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Chapter Four. XML Conquers the World (An... > The Mainstreaming of Web Standards

The Mainstreaming of Web Standards

In 2001, the U.S. and Canada published guidelines demanding that government-related sites be developed with web standards and made accessible. The governments of Britain and New Zealand soon followed suit, as did numerous American states.

In 2002, mainstream government-related sites including Texas Parks & Wildlife (www.tpwd.state.tx.us) and the home page of Juneau, Alaska [4.18] converted to web standards including CSS layout. Texas Parks & Wildlife explained its conversion this way (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/standards/tpwbui.htm):

Texas Parks & Wildlife, as a state agency, is required by Texas Administrative Code §201.12 to code web pages using the web standards set forth by the W3C. The driving force behind these requirements is the issue of accessibility. Web pages must be accessible to all users, regardless of disability or technology used to access web pages.

But if the pages do not look the same for everyone, how are they accessible?

Being accessible does not mean that everyone sees the same thing. Accessibility is about content and information. It is about making all content (text, images, and multimedia) available to the user. In order to do this according to the standards, TPW makes use of Cascading Style Sheets to separate content from presentation. Separating presentation from content will enable TPW to offer higher quality pages and dynamic, timely content.

The web coding standards set forth by the W3C make creating accessible pages possible. By using such W3C standards as Cascading Style Sheets and XHTML, Texas Parks & Wildlife has begun to create compliant web pages.

4.18. Welcome to beautiful Juneau, Alaska, home of tourism, mining, fishing, and style sheets (www.juneau.org). Juneau.org was among the first public sites to scrap old-school frames and such for CSS layout and structured XHTML markup.

The developers of the home page for Alaska's Capital City provided a similar rationale (www.juneau.org/about/stylesheets.php):

We are converting the CBJ site from a frame structure to the Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) standard. This standard allows us greater freedom with design while increasing the accessibility of the content for our users. Using style sheets, we can make our content available to nearly all browser and computing platforms, including handheld and ADA devices, from the same page rather than maintaining “text only” or “printer friendly” duplicates of our pages. Likewise, it will allow us to avoid many of the pitfalls we encounter with our current “frame-based” layout.

…The only downside is that many older browsers are not style sheet compliant. The upside of the downside, however, is that style sheets are much kinder to non-compliant browsers than frames are to no-frames browsers. Browsers that are not style sheet compliant will display the content of a CSS web page in a “text” format. Although it is not pretty, all the information (including links and images) is displayed. In fact, using style sheets, the web designer can control the order in which the content is displayed in a non-compliant browser without compromising how the site is displayed in compliant browsers. This ability alone is a major advantage of Cascading Style Sheets. This allows web pages to be tailored to both old and new browsers. As a website designer, I would much rather have my users say my web pages “look funny” rather than saying they “don't work.”

Most of the newer versions of the popular browsers are CSS-compliant. If your current browser is not style sheet compliant, please click on one of the buttons below to download a compliant browser. For older systems (with slower processors and less memory), select the Opera browser. This browser has much lower system requirements than the other two.

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