Why Use XHTML on Your Web Site? by Chris Hooley of MCP Media, Inc.

As web site owners, we all want the same thing. We all want a great design. We all want to make money. We all want our site to reach as many people as possible. But how often have you heard "My site looks great at home but I looked at it on this different computer and it looked like crap!"?

Chances are you've heard this before, or maybe you've even said it yourself. Thankfully, good web developers know how to avoid this, and still deliver everything you should expect from a good web site.

Many web design companies only understand certain portions of creating a great web presence. Some companies focus on web development, but have limited design and marketing skills. Others are so focused on bleeding edge technology and design that they forget that some people view websites on PDAs or alternative browsers that can't support such technical wizardry. Few firms can find that sweet spot in the middle where your web site looks great and functions well in all instances. Enter XHTML and cross browser compatibility.

What is XHTML?
XHTML is the W3C standard for developing cross browser compatible web sites. It fuses all of the display elements of HTML with some of the functionality of XML. By forcing a web designer to program more carefully and adhere to strict code standards, XHTML allows a larger percentage of browsers or code parsers to properly parse your documents. In less geeky terms, it means more people can see your site the way you meant for them to see it, and less people see your site with elements strewn all over their page.

For your site to reach the widest potential audience, it is important that it is developed in the most cross browser compatible method possible. XHTML is that method. The rise of handheld internet ready devices is forcing lazy web designers to program their sites more efficiently, since most internet ready cell phones and PDAs require XHTML to be able to view web sites properly. People who use mac computers often see a bunch of gibberish on their screen when browsing the web because some of the tools web design "professionals" use create bloated code that does not render properly. Lazy programmers often only use WYSIWIG (what you see is what you get) editors to create their web pages and don't even bother to open up the code window.

When somebody comes to your site and sees a total mess of graphics and tables all over the place, it is your brand and your site that suffers. No company looks good with a site that looks bad. Let's do a short exercise to prove this point.

Right now think of me as a user who is ready to buy a widget. You sell widgets. I just landed on your home page. Your site looks awesome on my computer at home running Internet Explorer. However, today I am browsing around on my neat new cell phone. Chances are if you're site is not XHTML compliant; it looks terrible to me right now. I don't want to see this mess on my new toy, so to clean my screen, I just click right past you and into your competitor's home page. Unfortunately for you, their site is programmed in XHTML and looks perfect.

That's it, I'm sold... and I just bought this shiny new widget from your competitor.

Recommended Answers

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Thank you Chris for making me feel like I didn't waste my weekend making the DaniWeb header, footer, and homepage CSS-based and table-less. :)

know what's funny? my site uses tables for layout. They laid into me at webdeveloper.com for that one. :D

This article is more to promote XHTML than table-less layouts, but I am an advocate of using tableless designs too. I'm just not as adamant about forcing tableless layouts as some others are. I applaud you for doing that tho for sure. It can be a pain to make the switch if you are accustomed to using tables for design (as most of us are)

Anyone have a good tutorial link to show how to use CSS to match Table designed layouts? I just never seem to replicate my "table" site in a CSS styled site.

Hi Paladine,

I think the layouts can very so much that there probably isn't any single toturial that will do the trick. I firm graps of DIVs and how to use them can get you there...

I have been killing myself trying to get the design and layout of http://www.direct-o-ry.com/ to be a modern looking design using all DIV and CSS, and got there until I saw the site on a friend's hiptop. Using all the perfectly valid code that everybody has been telling me I have to use still ended up not rendering properly... (one of the images that I specified as an absolute placement ended up placed in an odd spot) I think I should so some research and write an article about this experience. I am not 100% convinced yet that tables should be abolished for layout purposes.

I was under the impression that xhtml has been absorbed into html under the html 4.0 spec.

if not then outstanding as i boght and worked through a rather large wrox book on xhtml!


This article said, "Lots of people use HTML incorrectly, so therefore, use XHTML!" There's a gaping hole in that argument.

Coding HTML to the standards while closing closable tags is just as effective as using XHTML.

Not that there's anything wrong with XHTML. But this particular argument is rather flaky.

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