Wordpress-Web-standardsWordPress is known for being compliant with web standards. What does this mean, and how will it improve your website or blog?

What Are Web Standards, And Why Are They Important?

Two of the fundamental – and some would say, greatest – aspects of the internet are its openness and interoperability. Simply put, the internet allows users to view and interact with web pages and other resources using any device or web browser they choose – the internet does not restrict users to using a specific device or application.

Also, organizations and individuals are free to compose and post almost anything to the internet knowing that the content can be retrieved and consumed by readers from all over the world, using a plethora of devices and applications to download, translate and render their content. This openness is made possible through the use of open markup and programming languages, including HTML, CSS, Javascript and a handful of other technologies.

WWW History

Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Word Wide Web and the director of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), believed from the beginning that the technologies that powered his invention would have to be open, accessible and free to use. If the technologies were proprietary and closed, the internet would not be nearly as ubiquitous and popular as it is today; imagine if you were required to pay an annual licensing fee just to post content online, or if you were required to purchase a certain browser or operating system in order to read one website – and then discovered that you needed to purchase a completely different browser to read another!

Most users would become frustrated and eventually abandon the Internet altogether. In the 1990s, some features or “extensions” to the internet were proprietary and designed to work with a specific web browser – most notably Microsoft’s Internet Explorer and Netscape Navigator. However, since the internet became universally popular in that decade, the web has mostly remained open and interoperable through the continued use of web standards.

Web Standards

The term “web standards” historically and technically refers to the standards and technical specifications used to keep the Internet interoperable and open. However, the term has become more commonly associated with a set of standardized “best practices” used to build websites. By following these best practices and creating HTML, CSS and Javascript code that conforms to them, you can ensure that your website or blog is accessible to more users and displays correctly when rendered by various devices and browsers. If your website or blog disregards web standards, you run the risk of it rendering incorrectly or even becoming unreadable or inaccessible to many users.

There are other advantageous to following web standards, including making your website or blog more accessible to users with disabilities. In the United States, the United Kingdom and other countries, businesses and organizations can even be held liable if their websites aren’t designed to be accessible in this manner. Finally, following web standards will ensure your website or blog is backwards compatible. This is especially important if you are creating static pages that may not be updated or revised for a long period of time.

WordPress’s Standards

From the beginning, the creators and developers of WordPress designed the platform to follow web standards as closely as possible. According to the WordPress documentation, all WordPress code is compliant with W3C standards. However, this does not mean that every WordPress-powered website or blog is also standards compliant – by customizing the theme or by adding plugins or widgets, it is possible to create a noncompliant website or blog. Therefore, it is important to ensure that any customizations you make to your WordPress installation do not fundamentally “break” the interoperability of your website. If you are customizing your WordPress website or blog, test it using an online validator to ensure it remains compliant. You can also review the marketing or support documentation for each theme, plugin or widget that you install – many developers will prominently note if their theme add-on is standards compliant.

Browsers and Variables

Do not be alarmed if your website or blog is not 100% compliant – it is difficult for a modern website to be 100% compliant and all mainstream web browsers are designed to compensate for some variations. However, if you test your website or blog and there are significant problems or a significant number of minor problems, it is advisable to fix them in a timely manner. While your site may or may not be completely compatible in different browsers, you must also remember that different versions of different browsers act differently. For example, there are times when a slider on a website can be seen by everyone… except for people who use Internet Explorer (IE) 7 or below. This could just be because the browser is not updated, but this is an example of how many variables there are when testing to see if your site is 100% compliant.