Web and nappies: Without standards we all come unstuck

Web and nappies: Without standards we all come unstuck

Summary: Standards are needed in all walks of life, the web and everything.


Web standards evangelist Lea Verou recently started working for the World Wide Web Consortium. This move is good news for web standards, as she is a passionate and high-profile communicator. And what is good for web standards is good for everyone.

But what on Earth have web standards got to do with nappies? Making the job easier, that's what.

While changing nappies, I have noticed that the animals always go at the front. The bit near the belly button, the area that the tabs attach to. I only really noticed this when I used Huggies nappies recently, and they had an animal at the back as well, and it right put me off my nappy-changing stride.

In the middle of the night, I cursed Huggies for their non-conformance to Nappy Standards.

It's the same with web standards. If you know that margin and padding are always in addition to a box width, then you only have to think once about calculating dimensions — thanks IE5. Standards such as frameworks make the web development job easier, so you don't have to reinvent several wheels to accommodate oddball browsers.

And at the bottom of it all is the dissemination of information. Christian Heilmann recently wrote about video formats in Reaching The Audience vs Puerile Purity, where he states: "Getting the message out is the most important part."

Video formats and open standards are an integral part of the process but not the point of the exercise. The point is the message.

Now I know why to write clean code

Everybody knows that you should build a website mobile first: get the functionality right for mobile and everything else follows.

Unfortunately, I've been in the real-world situation of retrospectively fitting an adaptive, mobile version of a site.

Now I know why to write clean code and why to build mobile first. Like web standards, it makes the job easier.

I understand the time pressures and communication issues many agencies are faced with, which lead to retrospective mobile sites and hurried mark-up. Us web developers need all the help we can get, and web standards make it easier for everyone.


This blog post was written before I was aware of Bruce Lawson's excellent post on standards and sausages, which looks at how standards are created - in comparison with sausages, not nappies.

Topics: Browser, Software Development

Jake Rayson

About Jake Rayson

A web designer since the 20th century, I am a pragmatic advocate of Free Software and I use proprietary software when appropriate. I made the full-time switch to Linux back in 2007, and my desktop tools of choice are Linux Mint, Inkscape, GIMP and Sublime Text.

As a Front End Developer, my core skills are HTML5, CSS3 and jQuery, and my working life reflects my commitment to open standards and accessible websites (ie accessible by everyone, regardless of browser, platform, ability or technology).

For web publishing platforms, I use WordPress for ease of use and Drupal for more complex solutions.

I am also learning about Ruby, Rails, Sinatra and CoffeeScript. I like the minimalist Ruby Way. To this end, my personal portfolio website is built with NestaCMS.

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  • Should Standards Be Patentable?

    In other words, should there be a Standards Tax?

    There are those who insist that, without patents, nobody would invent anything. Yet the World-Wide Web was invented by Tim Berners-Lee, who refused to patent it because he knew that would restrict its popularity.

    Then we saw others try to enforce patents on things built on top of the Web, like GIF image compression. Was that sort of thing right?