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  1. #1
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    Why is web usability and standards so important?

    I hear it's a "good idea", but why?

    What percentage of web surfers are using text browsers, or browser for blind people or whatever? 0.003%? Okay, so it's not cool to ignore them. But surely there's more to it than "some people are handicapped and can't use standard browsers".

    I know it's not semantic to use a table to layout a web-page. But really ... who cares? What difference does it make? It's not semantic to use CSS hacks either, but it works and nobody complains. Why do people complain about table-based layouts?

    Now before anyone goes into a frothing rant, let me say that I work to W3C standard myself and that I am playing the devils advocate here a bit. I have test on Web Usability coming up soon and I want to get some really good ideas from the experts here, so I can answer whatever these guys throw at me! Apparantly they are hardcore usability gurus and it's my job to impress.

    If there's anything else I should know, please feel free to enlighten me.

    Thanks for your help in advance.

  2. #2
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    you are assuming that the percentages are hundreths of their actual size.

    Those using text browsers or web readers or hand held devices that mean only a very small part of the page at a time or use a browser that displays a page differently from the way you expect if you don't follow the standards is likely to be more like 70%+ rather than to the 0.003% you suggested.

    Also even if you only include the 2 or 3% who use web readers, they are the ones who have already sued companies and won where the company web site wasn't accessible enough for them to use.

    Besides which web pages that use tables for layout look really ugly with all those borders through the middle of their content.
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  3. #3
    You Bet Your Life...Really lerxtjr's Avatar
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    Why do people complain about table-based layouts?
    I could care less about "standards" for the sake of making W3C happy. Does what you launch online sell more? Does it increase leads?

    Those are the ONLY 2 questions that need to be asked. If "yes" to either, whatever format you use should become your own personal "standard."

  4. #4
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    ya i totally agree....following standards actually makes things more accesible n comfortable for the end users..

  5. #5
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    felgall,

    I'm sure you're aware that when people make table-based layouts they turn the borders off (or to "0"). Also, if I check my websites' statistics, it's not even close to 70&#37; that are using text browsers or mobile devices. In fact, the opposite is true. The vast majority are using browsers that are NOT standards complaint and break if you use totally standards-compliant code (i.e. Internet Explorer). I have to make hacky fixes for the majority of users, and this could easily be overcome by using non-standard-complient code and tables for layout.

    For the other guys, what I'm asking is "why"? You're telling me "web standards are good because it's good for end users". Why? BTW, I'm researching this myself too, I'm just wanting to tap the talent on these forums at the same time. Web standards and usability is all the craze these days.

  6. #6
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Xgoannax, is this the new W3C policy of testing the water before you go and do something crazy? *cough* and do we win a prize like W3C membership if we pass the test for you?

    I will throw something into the mix for you... Your mistake was mixing usability and standards in with accessibility. Though they are related of course they are separate issues for concern. Standards are of course in relation to semantic use of mark-up (what the W3C is most reliant on). The reason web standards is important is not only due to the fact that the last time browser makers were allowed to just throw whatever they want into the cauldron, Netscape and IE essentially caused a spew of inconsistent tags which threw up over everyone like a drunk at a party. Everything in life works on cause and effect, and if you give things rules to abide by, it means there is less of a chance of your changing the rules causing a random effect (quirk) which will end up functioning incorrectly. Consistency also allows us to have a level of professionalism as everyone is working to the same specification and we are not simply making it up on the spot.

    Accessibility as what you were hinting too is not really about the semantics of your code but the level of which people can physically access and make use of your information. This does not apply just to the people who suffer disabilities. note this does not just include blind people, people with auditory problems, motor function problems and neurological problems can have issues too – E.G: deaf people trying to make sense of a video or audio file, or people who have jerky hand movement (arthritis sufferers) being unable to use a mouse or people with learning disabilities being able to simply read what you put on the screen. Accessibility has wider implications to issues which may inhibit the ability to view a website mechanically (such as through a web browser, mobile device and search engine – yes SEO plays a part here)

    Finally you have usability, which is different to standards as it does not care about the structure of information (in the mark-up sense) or the accessibility (in the direct sense) but falls in between the two in terms of caring about the visual structure and the indirect accessibility of the information (in the sense of someone who can already access the information but needs to be able to navigate it effectively). As opposed to accessibility which basis much of its emphasis (in relation to humans) as medically related – due to the disability aspect, usability focuses more along the psychological aspects to which problems may occur. Ease of navigation is beyond the semantic value of the code (such as your naughty table usage) but about the thoughts, feelings and processes people go through taking in and following through information.

