To understand the difference between HTML and XHTML, I thought it would make sense to do some background research on HTML. As I imagine you know, HTML means “HyperText Markup Language.” According to Wikipedia, HTML, “provides a means to describe the structure of text-based information in a document…” and was first starting to be developed in the 1980’s by physicist Tim Berners-Lee. As HTML developed, there were constant additions and changes to its structure by HTML users, creating a need for the development of standards. Berners-Lee founded the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in 1994 in to work on developing such standards.

I liked how blogger Dustin Brewer broke down why web standards are important in web design:

  1. “Web standards are important for maintainability”
    1. Brewer explains that using the proper web standards will help you later down the road when a website redesign is necessary
  2. “Web standards are important for usability”
    1. You want to make sure that your website accessible to everyone, and every browser, that visits your site
  3. “Web standards are important for clients”
    1. Clients will definitely want their site to work in all browsers, and you of course want to make your client happy
  4. “Web standards are more than passing a validator”
    1. Brewer makes the case that web standards are more than something you should think about doing, citing that Target was recently sued because their site wasn’t Section 508 or WAI-WCAG compliant
  5. “Web standards are about quality design work”
    1. You should enjoy designing standards-compliant, quality work

I went straight to the horse’s mouth, W3.org, for information on XHTML. W3 defines XHTML, or Extensible Hypertext Markup Language, as, “a family of current and future document types and modules that reproduce, subset, and extend HTML 4.” XHTML was designed to accommodate the new changes and additions people have for making websites and conforms to conforms to XML syntax. Wikipedia adds that, “the need for a reformulated version of HTML was felt primarily because World Wide Web content now needs to be delivered to many devices (like mobile devices) apart from traditional desktop computers, where extra resources cannot be devoted to support the additional complexity of HTML syntax.”

Another great development in the world of web design was CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets. Apparently, the use of style sheets has been around since the 1970’s, which makes me feel a little bit behind the times. Wikipedia states that early forms of CSS were proposed for the web in 1994. The idea behind style sheets is to separate the content of the page from the styles associated with it. This is a really good idea when you have to update content of a page, but want to keep all of the same essential style.

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