When you sit down to build a new website, you probably have a strict process you follow with checklists for everything that needs to get done. But do those checklists include anything about web standards? And, if not, should they?Today, we’re going to look at what web standards are, why we have them, and what you actually need to do with them as a web designer.

What are web standards?

When we talk about web standards, what we’re referring to are formal specifications that the Internet and everything on it should adhere to. So, this is frequently less about how the frontend of a website appears and more about how the backend of it is structured.

Web standards aren’t just focused on web development either. They touch on browsers, HTTP, design and development software, as well as consumer devices. Essentially, web standards are developed and formalized to bring strength and consistency to the very core of the web. The more we adhere to these standards, the more accessible the web becomes for all.

Even if you’re not involved in the coding of your websites, you’re likely familiar with today’s web standards:

Poorly written code can cause a lot of problems for the performance of a website, not to mention the bugs it can introduce. So, this was one of the first things we needed to get a handle on.

Since HTML, CSS, and JavaScript form the backbone of the web, there are strict standards pertaining to how they’re written and when they’re used. In addition, as variations of these languages enter the web’s lexicon — like HTML5 and CSS3 — standards are created for them as well.

By standardizing coding, we make it possible for all developers and designers to speak the same language, and for every web browser or software to comprehend them.

This is an important one for web designers, though it’s not so much as a strict standard as a set of best practices for using graphics on the web. For example, this is what the W3C recommends:

  • PNG for photos;
  • SVG for data visualization;
  • CSS for enhancing basic HTML;
  • Canvas API for creating gradients, shapes, and other design effects;
  • WebCGM for vector graphics.

If you want your website to perform as efficiently as possible, it’s important to take recommendations like these seriously.

Mobile Responsiveness

With the proliferation of smart devices and the immense variation in the types of devices available, it’s become critical to have standards for the mobile web.

That said, standards bodies haven’t just standardized responsive design. They’ve also created a set of best practices for the mobile web.

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