Standards, who needs them

So I’ve been hard at work converting our site to valid xhtml. In the process I am quite excited to moving the site into a new direction as well.

To understand this direction though, you have to understand how the web works. The web is made up of HTML, code that your browser reads and then puts into the format you are all familiar with. So

<ul style="background-color: gray">
<li style="color: black; font-size: 16pt">Item 1</li>
<li style="color: red; font-size: 8pt; font-weight: bold">Item2</li>
<li>Item 3</li>
</ul>

becomes:

  • Item 1
  • Item2
  • Item 3

Now if you look closely you will see that there are actually two things going on. The first is that a list is being created. This is called the layout. The second is that text is being resized and bolded, colors changed, etc. This is called the style.

Previously, as in my example, the layout and style were all located in the same place, in the page itself’s file. Now what is happening is that the layout is being kept in the main file, and the style is being moved out of the file into a stylesheet. This allows a few advantages, the biggest one is that now the main file is nothing more than your text/data given importance in layout (paragraphs, headings, tables, lists, etc). It doesn’t have any particular look to it, and it shouldn’t. It is just the raw material from your page.

You can then through various web tricks assign all sorts of styles to it. You can assign a style for Halloween or Easter; a style for if it is being viewed over a web browser, a mobile phone, or being printed; or send the raw data through another program and create actual graphic design layouts for a book or other publishing media.

The other thing I have been doing during this project is cleaning up the code. This is something I am also very proud of. the web has always been a very loose collection of standards, and that looseness is something that web designers have never been afraid to take advantage of. Fortunately with HTMl 4.01 and XHTML 1.0 things are changing in that respect also. Web developers are now taking more care to make sure their sites are compliant. This one is for example. You can see by clicking the Valid XHTML link over on the right hand side. You can see if any site is compliant by going to validator.w3.org and typing in your favorite site into the address bar and seeing how it turns out.

Anyway, the project has been fun, but now I am done, and relieved. While fun, it has been long and requiring quite a bit of brain behind it as well.

I know this isn’t the family or picture update many of you have been waiting for, but nonetheless it is something I wanted to share.

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