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Web Site Redesign sample essay

There are several advantages in having a web site that conforms to web standards. A valid web site allows for broader accessibility, easier code maintenance, and sustainability of the web site despite the volatile development of web-based technologies. However, redesigning an existing web site to comply to standards requires a lot of work, time, and money.

Although it is the cost-effective approach of maintaining a web site, checking the validity of the web pages for compliance with standards such as HTML, CSS, or web accessibility guidelines exacts an almost insurmountable task especially for a web site with thousands of documents. However, there are several tools and guidelines readily available to remedy the problem. The aim of this paper is to describe the suggested steps that will help make an existing web site standards-compliant.

Validity of the code

According to Jeffery Zeldman, author of “Designing with Web Standards,” web standards refers to web authoring using XHTML and XML as structural language, CSS as presentation langauge, W3C DOM as object models and ECMAscript as scripting language among others. Redesigning a web site that complies to web standards entails checking the validity of the code based on these language tools. The Markup Validator, available at W3C, can be used for this purpose.

The tool checks for the correctness of a web document line by line against the declared DOCTYPE and returns a list of errors with the corresponding line number where those errors occur. However, this requires that the file should have the correct DOCTYPE to inform the validator which version of (X)HTML is being used. Checking the correctness of the DOCTYPE is the primary component of redesigning standards-compliant web pages since the Markup Validator cannot validate the files without it and so it must appear at the very top of each web page (Weakley, 2004).

Compatibility and Accessibility

After identifying the invalid markups, a decision have to be made on the degree of compliance to be followed. Although strict compliance is ideally the target, it also has several disadvantages like imperfect browser support for CSS which will likely make sites look plain and unattractive in old browsers or some scripts may not work at all in old mainstream broswers. Some layout schemes are also easier using HTML tables that are difficult to achieve using CSS layout without reworking the entire design (Weakley, 2004). Zeldman suggested two approaches: transitional forward compatibility and strict forward compatibility.

The strict forward compatibility approach is suggested for sites whose target audience are thought to have standards-compliant browsers. Although the low percentage of visitors with noncompliant will still be able to view the content, branding and behavior delivery won’t be as successful compared with newer broswers and devices. Zeldman list the ingredients of achieving strict forward compatibility which includes full separation of structure from presentation and behavior, use of valid CSS for layout while HTML tables are used solely for tabular data, use valid XHTML 1.0 for markup, and an emphasis on structure without a use of presentation hacks in CSS.

On the other hand, for transitional forward compatibility, valid HTML 4.0 are also used for markup and valid CSS are used for control of typography, color, margins, etc. This approach is recommended for sites with a high percentage of visitors using old browsers that don’t support CSS. Through this, forward compatibiliy with future browsers and devices is achieved while remaining accessible to users with old browsers.

Summary

Redesigning a web site to comply with web standards is cost-effective and viable way of maintaining a web site. However, it requires a lot of work. First, the quality of the codes should be checked for validity. Only valid XHTML and CSS markups should be used in the site. Then the degree of forward compatibility should be decided depending on the goals and target audience of the site. This will determine the degree of separation between the code for the structure and for the presentation as well as the accessibility between users with old broswers and more standard-compliant browsers and devices.

It is important that whichever approach is taken, the accessibility and behavior attibutes in different browsers should be tested after the redesign to determine that the goals for web standards compliance are achieved.

References

Weakley, R. (2004). Web standards checklist. Retrieved 30 June, 2006 from

http://www.maxdesign.com.au/presentation/checklist.htm

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