Breaking Standards

I do plan on continuing my “series” of… well.. whatever it is I’m posting about. But there’s stuff going on that’s keeping me busy. Part of it is real-world job stuff. Part of it is being a Red Sox and Patriots fan and part of it is that I’m looking at moving this site to a new server.

I’m also re-thinking my whole approach to using XHTML. In the past I had ignored the simple requirement of XHTML, which is that XHTML documents should not be sent under the text/html mime-type. I felt it was worth ignoring that bit because I wanted to focus on the future of HTML document structure while keeping backwards compatible with older web browsers. XHTML 1.0 transitional allows this, but I’ve been mucking around with XHTML 1.0 strict and XHTML 1.1 for a while now, and both do not want the text/html mime-type.

Now ignoring the mime-type issue hasn’t been a problem before, why bother caring about it now?

Simple answer being how can I push one standard (CSS) while breaking another?

Of course I break CSS intentionally for the sake of compatibility with IE via various comment hacks and proprietary CSS attributes. So if I’m willing to break CSS standards, then it should be okay to break XHTML as well?

It’s a screwy, grey area.

I break CSS because I need to for the sake of users. However I don’t have to break the XHTML standard for the sake of user experience. And perhaps that small but important distinction is why I’m thinking I need to put more focus on my choice of (x)html flavor.

Anyone care to share their own thoughts on this?


0 thoughts on “Breaking Standards

  1. Personally, I’ve always been terifically impressed by your ability to maintain backwards-compatibility with legacy browsers (including IE6, of course). I manage to do it too, but I cheat and use PHP.

    I guess it all comes down to your priorities. I don’t care how my personal website looks to people using nonstandard browsers (though since I yoinked one of your layouts, I do reap the benefits of looking good to everyone). By default, my top priority is to expose people who might not know the difference to standards-compliant browsers.

    Of course, on those rare occasions when I’m designing a site for someone else, I do need to accomodate legacy browsers, so my priorities have to shift.

    I guess my question for you would be: How often do you get page hits from user agents that can’t handle application/xhtml+xml content? And further, how deeply do you care about those users?

    For me, culling my readership down to those with compliant agents is perfectly acceptable, since I’m sacrificing the convenience of a small minority for a great deal of my personal convenience (insofar as a strict-compliant site is easier to maintain).

    I know I’m answering a philosophical question with a pragmatic answer, but if you want a purely philosophical answer it would be essentially the same: Don’t break XHTML1.1, and don’t break CSS2. IE6 users can deal; Firefox is free. And what person serious about standards-compliant web development is visiting your site anyway?



    PS: I’m a huge fan of yours.

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