    The above is a good general overview of the three way process and to pull them together every single person visiting your website can either be affected by accessibility (disability or software aid issue), standards (unstable browser support) or usability (the subtle psychological processes which every single person is affected by, subliminally or obviously, to which no-one can escape).

    Edit: Oh and in terms of percentages here, if you added up the number of people with visual problems (this includes people who suffer color blindness - who as a sufferer myself am well aware of the problems it can cause, as well as those who have vision problems which require increased text size or visual aids) then added the number of people with auditory problems, motor function problems (including stroke recovery victims, people who were in accidents loosing loss of arm functions or have arthritis and other related conditions) then added on top of that people who have neurological disabilities (or conditions which affect comprehension – this includes dyslexia victims and people with memory problems!) you have a very high number of individuals. And of course you need to add old browser users to the number on top (to cover standards issues and glitches it causes) and finally add every single person in the universe who visits your website and cant navigate it properly because you did the unfortunate remake of the button that cost billions (or in more realistic terms, have a website so confusing people give up and go away) and you may as well give up and go play outside.

    PS: If you want to impress hardcore usability guru’s just say “Jakob Nielson is my hero” and you will have them chanting in circles with their hooded UseIt wizards capes attached.

  7. #7
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by xgoannax View Post
    felgall,

    I'm sure you're aware that when people make table-based layouts they turn the borders off (or to "0").
    You default it to 0 b ut since your visitor's CSS overrides yours and tabular data is easier to read WITH borders it is an obvious override to force borders to appear on all tables that display in your browser. It is also useful for finding those pages that you have that you still haven't updated in to the 20th century yet and which are still using an HTML table layout instead of a CSS table layout - all modern browsers support display:table, display:table-row and display:table-cell in CSS so there is no excuse for not defining your layout table in the CSS where it belongs.

    Oh and if standartds don't matter then why not plug all your 3 volt handheld devices into the mains electricity after all the standards don't matter so it should be able to function on any voltage without requiring anything specific.
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  8. #8
    SitePoint Author silver trophybronze trophy

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    Quote Originally Posted by lerxtjr View Post
    Does what you launch online sell more? Does it increase leads?

    Those are the ONLY 2 questions that need to be asked.
    Why do people who care about nothing but money always assume that everyone else does (or should) too?
    Birnam wood is come to Dunsinane

  9. #9
    billycundiff{float:left;} silver trophybronze trophy RyanReese's Avatar
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    felgall, correct me if I'm wrong but doesn't in CSS1 the site designer could override the user settings, but in now, CSS2, the user take presedence? How come if I try and make a table with no borders, it comes with no borders. (off topic I assume).

    Standards should be followed-you can't be forced to do something but you get a little bonus from doing so.

    Off Topic:

    And you get that great feeling that you just coded a great page
    Always looking for web design/development work.
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  10. #10
    SitePoint Wizard Stomme poes's Avatar
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    I hear it's a "good idea", but why?
    It's kind of an underwear question. Ask me why I wear it. I'm not always sure. But I do. Not that anyone would ever notice if I didn't (assuming my pants always stay on).

    The general answer to Why Standards is the same answer for any standards: if everyone has the same playbook to follow, it's easier to play the game.

    Yeah, not everyone follows-- not every web dev, certainly not every user agent/browser. Sometimes the rules are vague or, bleh, undefined (which I think can defeat the purpose of having a standard). They also change.

    I try to write standards-wise because I think it's right. I don't have to help any old ladies cross the street. No law says I have to. But it feels right. Unless she didn't really want help and gets pissed at me. I also write standards-wise because it's the way I learned first, so, it's easier. For others then, tabled layouts are easier for the same reason.

    Does what you launch online sell more? Does it increase leads?
    Great, your advertising got me all the way to your site. I find your product via Google and decide I MUST have one of those. But I can't buy it. The site makes no sense, I can't find the product, I can't fill in the contact form because some idiot made form validation done via Javascript on the client side (no no no) so I can't contact you to rant and I can't buy your product. Or, you only offered PayPal or credit card. Or, you didn't label all the images of the product, so instead of info about the product, just a bunch of empty pictures. Or whatever.

