posted by Phu
Whilst the benefits of CSS driven design principles should be clear for any competent developer, selling the same idea to a client requires a different set of arguments.
In an age where people are able to develop sites using WYSIWYG tools such as Frontpage and Dreamweaver, the common technical arguments are not always the best means of persuading potential clients to adopt a standards based approach.
If I was to ask a plumber which type of water boiler it is that I should get, what I'm really asking is which one would provide the most value for money.
As a consumer, there is a large element of trust placed in the skilled professional. We trust that the factors that the professional takes into account are weighted in our favour; with a plumber, it would be how reliable that type of boiler is, what are the running costs, can it handle the amount of radiators that I have. The factors that influence him are not neccessarily of interest to us unless it has an impact on the bottom line. We don't really care how easy it is to install; neither should we care that the plumber has the most experience with this particular configuration.
Likewise, when it comes to web design, our arguments should be those that directly matter to the client. And in a similar vein, the underlying theme is the same; it'll save the client money.
Pages load faster
How much would you pay for a machine that can instantly optimise and speed up your site? Or approaching it from the other direction, how bad is it if a potential sale is lost because a customer can't be bothered to wait for a page to load?
Abstracting out presentational information into CSS such as font and colour information means that the page size will be reduced as you remove the duplication of information. What’s more, the css file will cached by the browser and reused for each page load.
Less network load
Smaller and more succint pages as well as the benefit of caching means that there is less of a hit on your bandwidth and traffic. Bandwidth and traffic costs money. Hence any reduction is welcome.
More people will be able to access the site
Semantic HTML/XHTML pages are generally more accessible. More accessible to vision impaired readers, more accessible to people with non Wintel hardware which includes not only platforms such as Macs and Linux Systems, but also smartphones and PDAs.
More search engine friendly
Many people depend on search engines to find the content that they need. Well designed semantic XHTML pages are generally more search engine friendly. The easier it is to for a search engine to find a page, the easier it is for a constumer to find a page and the greater the likelihood of them finding the right product on your site.
The site will be easier to maintain and turn around
OK, so I guess what I said earlier wasn’t true; maintainability is important but not in the way it is usually presented. The client generally doesn’t care about the ease of development. However, they do care when you say that we can turn around new changes and add features/redesign sections faster. For the customer, those are the gains that are meaningful.
Whenever someone pays for a service, whether it is a boiler or a website, they are looking for a product which satisfies some need or deficit; that is they are seeking to gain an increase in utility. The important thing to realise is that the needs of the customer is different from that of the developer.