As a WordPress user, it is fantastic to see so many people contribute something back. It is so easy to find help and support, we can take it for granted.
But let us not forget the larger web community. After all, WordPress was built on web standards. It may have even been the reason some of us even started using CSS and HTML the right way.
And now more then ever, with responsive design and a plethora of devices and browsers, standards need our help. So let’s use our community spirit to help a build a better web.
What Are Web Standards?
For those that don’t know, web standards became popularized in the mid–90s by individuals like Jeffrey Zeldman after the so-called “browser wars”.
What was once a web littered with table-based layouts and flash operated designs became a web built on a separation of presentation and content into CSS and HTML markup.
The W3C was formed in order to monitor the specs of CSS and HTML and encourage implementation by browsers. In 2004, the WHATWG was formed by members from the leading browsers in order to move standards forward.
Since then, the W3C and WHATWG have worked on creating the HTML5 and CSS3 specifications, which I am sure you’ve heard plenty about.
Why Do We Need to Help?
Work is never done for one. The standards specification is constantly moving forward in order to keep up with the pace of technology. There are always ways to make it better, and the WP community represents a fairly large sample size of the web as a whole.
In addition, standards adoption is never quite where it needs to be. When a site ignores standards, they are excluding users, devices and experiences of all kinds. Standards is not law by any means, but their general adoption can ensure consistent and usable experiences for every user now and in the future.
So, without futher ado, here are a few ways you can get involved.
For those new to standards, Move the Web Forward is a great place to start. It is a collection of resources for those wishing to get involved, at any level.
For those that want to flex their developer muscles, there are plenty of standards-based open source projects across the web you can contribute to, like HTML5 Boilerplate or Modernizer. Many of these practices you will already be familiar with because of your involvement in one of the largest open source projects ever.
Or you can give feedback on the spec, subscribe to mailing lists to keep up with new developments, or generally read more about what’s going on in the world of web standards.
And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can even contribute to browsers directly, making sure new features get added. But, I’ll leave that for another day.
If you want to learn more about this, visit http://movethewebforward.org/.
Think of it as a the Codex for the entire web.
And the best news is, anyone can help. If you find yourself really loving CSS linear gradients (and who doesn’t really), why not hop over and help expand that article?
WebPlatform.org promises to seriously help widespread adoption of standards. The first step is to educate people on how to use standards properly, and to make it easy to access and learn. And if you work with WordPress, you work with standards every day, so pick a technology or specification you have mastered and help build a better web.
Accessibility is a huge concern for WordPress users. Right out of the box, WordPress comes with tools to help visually impaired, hearing imparied and individuals other disablities still get a consistent and usable web experience. There is even an active Make group devoted entirely to accessiblity.
Yet resources can still be hard to find.
The Accessiblity Project was started by Dave Rupert to help collect resources on web accessibility all in one place and create short, digestable pieces of content that designers and developers can use in every project. He has open sourced the whole thing on GitHub and it’s very easy to contribute. So all you accessibility experts out there in the community, hop on over and share your knowledge with the world.
As a developer, you may want to ensure that the markup in your plugins and themes are following standards. This can be done with validators.
The most basic HTML validator can be found at W3C. This will give you a good overview of how much your HTML conforms to the most current standards. You can validate an existing website, or upload a file still in development.
W3C also features a CSS validator. This follows the CSS3 living spec and keeps up to date just like the HTML validator.
It is also worth checking out CSS Lint set up by Nicholas Zakas and Nicole Sullivan. This will evaluate your CSS based on Object Oriented CSS and holds your code up to a bit of a higher standard. You can also set your own rules within CSS Lint if there are certain red flags you would like to look out for.
A note about validation. These are guidelines, not absolute truths. Making sure that all of your div tags are closed is one thing, but make sure you don’t go too overboard. There are perfectly legimitamte reasons why your code may not validate, and it is not always necessary to correct each and every one for the sake of semantics.
Hopefully I’ve provided a road map for how to get started and maintain web standards. It is important that we, as the WordPress community, help to move the web forward, not just passively observe its momentum. There is plenty to be done, and the future of WordPress is tied to it. So get started.
If you’d like to learn more, here are a few more resources to check out.
- Future Friendly – Future Friendly design and development
- W3C on A List Apart – A List Apart has begun to feature columns from the W3C.
- HTML5 Doctor – Learn all the ins and outs of HTML5
- HTML5 Rocks – Maintained by leaders in the web standards movement.
- HTML5 Please – Learn about browser support for the newest HTML and CSS elements.