Web Standards - Not really standard
As defined by wikipedia,
Web standards is a general term for the formal standards and other technical specifications that define and describe aspects of the World Wide Web. In recent years, the term has been more frequently associated with the trend of endorsing a set of standardized best practices for building web sites, and a philosophy of web design and development that includes those methods.
I have been a proponent of Web standards ever since I created my first web site back in early 2000. Back then, I was only following what I thought was the correct way to do things, and having the word ‘standards’ seemed to make this movement official for me. As I learned more about these web standards, the importance of the best practices set forth along with the concept and goals of creating markup that would display the same across browsers, the more it all seemed to make sense.
However, seven years later, I am still creating web sites/applications using PHP, XHTML and CSS, but I am getting ever so frustrated with these so called “web standards,” mainly due to the quirks and lack of support in IE6 and to some degree IE7. I am not an XHTML or CSS guru, but I think I know enough to write decent markup and styles to be effective (please don’t judge me using this site, after all, this theme was found on a wordpress theme site and I haven’t had the time to clean it up). Just the other day, I was working on a site that required a three column layout, with columns of equal height, so I decided to use alistapart’s Holy Grail.
This worked great in Firefox, Safari, IE6/7 and even Opera, until I tried to accomplish my next task, adding a picture gallery created by floated elements. As most of you might have guessed, everything was fine except with IE6. Now why is it that I always have to find ways to hack my styles just to get them to work with IE6 or 7? Why can’t Microsoft finally create a decent browser. Well, on this day, I had had enough. I decided to scrap the Holy Grail layout and create my three columns using a table. Yes, thats right, I used a table layout to accomplish my three columns and it worked great. Not to mention I got it done without any hassles from any of the browsers I was testing with.
Before anyone begins the flaming, I will start by stating that I know this isn’t semantic. I also know that this use of tables is deemed inappropriate by the w3c whom states:
Tables should not be used purely as a means to layout document content as this may present problems when rendering to non-visual media. Additionally, when used with graphics, these tables may force users to scroll horizontally to view a table designed on a system with a larger display. To minimize these problems, authors should use style sheets to control layout rather than tables.
I merely decided to save myself the agony of debugging IE6/7 issues. I still support web standards, but I don’t see how it is completely feasible to follow them blindly when we all know well and good that the most prevalent browser used worldwide, just doesn’t fully support them. Until these set of best practices are adopted by all the major browsers, to their full extent, they will never be more than best practices, and even then the term will be somewhat misleading.
Maybe I have been a bit slow to come to this conclusion, after all, most things can be successfully conquered utilizing web standard, but I am not the first to point out its flaws. Of course these really aren’t flaws of the standards set forth, but rather one prominent browser that fails to adhere to them. As a young developer, and as a developer who plans to be in this field for a good portion of his working career, what can I do to further along the goals of standardizing XHTML/CSS best practices? What is the rest of the community doing? And how well is it going?
Sorry for the rambling, but I have a dream… A dream that one day, all browsers will be created equal and all developers will blissfully enjoy writing clean concise markup and all users will see the same beautiful interface into what we call the world wide web.