The term web standards can mean different things to different people. For some, it is 'table-free sites', for others it is 'using valid code'. However, web standards are much broader than that. A site built to web standards should adhere to standards (HTML, XHTML, XML, CSS, XSLT, DOM, MathML, SVG etc) and pursue best practices (valid code, accessible code, semantically correct code, user-friendly URLs etc).
In other words, a site built to web standards should ideally be lean, clean, CSS-based, accessible, usable and search engine friendly.
About the checklist
There are probably many items that could be added. More importantly, it should not be seen as a list of items that must be addressed on every site that you develop. It is simply a guide that can be used:
* to show the breadth of web standards
* as a handy tool for developers during the production phase of websites
* as an aid for developers who are interested in moving towards web standards
1.Quality of code
1. Does the site use a correct Doctype?
2. Does the site use a Character set?
3. Does the site use Valid (X)HTML?
4. Does the site use Valid CSS?
5. Does the site use any CSS hacks?
6. Does the site use unnecessary classes or ids?
7. Is the code well structured?
8. Does the site have any broken links?
9. How does the site perform in terms of speed/page size?
2. Degree of separation between content and presentation
1. Does the site use CSS for all presentation aspects (fonts, colour, padding, borders etc)?
2. Are all decorative images in the CSS, or do they appear in the (X)HTML?
3. Accessibility for users
1. Are "alt" attributes used for all descriptive images?
2. Does the site use relative units rather than absolute units for text size?
3. Do any aspects of the layout break if font size is increased?
4. Does the site use visible skip menus?
5. Does the site use accessible forms?
6. Does the site use accessible tables?
7. Is there sufficient colour brightness/contrasts?
8. Is colour alone used for critical information?
9. Is there delayed responsiveness for dropdown menus (for users with reduced motor skills)?
10. Are all links descriptive (for blind users)?
4. Accessibility for devices
1. Does the site work acceptably across modern and older browsers?
2. Is the content accessible with CSS switched off or not supported?
3. Is the content accessible with images switched off or not supported?
4. Does the site work in text browsers such as Lynx?
5. Does the site work well when printed?
6. Does the site work well in Hand Held devices?
7. Does the site include detailed metadata?
8. Does the site work well in a range of browser window sizes?
5. Basic Usability
1. Is there a clear visual hierarchy?
2. Are heading levels easy to distinguish?
3. Does the site have easy to understand navigation?
4. Does the site use consistent navigation?
5. Are links underlined?
6. Does the site use consistent and appropriate language?
7. Do you have a sitemap page and contact page? Are they easy to find?
8. For large sites, is there a search tool?
9. Is there a link to the home page on every page in the site?
10. Are visited links clearly defined with a unique colour?
6. Site management
1. Does the site have a meaningful and helpful 404 error page that works from any depth in the site?
2. Does the site use friendly URLs?
3. Do your URLs work without "www"?
4. Does the site have a favicon?