Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Some Thoughts on Web Standards

I’m going to try to be as concise about this as possible, since I’ve done extensive research into the area (and come across a few of these articles) before. I don’t have a smartphone or any type of mobile device, so in preparation for an early class on User Experience and Interface (UX/UI) for mobile applications, I looked into a lot of the conventions and elements that are taken for granted on smartphones, as well as the reasoning behind why they are the way they are. But I’ll get to that later. Here are my thoughts on the questions and the articles:

What are Web Standards, and why are they important?

Web standards are a series of expectations in user interface on the web. These are the things that are placed in similar, um, places across most web pages. If you want to see a website’s logo, you look to the top left corner. When you mouse over a hyperlink, if changes color (or style, or underlines, or something like that). These are all things that we assume will happen every time you open a website. Now, these types of things are important because they allow the user to get a handle on the site pretty quickly. Look at it this way; imagine if you were doing research across a couple of books. One of the books has a table of contents in the front, and you get used to using that to find chapters. But then the next book has its table of contents in the back, and every time you go to look up a chapter, you mess up and go to the front of the book by accident. It’s a pain in the butt to have to relearn basics, and web standards help prevent that.

What do I think of web standards?

I think that web standards have their place. They’re obviously a very important for usability and continuity, but quite frankly, the Internet that Jakob Nielsen describes is pretty bland. If one hundred percent of a website’s elements were standardized, there wouldn’t be any room for interesting design, or more importantly, innovation. I know he sort of calls off his dogs and admits you can’t standardize everything, but even the degree he wants standardization to is a bit harsh. Personally, I think the makeup of the web is at a pretty good place right now; a lot of sites are standardized (I’m lookin’ at you, social media), but there’s enough difference in other parts of the web to keep it interesting. And enough to give room for new ideas, maybe even future standards, to arise.

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