Ovi's blog on the web and design

On Web Standards and rounded corners

I think I agree with this article written ten years ago when the web was still in its infancy. While general web practices make sense, the need for having formal standards seems unnecessary. Website-building technologies have in a lot of ways standardized themselves because of individual developers deciding what is appropriate to use. Looking at the reasons why this has happened is important to understanding why we don’t need formal standards.

A website works best when its front-end code is developed in a way that works well across all browsers, is picked up well by search engines, and is usable and engaging to the user. With these factors in mind, developers have implemented technologies that are now commonly known as ‘web standards’ even though there’s no formal guidelines for them. Technologies such as XHTML, CSS, Javascript using DOM, and Flash. After some strong support for these technologies, they are now part of tools like Dreamweaver and WordPress which even further spreads their use. By just focusing on quality results, web professionals have agreed on a consensus themselves.

Web browsers play a part in this as well. With competition between different browsers and the demand for better features, there’s more support for better technologies. A perfect example of this is what Google is doing with its browser, Chrome. Not only have they developed it from the ground up to work well with current ‘web standards’ technologies being used, but are pushing things even further. Despite the W3C finishing its ‘official standards’ specs for HTML 5, Chrome is already supporting it and encouraging developers to start developing in it. In fact, most browsers are supporting HTML 5, with only Internet Explorer being the only major browser not supporting it yet.

Which brings me to rounded corners. You’d expect that after all these years of internet browsers, being able to program a rounded corner should be doable by now in modern browsers since it’s become a pretty standard design element on websites (some would argue too much so). Yet Internet Explorer does not support this, their reasoning being because it’s not ‘standardized’. That seems like an easy answer for not putting in the additional effort for new capabilities. But I wonder how long they’ll hold to that while their competition gains more users who don’t think about the ‘importance of standards’, but who simply want a better web browsing experience.

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