    If I really want it that bad, I guess I can try to get a friend to order it for me. Or, I just don't buy it. Sucks, but that's life: you "generated a lead" but what's a lead if there's no conversion?? No sale?? No point in spending all this effort to get people to your badly-written site if the badly-written-ness of it prevents even a percentage of your visitors from buying something or signing up.
    Note:
    Lex, all the above is hypothetical, I'm not talking about any particular site of yours or your company's. I've never looked for them or visited them.

  11. #11
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stomme poes View Post
    It's kind of an underwear question. Ask me why I wear it. I'm not always sure. But I do. Not that anyone would ever notice if I didn't (assuming my pants always stay on)..
    So what you are saying is your underwear is semantically correct because it is socially acceptable to wear it... Though you are also implying that you might occasionally flash your underpants to us to show us how clean they are (so we can appreciate your effort), and at our own discretion we should be able to take a peek at them to examine your form for educational purposes.

  12. #12
    SitePoint Addict Poiesis01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AutisticCuckoo View Post
    Why do people who care about nothing but money always assume that everyone else does (or should) too?
    LOL, but hey, that's what the web is all about isn't it? Hardly anyone seems to be bothered about making the best site out there or even making something that they can be proud of.

  13. #13
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poiesis01 View Post
    LOL, but hey, that's what the web is all about isn't it? Hardly anyone seems to be bothered about making the best site out there or even making something that they can be proud of.
    Well in that case, allow me to be the exception to the rule because I have some pride in my work

  14. #14
    billycundiff{float:left;} silver trophybronze trophy RyanReese's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poiesis01 View Post
    LOL, but hey, that's what the web is all about isn't it? Hardly anyone seems to be bothered about making the best site out there or even making something that they can be proud of.
    I guess I'll step up to the plate and say I'm an exception too .

    Perhaps the local birwatchers club webdeveloper who is learning HTML from HTMl4Dummies doesn't put the best work in, but that's excusable.
    Always looking for web design/development work.
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    SitePoint Wizard Stomme poes's Avatar
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    So what you are saying is your underwear is semantically correct because it is socially acceptable to wear it... Though you are also implying that you might occasionally flash your underpants to us to show us how clean they are (so we can appreciate your effort), and at our own discretion we should be able to take a peek at them to examine your form for educational purposes.
    No, I guess I wear underwear "just because". Because everyone else I know does, because it feels right to wear them and wrong not to wear them. They're not semantically correct, they're just culturally correct.

    Hmmm, I do think that's why I write standards-based style. It's what I was taught from the beginning. That's actually more important than the other reasons that I do, which I "know" in my head and are logical... so, the reason I wear jeans and not a mu-mu or walk around naked... the reason I eat with utensils instead of with my hands in public... it's social pressure, and I justify it with all the usual arguments we tell each other.

    My god, I've become part of a religion! The dogmatic religion of Standards-based Markup! It's true, even though I also agree with the actual reasons for it. I would feel ashamed to post code I thought was crap here (even asking a question with it). It's all social pressure.

    So maybe that's how we can get more people to write semantic, correct code-- social pressure. It seems to work. It made normal people "electrocute" people "learning" in those old college studies (people obey authority figures) and they will say the incorrect answer because everyone else is saying it (the different-lengths of lines college experiment).

  16. #16
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RyanReese View Post
    I guess I'll step up to the plate and say I'm an exception too .

    Perhaps the local birwatchers club webdeveloper who is learning HTML from HTMl4Dummies doesn't put the best work in, but that's excusable.
    All professionals and would be professionals would also be an exception. Only those who are doing it as a hobby would not be at least trying to do it properly. Just like the hobbyists who grab their hammer and go round the house to fix all their own plumbing problems.
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    SitePoint Addict Poiesis01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    All professionals and would be professionals would also be an exception. Only those who are doing it as a hobby would not be at least trying to do it properly. Just like the hobbyists who grab their hammer and go round the house to fix all their own plumbing problems.
    Hmmm, must be a lot of hobbyists out there but there's nothing that says a hobbyist can't do a professional job (says a hobbyist )

