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What is W3C? And why is it so important on the World Wide Web?

W3C is the acronym for the World Wide Web Consortium and their main aim is to establish a set of standards that will avoid code incompatibility amongst the growing army of browsers in use around the world.

The standards are a guideline only, but any website designer or developer worth their salt will adhere to the recommendations issued by the W3C. In fact, many of the web programming jobs advertised on freelancer or agency boards specifically stipulate that the code used to build a website is W3C validated. And although this practise is commonplace for HTML and XHTML it is becoming increasingly important for websites that are created with Cascading Style Sheets.

Tim Berners-Lee, the Englishman credited with inventing the World Wide Web back in 1989, and other pioneers of the web created the consortium to support the standardisation of the technologies practised on the internet. If the W3C had not been established to police these standards, it is highly unlikely that the web would have evolved to be the global medium it is today. Interoperability between different IT machines requires common interface and data communication protocols to allow the systems to ‘speak’ to each other.

That was the ultimate goal of the W3C. To publish the standards necessary, enabling software and web developers to create applications that would be compatible with each other and ensure that web browsers render websites the same regardless of who developed them. The consortium also encourages and educates web designers and developers so that they will work together to design and build websites to W3C standards.

Because of the work that the W3C carry out, someone using an Apple Mac in Australia or a Windows machine in China can view a webpage that is hosted on a Linux server in Canada.

And, if the code that built that webpage adheres to validated HTML and CSS, the page should appear very similar and have the same functionality across the majority of different web browsers and operating systems in use today.

Why is Validated and Standardised Code So Important?

Despite all web browsers being capable of understanding and rendering HTML, they don’t all do it in the same way. Browsers have their own unique propriety extensions that they use to interpret the HTML and CSS code in order to create the special effects that the designers are trying to achieve. The result is that a web page that renders satisfactory in Microsoft Internet Explorer may very well crash in Google Chrome, Firefox or Opera and vice versa. From experience I know how frustrating this can be.

With the advent of hand held devices and tablets it is impossible to try out the HTML & CSS code across all browser platforms. Testing the pages on as many major browsers as possible is usually sufficient for most web designers and developers. But to ensure a higher compatibility rate it is essential that websites are coded to W3C standards.

So Why Isn’t W3C Validated Code Always Practised?

The problem can stem from older versions of software programs such as Dreamweaver or Frontpage. These outdated WYSIWYG HTML editors will be unable to generate the recently released tags or functions without an expensive upgrade. And superseded HTML tags that are no longer supported by the W3C will start to render differently in the newer browsers. Web designers and developers will have to make sure they are using the very latest software packages or be able to hand code their sites incorporating the very latest W3C releases.

In Conclusion

As the number of browsers and devices increases around the world, W3C standardised coding becomes more and more important for all credible web design agencies. The W3C organisation offers a Markup Validation tool on their website that will scrutinise the coding used on a site and highlight any errors.

If you would like to learn more about W3C compatibility or enquire about website design and development, please feel free to contact us, we’ll be only too happy to talk.