A reader who noticed the "XHTML and CSS" note at the bottom of my site e-mailed me asking why most top online news sites haven't made the switch to XHTML code and CSS-driven layouts. I think they haven't done so for the following three reasons, none of which is acceptable:
- On average, many Web producers at news sites are slow to adopt new technologies and/or don't want to change their work habits. Although learning XHTML and CSS is easy -- I daresay even easier than old-school HTML -- producers don't want to learn it because that would mean learning something new. Online news producers are journalists, not programmers or Web designers. They care about breaking news, not necessarily about Web standards or clean code. I don't mean that as an insult; I'm just telling the facts. There's an unwillingness in the news business to adapt new technologies right away -- even when the technologies would improve products tremendously. (Of course, there are exceptions to this; I'm just echoing what I've seen and heard from others in the field.)
- Many Web developers are simply unaware of Web standards, XHTML and CSS-driven layouts. The Web Standards Project's FAQ page is a good place to start, as is the New York Public Library's Online Style Guide.
- Webmasters are scared of losing readers who use old browsers that don't support this technology. This point is somewhat more logical than the others, but it's invalid nonetheless. The easy solution is to design pages that are still accessible in all browsers -- like this site, which is completely viewable in browsers without strong stylesheet support but just doesn't look as pleasant. The only CSS-limited browser still in use by the general public is Netscape 4.x, which recently turned five years old. In Internet time, that's ancient! It's wrinkly, wobbly and ready to die. There's no reason it should hold us back. From a business standpoint, what makes more sense: Having designers and programmers spend precious time developing specialized code and different versions of pages in order to look pretty in Netscape 4? Or having designers create standards-compliant pages whose content is accessible in all browsers and whose design is forward-compatible?