• Web Standards, Best Practices, or Professionalism

    Feb 9 2006

    Over the last few posts, I've been trying to redefine "Web Standards", or rather, expand the definition to include things outside the validation of HTML and CSS. I wanted to talk about the larger picture of doing things the Right Way. Then, Jim left this comment:

    Please, do yourself a favour and stop treating "web standards" as a meaningless buzzword that you use as a synonym for "code I like". [...] It means one thing and one thing only: to comply with rules described in "the" standards (in reality there's many standards to choose from).

    I have to admit, he's absolutely right. "Web Standards" refer to the actual specifications for web technologies, notably HTML and CSS. Indeed, the Web Standards Project are only advocating adherance to the W3C Standards for XHTML, XML, CSS, etc.

    I asked Jim for a better term, and citing this blog post he suggested "Best Practices". This really expresses the intention here, that we should be doing things a certain way because it's the best way.

    I've been thinking about this a lot since, and went back to Molly's infamous post where she coined the term "New Web Professionalism" to describe this Right Way Of Doing Things. This is just expressing the same concept in different words, and it's never the words that matter. It's what the words represent. As an industry, we need to encourage a certain level of quality, a certain, shall we say, standard.

    So, Web Development Best Practices? Web Professionalism? Web Professional Standards? I hate buzzwords as much as anyone, but it seems like we need one here, some piece of jargon that lets everyone else understand what it is we're talking about. Don't we?

    Then again, a buzzword is the last thing we need here. It would only distract from the underlying point. We can still refer to Accessibility, Web Standards (that is, valid HTML and CSS), Semantic Markup and Unobtrusive Javascript. And by doing so, we won't forget what it is we're talking about. We won't end up with some empty marketing speak promising something as vague as "Best Practices" when they have completely ignored Accessibility.

    I won't go so far to rename my last posts, but for now on I will be much more clear when I talk about these and other Best Practices, and will forever hestitate to throw around the term Web Standards to mean anything except valid code (which, to be honest, is the least interesting topic amongst Best Practices).

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