At Economist.com, compliance is in the works

Written by Adrian Holovaty on July 11, 2002

David Wertheimer, design director of Economist.com (and fellow blogger), outlined some fantastic future plans for his site in a WebDesign-L post yesterday. Namely, he and his team are planning to rewrite their site in standards-compliant code. Here's a snippet of what David wrote:

1. We are looking into the adoption of limited-use CSS for our text rendering, which will significantly reduce our HTML once more -- time to phase out the "178 font tags" noted here earlier. Issues remain, and implementaion may take several months, but development is underway.

2. We are determining a formal doctype (debating HTML 4 and XHTML 1.1, if you're curious), and new development will soon be written with compliant code, start to finish, preparing Economist.com for the future as well as the present.

I continue to stand by my opinions that providing consistent page delivery and a backward-compatible user experience is tantamount to good design.

At the same time, I am moving Economist.com forward, with code compliance and simpler page structure, and we are doing so with an eye on our browser stats and a clean, consistent design. I am proud of this achievement and I encourage the design community to strive for similar goals.

Outstanding! The fact that the director of a major site was willing to openly discuss -- and encourage suggestions for -- some of his site's flaws is admirable in itself. But even cooler than that is his dedication to Web standards and clean page structure. To my knowledge, this is unprecedented. (News sites traditionally have had terrible code.) I hope this gets the ball rolling in the industry, and I have a feeling it will, once David and crew begin to reap the many benefits of their work and other sites take notice.

Comments

Posted by Dan Knight on July 12, 2002, at 12:25 p.m.:

Bravo! I've been designing sites for years that have to work with old Macs and old browsers. Using CSS in the limited fashion the Economist suggests (to eliminate all/most font tags) probably reduced HTML bloat by 25% on my site. We're a bit less concerned about strict HTML compliance and more concerned with things displaying properly on a wide range of new and old browsers. Hope the Economist will lead others to create more compliant, broswer friendly sites.

Posted by Chris Heisel on July 12, 2002, at 12:53 p.m.:

This is a good first step for news sites to take - I just hope The Economist and other news sites take the next, next step of becoming standards complaint and yanking out all those tables and spacer.gifs.

Yes, we're removing support, only for our designs, for older broswers (they can still see the content - it just isn't as pretty), but we're adding accessibility, easy support for mobile devices, and future user agents we can't predict.

Sound's like a good trade off to me...

Posted by anonymous on August 1, 2002, at 7:23 a.m.:

CSS use is definetly underused although I have noticed small set's on the Economist site in the past. The use of old style HTML should be a offence.

There is a neater way of developing pages now that should be employed. All sites should be using modern technologies and sticking to standards.

Posted by Romain on June 11, 2004, at 1:05 p.m.:

It's fun to read this post again, two years later. On a average story on Economist.com (http://www.economist.com/agenda/displayStory.cfm?story_id=2762504), you can find almost 60 <font> tags. With absolutely no css file. Oops, i forgot this one : <style type="text/css">

A:hover { color:#CC0033; } </style>

So, "compliance is in the works", yes.

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