Why Should I Care About Semantic HTML?

Semantic HTML is one of those things that, despite it’s value, doesn’t demo well. There’s no flashy animated effects or interaction. For example, I could demo how I replaced a <div> with a <nav> but the resulting page would look and behave exactly the same. The same if I replace something like <div id=”rt4894_sm”> with <div id=”rightpanel”>. In addition, the full value of semantic HTML is often hard to explain. Because of this, you may even still be unfamiliar with what semantic markup is and how to use it. The truth is though, there are a wide variety of ways your web site/application can benefit from semantic markup – this is why a number of new semantic tags were added to HTML5.

Terry Ryan has been an advocate of semantic HTML, even creating a site, along with Raymond Camden, called WhichElement that tries to help you decide when and where to use certain semantic tags. In his latest ADC article, Terry lays out a strong case for why you should care about semantic HTML and the variety of potential benefits of caring about semantics when developing. Terry gives an honest look at the topic, even acknowledging some skepticism about semantic markup. However, to me, that is what makes his argument most compelling – it takes a realistic and pragmatic look at the topic. So, give Terry’s article, “Using Semantic HTML” a read and please feel free to share your thoughts on the topic.