This week Tom and KC were talking about standards and their usefulness in OK/Cancel. I found the entire discussion quite interesting and the essence — that standards should be useful and that sometimes the proliferation of different standards hinders this — rather important. Also, the comments that went with KC’s article included a discussion about the popularity of standards being just as important … I’m sure that Lotus Notes has some sort of standard for how the user accomplishes various things (I use it at work myself) but it just is so different from the more generic Windows-based standards that it seems contradictory, badly thought-out and almost completely unusable. I find it very amusing that they have not improved since the earlier releases in this regard, despite making it into the Interface Hall of Shame (with its own section!).

That standards should be comprehensible (as well as comprehensive), applicable and more than anything popular seems to be a common theme in the blogosphere at the moment. In A List Apart this week, Joe Clark is arguing along similar lines in an appeal to the web development community to help save the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines due for release in the near future by the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative.

Although I am by no means an accessibility guru, I can see his point about the way that the document is written … if the usefulness of a standard is linked to how popular it is, then surely making the standard as easy to comprehend (and implement) is of great importance? Take for instance, the web standards issue. Whilst people can quite happily argue that web standards are extremely important, if we didn’t have any browsers even attempting to implement them, then wouldn’t the standard be worth very little more than the valid (X)HTML pages it was written on?

If the standards themselves are not easily comprehensible and implementable, then we as developers and designers are much more likely to depend exclusively on either tools (and however they happen to deal with standards-related issues) or just to follow various tutorials etc made available to us. Although sometimes this can be very effective and remarkably useful it is not an ideal situation that we have to wait for an army of interpreters to make standards themselves accessible to those who most need to use them … the people building the pages.