It can be a tough task trying to convince your boss that the company or department should adopt Web Standards when building projects. Change is often seen as time consuming, inconvenient, tedious, expensive, and not worth the effort. Chances are that if you are trying to make the case to follow Web Standards to your boss by arguing from the “moral high ground” by saying “it’s the right thing to do”, you are not going to have much success. If you want to make real change in the industry, you have to speak to the bottom line: Profit.
Jeffrey Zeldman provided us with some compelling examples in his book Designing With Web Standards that can be presented to head honchos to convince them to make the change. Jeff Veen has also made a strong case that would convince most any business to get on the band wagon. Andy Budd has done a nice job of arguing the business case for Accessibility. Though all of these guys have said most of this already with precision and eloquence, here are the arguments I hope you are using to make a change in your company, school, or organization.
- A more Accessible site is a more findable site. Search engines can better index a web site that is built to follow WCAG and/or Section 508 guidelines. Google is the biggest blind user on the Web!
- Accessibility includes more customers, which leads to more profits. Accessibility is not just about disabilities. It’s about alternate devices for viewing a site too.
- Target.com was sued by blind users who could not use their in-Accessible site. Do you want your business to be the subject of the next class action law suit and all of the bad PR that comes with it?
- Using semantically meaningful markup improves Search Engine Optimization, which drives more traffic to the site, and generates more revenue
- Using Microformats (again, semantically meaningful markup) also improves Search Engine Optimization because search engine spiders can better understand the content on the page
- By keeping your formatting (CSS) separated from structure (XHTML), you will use less code, which make your site download faster for your users. Your external CSS files will also cache in the browser’s temporary memory so the code that handles formatting doesn’t have to download each time a page is viewed.
- Maintenance times can be dramatically decreased by building sites without verbose nested tables, which can be a nightmare to try to modify. Changes can be made site-wide in a design by modifying one external style sheet, saving time and money.
- Following Web Standards improves proper cross-browser display, and helps ensure that a site is forward compatible with future browsers
- Server bandwidth fees are decreased when less code is required to download for the page to display (cached style sheets, less redundant markup)
- If you are doing any contract work with US government agencies, your site will need to be Section 508
In my mind, the most compelling arguments relate to SEO, as every company wants to be found by new customers, regardless of your business goals. Web Standards are a huge part of achieving optimal SEO results.
None of the above arguments are new, but yet there are still so many businesses and schools that are not on board. That means either the case is not being made to them, or it’s not being made effectively. Although you may encounter opposition to your initiatives to make change, persist, and make your arguments clearly. The argument that it’s “the right thing to do” is nice, but it’s not going to get you far with those who don’t want to be convinced.
Speak to how the organization will profit, and you can make a change. We each have the power to make changes in our own way, all of which add up to larger benefits for the Web. If you share in the spirit of altruism, people are generally pretty receptive to what you have to say. If we try to make changes by forcing it upon people, or condescending, people will not react well to your advice. Think from their perspective. How would you feel if someone told you you were building pages “the wrong way”? You’d probably be put off. Remember your grandma’s advice.
“You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
- Your wise ol’ grandma