surfers. They generally use software called 'screen-readers' that will speak every character it comes across. So try and remember that all your 'pretty pictures' aren't much use unless you add some descriptive text in the 'alt' tag. Screen-readers can't unravel graphics. And rather than say something like, "this is a picture", try and make it a bit more descriptive like, "this is a picture of an underwater-basket-weaver". Get the picture?

  • You are probably connected to the internet over a broadband connection and have a humoungus-sized computer with a gigantic 22-inch flat screen LCD or TFT monitor. But what about the poor guy with a dial-up connection (DUN), a piddly little P3 and a 14-inch CRT? Exaggeration? Perhaps a little, but there is a small percentage of this kind of user out there and you really ought to take them into consideration when you build your site!

If some of that made you think, even just a little, then we're well on the way to designing super sites that are also accessible to all types of users.

If you are in a masochistic frame of mind, take a trip to the W3C Markup Validation Service, enter your site URL in the box, then sit back and view the results - with horror!

It just has to be the way ahead!

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