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How is Web Page Design Being Standardized?

written by: Sam OBrien•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 5/26/2010

Whether you aspire to be a freelance or staff web developer, it's important to understand how web page design is being standardized today.

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    Web Standards

    The extremely rapid evolution of web technology led to the problem of web developers attempting to code for every web browser in which they suspected a site to be viewed because browser manufacturers took the liberty of incorporating new technologies whenever they wanted. A demanding need for standards was answered by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) established by Tim Berners-Lee. The question of how web page design is being standardized can be given some flexible answers.

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    The Importance of XHTML Coding and CSS Layouts

    Extensible hypertext mark-up language (XHTML) really should be used whenever possible over HTML partly because web browsers aren't the only user agents capable of displaying a web site. People are now also using mobile phones and Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) to surf the Internet; these are agents that require that the true definition of data be specified by a language such as a heading or a paragraph. They also are unable to interpret sloppy code or extensions that relate to how content is formatted or displayed as they lack the processing power of personal computers (PCs). Attention to authoring well-formed documents using XHTML is always emphasized when speaking of how web page design is being standardized.

    It's also considered very bad practice to control the layout of a web page using XHTML tables. The standard is, and has been for some time, to use cascading style sheets (CSS) layouts to achieve the visual pattern and some of the design of a web site. This is so important that most web design and development training courses teach students CSS layouts when focusing on the web authoring part of the development of a page. XHTML and CSS layouts go hand in hand and much can be accomplished in terms of the layout and format of content using only these two languages.

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    How Web Page Design Is Being Standardized in the Visual Aspect

    The "page within a page" look can be seen in use for many sites these days. That is when the page appears to be centered on top of a background. Despite the widespread acceptance of this new "standard," some people greatly dislike it. Although web designers and developers certainly offer advice to clients regarding how web page design is being standardized, the ultimate decision rests with the client who is paying for the service.

    During my college years of studying web development, my class was placed in charge of designing and developing a site for the Information Technology (IT) department. Of course we used XHTML, CSS layouts, images, and a couple of other scripting languages--Hypertext Preprocessor (PHP) and Javascript.

    Those who handled the CSS layout were surprised to find that the professor to whom final approval was left, did not at all like the centered "page within a page" look and required a switch back to the older traditional look of the page covering the screen. Clicking on the screen shot below will reveal the new "standard" centered page style that might or might not be acceptable to clients.

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    Centered PageTraditional
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    Color Schemes and the International Visitor

    I was also trained to consider the effect that colors can have on visitors' moods and the impressions they can give. My professor explained how this was also considered a very important aspect of how web page design is being standardized. While I did accept and use some of the theories presented when choosing color schemes for CSS layouts, I don't believe in the philosophy behind using colors to affect someone's mood. Clients might not accept them either.

    The most important fact to keep in mind when selecting colors, whether they're for a logo or a layout, is that visitors should not have trouble viewing the site's content. For example, if you choose a light color for your font, please don't also choose a light color for the background, nor should a dark colored font be placed "against" a background of a dark color. Finally, be careful with images displayed on your site if you want it to appeal to an international audience. The best policy, which has unofficially become a "standard" is to use modesty and to educate yourself on the various meanings that symbols can have depending on who views them. Finally, it's also considered standard to have two navigational bars or sections, one for major links and one for minor links.