Scott Boms

Web Applications, Standards and Clean Code

Clean, (at least reasonably) semantic code is something I strive for when writing code as part of web projects at Wishingline Design Studio, Inc. It’s not always easy or possible due to numerous factors, but it’s a worthy goal nevertheless.

This is especially true of more marketing or information-driven sites where I feel there’s a greater likelihood of visitors using screen-readers or requiring enhanced accessibility. Try to provide a reasonably good experience for everyone — within reason. This is a philosophy I know is shared by many web professionals who care about standards, usability and accessibility.

What I’ve noticed of late is that a good portion of “Web 2.0”-style applications don’t necessarily follow those rules. Even 37 Signals’ applications are cluttered with non-semantic code, inline-styles and hordes of inline javascript. So much for the separation of content from style from behaviour.

What I’m curious about is how much does this matter? Is it bad or just personal taste? Do the requirements for web applications differ greatly compared to more informational pages (eg. blogs, marketing-oriented product websites, etc.)? Should they? Can we just get away with that sort of thing more easily with web applications than with regular vanilla web pages because of their general intended audience? Is it just a matter of the complexity of one type of web page vs another?

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments.

So say you…

Having worked in a large scale development environment where we have tried our best to implement standards based, clean code, I can say there are times when it just won’t work. Various constraints, such as time, client, and software prevent you from having the control you’d always like over the final code. In general the point of avoiding something like inline styles is to avoid having to go back and change 50 some odd pages when you want to change one thing. But if that inline style is just in one place that is being placed into those 50 pages through a CMS or whatever, that becomes something of a non-issue. Ultimately, I think standards and clean code are a goal to strive towards, but not a rigid, all or nothing rule.

Greg Hinch Greg Hinch April 24, 2006

Invalid XHTML can cause a site to break horribly or not even display in conforming browsers. So yes, it’s pretty damn important.

Anonymous Anonymous April 25, 2006