KillerSites Blog

The Web Standards Myth’s Debunked

February 28, 2005

In this article, I will look at some of the misleading arguments used to promote Web Standards.

Before I jump into this, I would like to point out a few things:

  • The Web Standards are a good thing since it can make life easier for web designers.
  • Theory should not trump practicality. As such, many of my arguments are based on practical considerations.

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Myth #1: Web Standards equals less code – so you will have faster loading pages and you will save money on bandwidth.

Theoretically this could be true, but consider these points:

  1. In most cases, the major cause for bloated pages (in terms of KB’s,) are a bad use of images and Flash, not the mark up code.
  2. Bandwidth is so cheap these days, that probably 99.99% of websites use but a small fraction of their allotted limits.
  3. We now live in the age of broadband where people download DVD quality movies – will an extra 20k on a web page make a practical difference?
  4. All web servers have GZIP (works like winzip,) that can compress web pages by about 90%. To be fair, GZIP may not be turned on.

The examples used (by Web Standards zealots,) to promote the bandwidth and cost savings argument are not realistic; sure, saving 10k-20k a page might make a difference for one of the most popular websites in the world, but most of us will not be working on such huge projects.

From a practical point of view, it is likely that you will never see any real benefit (in terms of bandwidth and speed) with having less code in your pages.

The truth:

Less code in your pages is a good thing – because this means less work.

In the programming world, people are moving more and more towards languages and frameworks that diminishes the amount of code needed to get the job done.

That being said, you can build ‘old-style’ websites that are ‘code efficient’ as well. As such, this code argument has much more to do with good practices and not whether you are adhering to Web Standards or not.

Targeting code to reduce file size, is like being concerned (if you want to loose weight) about the sugar in your coffee at McDonalds … what about the super-sized Big Mac trio?!

Myth #2: Your websites will be forward compatible.

The forward compatibility argument implies that if you have an ‘old style’ website that one day the browser makers will suddenly stop supporting them.

This is very unlikely since they (browser makers,) don’t have a history of removing functionality – they probably don’t want to kill the tens of millions of web pages that are built using ‘old-style’ techniques.

That’s one of the reasons we have doctypes, this allows browser makers to have several ‘engines’ that can parse pages whether they are Web Standards compliant or not.

UPDATE:Forward compatibility myth proven false.

Myth #3: Web Standards will make your website more search engine friendly.

The evidence would say otherwise – there are many top ranked websites that use old-style web design techniques.

I know people with websites (that are less than two years old) that use tables galore , yet they manage to get a million page-views a month.

And on the flip side, there are lots of Web Standards based sites that get practically no traffic … hmmm, I guess it’s not all about the code after all!


Several of the arguments for Web Standards based design are misleading and have very little practical relevance in the real world. We have to be more balanced and realistic.

Part 3: Web Standards movement vs. practicality