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.