Designing with web standards has been one of my perennial pet peeves. As a web developer with an eye on cross-browser and cross-platform compatibility, I can’t stress enough that designing for all browsers and all operating systems is a formidable feat. Most clients don’t have a clue what goes into ensuring that a given web page is displayed at least half-way decent on a host of browsers, from the ancient Netscape 4.79 (there are still folks out there that haven’t upgraded) to latest newcomer Netscape 7.0 (as bug-infested as its predecessors), not to speak of the dozens of Internet Explorer, Mozilla and Opera versions. When you add it all up, you have to consider 4 browser types, 4 versions each, plus Mac OS, PC and Linux.
So let’s just do that and add it up: 4 x 4 x 3 = 48, 48 different configurations then…..
How much time do you think a web developer should invest in fixing all problems associated with the 48 configurations? Let’s see: current layout works in configuration 1, 3, 4 and 5, but only on the Mac and Opera OS. Fixing problems with Windows browsers, we’ll introduce problems in version 2 on Mac. Mmmh, you get the idea. It’s like navigating a gigantic maze, and the maze is getting bigger and bigger with every new browser release.
As you can imagine, there is only one solution: Web designers have to compose standards-compliant pages. This will force the industry to develop browsers that interpret standards-compliant code correctly, relieving individual web developers from proofreading pages against said 48 configurations. “Looks good on one browser? Great, don’t have to check against anything else.”
Update July 2005: Check out Jeff Zeldman’s Keynote Movie from Web Essentials 04 held in Sydney, Australia