Simon Willison’s Weblog


Embracing Best Practice

11th June 2004

D. Keith Robinson is Sick of Web Standards, and to a certain extent, so am I. Like Keith, I’m not sick of standards themselves; I’ve been using them for over two years now and couldn’t conceive of developing without them. Unlike Keith, I’m not tired of advocating them—but I thoroughly believe that it’s time to extend the discussion.

As web developers and designers, we face an abundance of challenges. Sites must be fast, accessible, usable, well designed, findable and search engine friendly, with smart URLs, well managed communities and maybe even a sense of humour. Most of us find ourselves taking on the role of copy editors, programmers, designers, information architects, and much, much more. In addition, we frequently run in to problems that have no correct answer (font sizing is a classic example). Trade-offs have become a way of life.

It’s time to extend the discussion. Web standards are a small but vital part of a larger solution, something I like to think of as web development best practice. Let’s face it: web standards are boring! Focusing discussions on them is like taking cooking lessons from a chef who only ever talks about food safety; sure they’re important, but there’s so much more involved in creating a decent meal.

There are plenty of benefits of re-framing web standards in the larger context of best practice. Firstly, discussions get a lot more interesting—as I’ve just demonstrated, there are enough facets to creating effective sites to keep us talking for years to come. Secondly, wrapping web standards in the larger context of industry best practices makes them a much easier pill to swallow. “Our site doesn’t validate” is a turn-off. “Let’s follow industry best practice” is far more appealing.

As a community, we need to work together to discover the best ways of doing things. We’ve discovered web standards: let’s move forward to the other pieces of the puzzle.

This is Embracing Best Practice by Simon Willison, posted on 11th June 2004.

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