standards compliant library websites

When we’re not doing the coding ourselves, sometimes it’s hard to make sure that a website or technology project goes the way we want it to. Learning to communicate expectations before the project really gets going is much better for everyone than trying to retrofit your desires post-launch. The web4lib list, which has been interesting reading in all sorts of ways the last few weeks, has a short discussion about why web standards are important. Thomas Downling explains the ethical obligations and why standards compliance is not as hard as most people say and Karen Schneider follows up with a warning about holding your ground about standards when talking to vendors. Carrie Bickner Zeldman wrote an article about standards for Library Journal in 2002 but the information is just as important, and I’d argue easier to implement, today.

5 thoughts on “standards compliant library websites

  1. when my library hired me to tackle their ad-hoc website two years ago, i adopted standards compliance as a base value, partly to ensure accessiblity and partly to make sure the site would work in future browsers as well (or better than!) it does in today’s. i would venture to say that our site is both compliant and pretty (, and fairly easy to maintain. i hard code the site, which is both a blessing and a curse: if i had it to do all over again, and circumstances were different, i’d install a cms and make sure the templates were standards compliant.

    actually, this is still my plan. i worry a little about the future for my library. the site as is will remain compliant, but someday i may not be here. i constantly proselytise, but i don’t know how much gets through to the powers that be, and even if they do remember that we’re standards compliant, they probably don’t understand the larger implications and they certainly have no idea what’s under the hood. will the library continue to see standards compliance as a necessary component? will they hire accordingly? doing the work now to build a back-end that’s friendly to non-techie content creators could lock in compliance long after i’ve left the building.

  2. I think CMS is a great way to insure compliant websites. I’m a webmaster at a small college and our librarians who maintain the library site, while dedicated to standards and accessiblity, don’t have the expertise to create standards based web pages. If a web professional is not maintaining the site, it’s really about giving the folks creating the content the right tools (CMS, Contribute, etc…) and a good site structure. No solution is perfect, but that’s seemed to work best in my experience.

  3. I agree with you here, though it has to go hand in hand with a stylebook or something similar for people who are really new to HTML. When HTML got their “CMS” (which was actually just more of a content uploader) people would still use it the same way they wrote Word documents, without really knowing how to make good HTML for images and without knowing how to write for the web, much less be standards-compliant. With a good CMS and some good guidelines, you can make pages compliant *and* keep them that way.

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