Why Open Standards Are Good for Your E-business

» Jumpin’ on The Band Wagon

In many respects, the world wide web is pretty much a wild place with spotty oversight and more scallywags and neer-do-wells doing shoddy work, trying to beat the system and increase their PageRank and presence — oh, and increase sales, too.

Then there are the problems of compatibility — you’ve got such a large code set from which to choose — HTML, XHTML, XLC, et al, that compatibility issues will only continue to confuse the matter more.

Imagine the world of widgets, a niche market but one with potential. Any way, all the widget makes get together one day and agree that from henceforth all widgets will only be constructed using #3 hex bolts. What a break-through in the manufacturing of widgets. Unit costs drop because no special bolts are needed. Interchangeability becomes easier. Upgrades are a snap and, in one very obvious sense, the world of widgets has become-just a little bit closer.

Anyway, you get the point. There are business benefits — today — to jumping on the bandwagon and starting to use open standards in your site development work.

Look, here’s how it breaks down, strictly from the bottom line POV:

Increased Accessibility
Using open standards in the development or upgrade of your site increases user accessibility by eliminating incompatibilities in older browsers and by being compliant with the protocols of cellular e-mail and the integration of other communications systems — today and in the future.

In other words, by designing your site to be compliant, you’re making it easier to adapt to new technologies as they become available:

  • access to your site from your cell
  • e-mail from anywhere, any time
  • easy access to the ever-more popular hand-held computers (which work with a full-bore Windows OS)
  • on-line order-taking from cell phone customers

All of these integrated functions have any easier time finding your site when it’s been built to industry standards. It brings just a bit of law and order to the lawless www.

Up and Running Faster Simplified Maintenance
One aspect of open standards involves separating XHTML (the text) of your site from the graphic elements. This allows for just about anyone to develop the text using simple meta tags — <div>, <p>, etc. So what? Well, with tags pointing to a Cascading Style Sheet (CSS), you’ve begun to super-charged your site.

In addition, the client can easily develop all of the text and back end content while the designer is putting together the architecture. By divvying up the work, and with parallel site development you ensure that your site is up and running sooner — an especially critical consideration when you’re financing this out of your own pocket and it’s time to get some inflow to offset the outgo, or at least slow down your burn rate. In other words, open standards will make site design more efficient, easier, faster and less costly.

On the maintenance side, a uniform set of building modalities will ensure easy maintenance and revisions to any site. Modules that conform to the site standards can be plugged in quickly (read cheaply), changing the look and lowering the cost of routine site maintenance.

More Sites in Less Time
Web-compliant browsers have forced site designers to rethink everything from the bottom up. These browsers’ (now approximately 95% of all browsers sold today) use of open standards has forced us all to discard the old rule of ‘every site for itself’ and begin the process of standardization.

From the purely proactive perspective, many clients are setting up multiple sites for various test marketings, among other things. So, a standard code, used by the entire hard hat I-net population simplifies replication of sites within different SEs. In other words, open standards will allow you to do more work in less time because you won’t be confronted with compatibility hassles.

Reduced Hosting Costs
By segregating text from other site elements, and by eliminating extraneous under-performing site functions, you’ll take up less cyber space, lowering your monthly costs for hosting services. In effect, open standards are more efficient standards and as such, will lower bandwidth, saving you money every month — money that adds up over time.

Much Happier Visitors
A site that dogs loading the home page doesn’t bode well for visitor or site owner. Only 5% of visitors have the patience to sit out a 30-second download — 5%! Now, sure, broadband has made the problem less of a problem, but there are still a lot of users still running old, clunky, dial-up modems.

By simplifying code and optimizing your site for speed, each visitor will have a more positive experience. No one wants to wait for downloads any more. Simplify and give your site some impact — without losing anything in the way of appearance or user features. After all, even on the www, the customer is always right.

So Should You Or Shouldn’t You?
You’ve got a site. It’s up and running, no complaints about traffic, it looks good and you spent big bucks getting it that way. And changing over to open standards — HTML, XHTML and CSS is going to be a costly proposition — not millions, but more than putting on a new roof. So, the question becomes: should I spend the money to develop a compliant website, or hold on to what I’ve got?

Obviously, only you can answer that question depending on your site income, current PR, inbound links and other cyber considerations. But do bear in mind that the movement to establish open standards for site development isn’t losing steam. In fact, it’s gaining momentum.

Is it something you have to do today? No. Next week? Uh-uh. Ever? Yes. At some point it’s going to make quantifiable business sense (read more $$$) to develop a standards compliant site. Do it now and enjoy immediate benefits — faster load times, a more vigorous, active site, an improved visitor experience, lower bandwidth costs and adaptability in the future.

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