Standards and Semantics in Web Design

Published in Web Development on Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

Standards and Semantics

Is the idea of semantics getting lost in all of the talk about web standards and validating code?

Those little html tags we use to markup our pages have meaning, and therein lies the matter of this post. The topic of semantics crops up here and there and in many other places, but the article that originally got me on to thinking harder about the semantics of my code was Standards don't necessarily have anything to do with being semantically correct by Jason Kottke.

It just seems that recently I have observed too many cases of people building “standards based websites” and equating that phrase with merely getting a thumbs up from the validator. I suppose the ‘quantitative validation’ of passing the validator is something much more tangible than ‘doing semantics right’, something which can be a subjective matter.

Keep the Focus

Maybe we need to be careful to send the right message and not get sidetracked by something that perhaps by now we take for granted; lets not lose the idea of semantics in the details.

Comments and Feedback

An example of improved accessibility due to good semantic markup was posted recently at WebmasterWorld. That first paragraph in the first post is rewarding to those of us who make the effort.

Disclaimer: as a result of being built quickly, there may be semantic inconsistencies with the markup of this website. ;-]

Valid code is one thing, using tags correctly in a semantical way the other thing, that can't be validated by any program, machine etc.

See your CSS challenge, all attempts have valid code, but it's hard to say attempt A is more correct in semantics than attempt B, C or D.

I don't think there will be the one and only way to achieve correct semantics as you can see at SimpleBits quiz



A perfect example Lars. The SimpleQuiz demonstrates how often times there is not a 'correct' way when dealing with 'semantic validity'.

What concerns me, though, is that newcomers to 'the revolution' of standards based web-design may lose site of the semantic end of valid coding because of so much hoo-hah around the markup validator...

As someone who has attempted to educate others, I can tell you that just convincing people to validate their pages can be a struggle. Once they actually create valid pages, you can start to move forward an explain what semantic markup is, and why it's important.

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