  18. #18
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    Stomme poes, well I guess in this case you are probably bestter off being part of the "religion" as opposed to walking around in a mu-mu, eating with your hands while being electrocuted

  19. #19
    Programming Since 1978 silver trophybronze trophy felgall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poiesis01 View Post
    Hmmm, must be a lot of hobbyists out there but there's nothing that says a hobbyist can't do a professional job (says a hobbyist )
    I meant to say SOME of those doing it as a hobby - of course there are always exceptions with hobbyists trying to do things the right way - particularly if the hobby is related to what they are trying to do.
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  20. #20
    SitePoint Addict Fre420's Avatar
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    Usability
    Because users will use your website, not just look at one page.
    It's hard enough for users to learn how a browser works, don't let them learn how every website works, they should all work the same.
    If you stay away from usability, the intuitiveness of your website goes away.

    To give a simple example, search box = top right corner. Users expect it there. If you place it somewhere else, they have to find it & have to think.
    Making users think makes it harder for you to let them find & read the content. (the reason the website was built)
    If they can't use your website, what's the use of building it ?

    Seen from a Return of Investment standpoint, Usability has the highest ROI.


    Accessibility

    the biggest argument from a business point =
    because you have one big & important blind user = Google
    & it's one that can make you a lot of money, from an SEO perspective.

    A lot of the accessibility best practices are the same as SEO best practices.


    Standards

    Using standards, & especially keeping content (HTML), design (CSS) & animation (flash & javascript) completely separated has a lot of benefits.
    The biggest one should be reusing code.
    semantic HTML content in a CMS --> easy to restyle
    keeping HTML & CSS completely separated --> easy to restyle & reuse (for example a style switcher)
    keeping HTML semantic --> easy to embed existing javascripts on it.
    etc ...

    It's wrong to see your website as an isolated thing on the web. Neither may you isolate your techniques (HTML etc ...) from others you don't know yet.
    Keeping standards make sure that all techniques work together.
    You don't have to be a Javascript genius, but if you follow HTML standards, you will embed javascripts more easily...
    You don't need to know the in's & out's of SEO, but follow semantic HTML & accessibility standards and your site improves a lot from an SEO perspective
    etc ...

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poiesis01 View Post
    LOL, but hey, that's what the web is all about isn't it? Hardly anyone seems to be bothered about making the best site out there or even making something that they can be proud of.
    Well I care about making something I can be proud of!

  22. #22
    SitePoint Addict Poiesis01's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ro0bear View Post
    Well I care about making something I can be proud of!
    Hehe, looks like most people here on SP care about what they're doing. There are always exceptions, like felgall says, my apologies

    Quote Originally Posted by felgall View Post
    I meant to say SOME of those doing it as a hobby - of course there are always exceptions with hobbyists trying to do things the right way - particularly if the hobby is related to what they are trying to do.
    Yeah, I know what you meant - most of them would just use a hammer to fix anything when they should be using a screw driver.

  23. #23
    billycundiff{float:left;} silver trophybronze trophy RyanReese's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poiesis01 View Post
    Yeah, I know what you meant - most of them would just use a hammer to fix anything when they should be using a screw driver.


    More seriously...I put hard work into every site I make because eventually it will come back. Some time or some client will look through all the sites and will actually be smart enough to notice if I made it well. If I don't follow standards correctly then trying to achieve a simple update (aka just some ads or another column) would take much longer if I didn't use the proper semantic code.
    Always looking for web design/development work.
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    SitePoint Addict Fre420's Avatar
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    I want to add something to the standards thing.

    Your code won't only be used by normal browsers to display the site.
    Screenreaders etc are already discussed here, but you also have Search Engines, RSS readers, crawlers, etc ...
    These tools work on standards, if you don't follow standards, they can't understand or display your content properly.

    The last years there was a standard evolution on the computer browsers, screen resolutions & performance became bigger/better.
    But now you have smartphones, game consoles, tv's, refrigerators, netbooks, etc ... who all can access websites. With smaller resolutions, less performance & less capabilities as the normal browsers had a few years ago.
    Working with standards give you more certainty your websites will degrade better on these devices.

  25. #25
    Follow: @AlexDawsonUK silver trophybronze trophy AlexDawson's Avatar
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    It would be nice to hear back from the origional poster to see if they found anything we have posted informative...


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