What is compliance?

Compliance refers how closely a website’s code adheres to the specifications created by the W3C, which define the framework for HTML and CSS, among other things. The guidelines define everything by which modern web browsers and applications interpret this code.

On one hand, it’s true that even minor errors can break compliance and cause problems for end-users. On the other hand, this is not to say that a website won’t function if it doesn’t meet compliance standards. In fact, the vast majority of websites are not fully W3C compliant in HTML and CSS standards, and many of these are highly trafficked, regularly used sites that don’t have any apparent broken functionality.

Why do we need it?

To further complicate matters, it’s a matter of debate among web developers just how strictly websites and applications need to adhere to these guidelines. Most commonly, this debate revolves around the practice of including non-standard, but often quite useful, schemas or code snippets that have little to no impact on the end-user experience.

So why worry about compliance if it’s not strictly necessary? There are several reasons to consider the impact of your website’s underlying code and the vital role it plays.

Compatibility & user experience

With the latest release of the most popular web browsers, the differences in the way websites are displayed are minimal. As it relates to compliance, the newest versions of popular browsers all render compliant code very similarly. If your website closely adheres to standards, it reduces the occurrence of browser specific display issues.

On this level, compliance serves to provide a baseline for good web development and best practices to reduce incompatibility across browsers. And this extends to the end-user experience, so that your audience has a consistent experience regardless of the browser or platform they are using.

Search engine optimization

Search engines appreciate properly coded websites. A website utilizing best practices defined by the W3C specifications is often viewed as more relevant in results. Better code will help with better results.


The web is constantly moving forward. With the HTML 5 recommendation just around the corner, it’s important for websites to be built with the future in mind. Websites can already take advantage of the new capabilities of the latest standards with broad support among the major browsers.

And while strict adherence to the W3C standards may not be the ultimate goal in every case, utilizing best practices in development will establish a good end-user experience even when exceptions to absolute compliance may be necessary.

Although they operate very much behind the scenes, matters of standards-compliance are and will continue to be a major factor in establishing the relevance and usefulness of your site and its content.

Search engines appreciate properly coded websites and they are viewed as more relevant in results