The Importance of Standards Compliance and Accessibility

Posted on Wed 01 November 2006 in XHTML

The aim of this article is to underline the importance of standards compliant web pages in promoting usability, compatibility, and accessibility - therefore allowing equal opportunity and equal access to content for all.

A History of Non-Compliance

When Netscape lost the "Browser Wars" in April 2002, Internet Explorer was in complete dominance of the web browser market - with a 96% share (source: For web developers at the time, this meant that designing for Internet Explorer was all that mattered. The dominance of a single web browser led to a disregard for standards compliance.

  • Accessibility & usability problems when sites were accessed using other browsers.
  • Decreased efficiency due to increased file sizes, and website code not following a standard set of rules.
  • Misuse of HTML as a design tool.

The Benefits of Standards Compliance

The number of different ways to access the internet are increasing. Some of the less common user agents include:

  • Mobile phones
  • Televisions
  • Text-mode browsers
  • Text-to-speach synthesisers
  • Braille browsers
  • Robots (such as search engine spiders)

Standards compliance can be seen as a way to "future-proof" a website. New browsers will still correctly render websites constructed using past standards.

In the United Kingdom and Australia, accessibility is the law. The implementation of standards is a vital step towards accessibility. Accessibility benefits those with and without disabilities.

The use of standards is the only way to ensure that a website is accessible by all visitors, no matter how they access the web. By ensuring accessibility you are not neglecting any of your potential visitors.