I just finished reading Designing with Web Standards – re-reading it, actually. It’s a must-read for anyone who builds web sites.
I also strongly recommend reading the first one or two chapters if you’re looking to hire a web design firm. Why? Because Zeldman makes a great argument for why HTML code – all that hidden stuff that no one sees – is really important. Clean code is universally viewable, fast-loading and gives an overall impression of slickness. Clean code is never noticed by your visitors. And that makes you sound smart.
Clean code also saves you money. A well-coded page is smaller, and therefore requires less bandwidth every time someone visits your site. If you get a lot of traffic, or want to (who doesn’t really), then a well-coded page saves you a little bit in bandwidth costs every time someone visits your site. And that adds up, fast. Then you can spend that money on marketing consultants. Ahem…
Clean code is accessible code. Well-written HTML complies, as much as possible, with W3C standards for accessibility and lets folks using all varieties of assistive devices visit your site. And that makes you sound smart, too.
Smart code is easier to maintain, too. Well-written code separates layout (defined by tables and layers), structure (defined by markup) and design (defined by styles) so that each is an independent element. That way someone can edit content without worrying about styles, which are enforced according to structure. So, a well-coded page will automatically assign a certain appearance to a level 1 heading (H1 for all you geeks), for a paragraph (P), and for a bullet point (LI). Think of it as a well designed template in MS Word – how much easier is it to write a report when you’ve already got a template set up? The same is true on the Internet.
Clean code loads faster. And what makes you sound smarter than a page that loads up in seconds flat?
Finally, clean code is marketable code. If you’re trying to brag modestly using search engines, well-written HTML code is at least half the battle, because smart HTML is more easily crawled by search engines. Clean HTML also brings your body content closer to the top of the coded page, which definitely provides a boost. And clean HTML code minimizes the chance that you’ll have something on your page that stops a search engine in its tracks, or gets you banned as a suspected unscrupulous marketer.
Anyway you slice it, good HTML code will help you with your conversation marketing campaign. If you want to see an example, leave a note here and I’ll send you a few URLs.