Incorporating web standards into your design brief or RFP

Working on a design brief for a radical makeover of the website at work, and have been doing a bit of digging around into how people specify web standards in their project specs. Came across this post from quite a while ago, and ended up using it as sort of a template, with some modifications:

Usability, accessibility and standards

  • The website will conform to the following standards:
    • Validation to either the W3C XHTML 1.0 transitional or strict document type
    • Validation to the W3C’s CSS 2.1 or 1.0
    • JavaScript will be implemented as progressive enhancement
    • Will meet all WCAG Priority 1 Guidelines, except No. 1
  • The website will render correctly in IE6+ and Firefox 2+
  • All multimedia files will be available for download, and video will be provided via Flash
  • Alternative stylesheets will be developed for printers and mobile devices
  • Character encoding will be UTF-8

This is still not solidified, and I may decide to put HTML 4 in along with XHTML, though my preference is for the latter (for more on developing with XHTMl, see Jeffrey Zeldman’s “Better living Through XHTML at A List Apart).

Some other notes:

  • No XHTML frameset doctype allowed!
  • Considered including the note about disallowing JavaScript browser detect methodsĀ  in favour of object detect, as mentioned in the article above, but sometimes you need both and there’s no point painting yourself into such a nitpicky corner. Specifying “progressive enhancement” instead of “graceful degradation” is a good idea.
  • Why just level 1 priorities of the WCAG and why exclude Guideline #1? It’s a human resources thing. It would be great if we could provide transcripts of all the audio and video we post, but it’s unfortunately just not realistic.
  • Why just IE6+ and FF 2+? We get almost zero % of our users running Safari or IE 5.5, and only about 0.7% running Opera. Anything below 5% and you have to seriously consider the time and resources involved in browser testing, tweaking and hacking–especially for IE 5.5. My guess is that pretty much anything that works for Firefox 3 will be fine for Safari 3 and Opera 9+, and anything that doesn’t is probably trivial enough to forget about. If we were a big e-commerce site, and that 0.7% translated into 5,000 potential customers then I would probably think differently.
  • Flash–not quicktime (I always find it slow to load) and definitely not some Microsoft technology (that is also slow loading and may not work on a Mac). Flash is one of the most universally installed browser plugins.
  • Alternative stylesheets are a great idea to have control over how webpages print, and are also increasingly important given the proliferation of Internet-enabled mobile devices
  • Being a bilingual organization, we use a lot of French characters, and I find UTF-8 is the way to go.
  • We could specify mime type but I really don’t want to go there. There are lots of important articles discussing and usually warning against serving XHTML as text/html (see here for the classic, and here for the official), but given that I expect all our pages to validate, I’m not incredibly concerned about this.

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