Web standards: should we really care?

In my first job, the majority of front end development time was spent trying to get horrible nested table layouts to render in both IE and Netscape 4. Thankfully the browser world (and more importantly the standards world) have progressed since then (at least a little). Browsers have taken a role reversal, with IE now dragging the chain in place of good old nutscrape.

However despite the leaps and bounds that have been made towards standardising the web, the development environment really hasn’t changed that much. We’ve gone from placing invisible pixels inside nested tables to juggling CSS hacks – all to maintain a consistent look and feel across the range of browsers.

So despite my feeling that our CSS tableless layouts are slightly more elegant (and less code heavy) I can’t help but wonder why we haven’t already achieved standardisation – and the only explanation I can come up with is that some goon in suit at Redmond doesn’t want it for some reason.

But that’s not all there is to it, standardisation is something that rarely comes about through conscious intent, and usually comes to pass for the wrong reasons (take qwerty keyboards.. There are more effective options you know..)

I’ve heard people suggest that the non-compliance of browsers kept the entry-level of the industry higher, however this is absurd. The quality of web design is really a combination if interface design, information design -and lastly, aesthetic. Whoever said “content is king” was onto the right idea.

So where are our web standards heading? Hopefully to a standardised place (wishful thinking, I hear you say) where we can focus all our design and development time on the higher values of our work; namely: presenting our information in a concise and user friendly way, while still achieving a pleasing aesthetic.