In case you didn’t see it on the front page (does anyone keep up with the front page? No? I really need to do something about that. But I digress.), an article I wrote over six months ago has finally popped up in the
March/April 2004 edition of IT Professional. It’s titled “Cleaning Up the Clutter: Why Web Standards Matter” and focuses on web geekery, directed at an audience that may have strong technical skills but not have any clue about why XHTML makes a lick of difference.

Here’s a brief preview:

The Problem with “Best Viewed In…”

By the late 1990s-with millions of Web pages online and browser market share shifting from Netscape to Microsoft Internet Explorer-Web developers began to realize that offering browser-specific pages was not good for anybody. Additionally, developers realized that it did not make sense to have two or three versions of every page just so that a site looked the same in every browser. After all, HTML was designed so that the public could view information on virtually any platform or device. Having multiple versions went against HTML’s very nature.

Web developers’ conscious effort to step away from the best-viewed-in mindset was a statement against browser-specific tags, improper page renderings, and poor standards support. The Web standards movement was taking shape. Developers chanted the mantra, “separate style from content” all the way to compliancy bliss. Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) became a religion.

In truth, Web standards were initially a hard sell (and continue to be) to Web developers who were used to using <p> paragraph tags without closing them and nesting tables five levels deep just to achieve a simple layout effect. Making someone’s life easier would seem to be the simplest thing in the world to sell. Unfortunately, people resist change, and Web page developers are no exception.

Over time, developers embraced XHTML—an XML-friendly way of coding HTML—realizing that only a few minor adjustments, such as closing all tags and making them lowercase, were necessary to turn HTML 4.01 into XHTML 1.0 Transitional. In addition, cascading style sheet (CSS) support in Web browsers matured to the point where developers distinguished the presentation of a document from its content, making adherence to Web standards more palatable than ever before.

A semi-funny editing-story… I received a final edit of the article to look over and comment on before it went to press. I had written a sentence that read:

This led to the proliferation of “best viewed in…” buttons and a culture focused on browser hacks and mired in sloppy code.

The term “browser hacks,” of course, refers to coding tricks used to make a page look “right” in a particular browser. The editor, though, though that when I said “hacks,” I was referring to people. So, when the article came back to me, the sentence read:

This led to the proliferation of “best viewed in…” buttons and a culture focused on less-skilled browser developers and mired in sloppy code.

I almost didn’t catch the change since it had been six months since I wrote the article, but fortunately, it caught my eye just in time.

Anyway, the article isn’t available unless you have an IEEE membership (or was it a subscription to IT Professional… I don’t remember), but if you’d like to check it out, let me know.