Usability and Standards – Who Cares?

by Stephanie Rewis on February 14, 2005

So you've made the leap and you're now separating form from
function. You're using XHTML and CSS and designing to web standards.
All your pages validate and you've got the buttons to prove it. Who

Not your prospective client. The quickest way to watch a new
client's eyes glaze over is to launch into a diatribe about properly
coded pages, usability, navigation and web standards. They really don't
care. What they want to know is, “Will my site make money? Will it
bring in more customers? How much will it cost me to develop and

It's really no different than the way a surfer looks at the websites
you create. When they hit the home page, they immediately want to know,
“Where am I? What's in it for me? How can you solve my problems? What's
the quickest way to the information or product I'm searching for? Can I
buy it?” Anything you do to slow them down in meeting these needs is
another possibility they'll leave your site and move on to one that
makes it easier on them. It's a combination of the avoidance of
pain/difficulty and the instant society we live in. Flash intro pages
on business sites, just for the site of something cool that moves, leave the user another click farther from their goal.

When discussing a new site with a prospect, instead of trying to
educate them about web standards, usability and accessibility, why not
simply tell them what's in it for them?

  • Smaller page size that decreases their bandwidth, thus saving them money on their monthly hosting charges
  • Pages with consistent navigation so that surfers never get lost
  • Pages that by nature are easier for search engines to crawl with
    the ability to put the more important text (full of keywords) toward
    the top portion of each page
  • Pages that don't lock anyone out because of the browser they choose
    to surf with or their method of surfing (keyboard, screenreader, etc)
  • Pages that are very quick to edit, even changing the entire look site-wide, thus saving time and money on site maintenance

You get the picture. The above list is based on the
benefits of using web standards and creating a semantically correct,
more accessible site. But why confuse them with lingo that only people
in the business care about? Show them the benefits, especially the ways
they'll save money, and you're that much closer to landing that account
for your company.

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