When the web first came out in the early 1990’s, a competition began between web browsers and operating systems. The first few years of web design, was not so much design oriented. They were mainly text based with a grey background and black font. Here is a youtube video that shows images of web pages from 1994-1998.
As you can see they are all boring and bland (compared to todays standards). Not colorful and very simple with their images. As the web began to become more popular and main stream the competition between web browsers and operating systems began to get a little out of hand.
Mosaic was the first web browser that was able to support graphic images within a text page (as opposed to opening the image in another page with a link). They released a browser in 1993, which allowed the public to be able to use the web. They then turned into Netscape ( a name we are all familiar with..if not..I am showing my age..ahhh) The netscape browser that was introduced in late 1994 supported coding such as the <alt> tag and <embeded> tag.
Netscape’s competitor, Internet Explorer, came out with a browser that was able to support CSS and Java applets and much more. As more techniques and languages were created, the war between these two mainstream browsers became more powerful and created a bigger gap between the two. Keep in mind that there are two mainstream browsers, but there are many other smaller browsers that were used as well. As all of these browsers were used, it became extremely stressful to create a webpage that everyone could see. Your site could work on Internet Explorer, but would not be viewable in any other browsers out there.
To be able to see in other browsers, web designers would have to create pages for each one, which took up more time and money. It is a bit silly to think about it, why go through all the stress when you could just create a page that simply worked on all browsers. That is why web standards were created.
Web standards are not the LAW of web designing. You won’t receive a fine from the head of W3C for not following the standards. You may, however, receive a lot of angry and frustrated emails and phone calls saying your site won’t work on so and so’s browser. And of course, if you upset the customers, you most certainly will upset the client.
The web standards were created to avoid this huge dilemma and create a more peaceful and cheaper internet environment. The standards you should follow can be found at the W3c website at W3c.org.
I think the creation of standards was a brilliant idea. It does not restrict someone from doing what they want, but it most certainly creates strong guidelines for those who want to be successful in the web design field. It would be nice to know a head of time that a particular language would not work on the browser Safari, but if I used CSS I would create a site viewable by all.
It is definitely tempting to create a page that blows you out of the water when you go to it and has all sorts of images and sounds. But the reality of the situation is why put in all the time and effort for a wonderful page when no one will be able to enjoy it? You need to make yourself, as well as the pages you create more accessible by being more creative with the restrictions the web has.