Website Validation – Should You Validate Or Not?

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One of the first things we did when we decided to revamp our entire website was to make sure that it “validated” 100%. “Why?”, you might ask. No-one, other than hard core geeks actually look for that sort of stuff, and most people don’t even know about it. This is true on both accounts, however our goal for this website was for it to be a showcase for our talent, to both geeks and non geeks.

How do you impress “non geeks”? Great design, great website flow, ease of use, and great content!

How do you impress “geeks”? Implement awesome code, create mind blowing ajax scripts, and make them wonder how the heck you did what you did. Then the cherry on the top is validation; a true sign of quality coding.

This short article will hopefully shed some light on why it is important to make sure your website “validates”… and I will try to “geek it down” so as to not lose you along the way.

Professionalism

Web browsers these days do a pretty good job of taking “junky” code and making it work. In some cases, your code can break all the rules and display relatively “correctly”, however in other cases it highlights the shortcomings of your code in a not so “subtle” manner.

We endeavour to be a professional “web design” company, and our code should highlight that.

Any Tom, Dick or Harry can use a “Microsoft Frontpage” type product (heaven forbid) and create a website – this does not make you a web designer. There are many free, commercial products that “generate” the code for you. The “good” thing is you do not need to know what is going on in the background to set-up a website – right? Wrong. This is very bad and far from professional, in fact it could be downright “dangerous” not knowing the “state” of your code.

Okay, so this is maybe a bit of an over exaggeration, but having said that, there are documented lawsuits about people with disabilities who were unable to access a website because of the scripting errors it caused for the person trying to access it.

I had a look at a well known local banking site the other day, and took it upon myself to check if their code “checked” out, to see if it validated without any errors – GUESS WHAT – it did not. I found over 1000 “HTML” errors, and over 100 warnings on just the homepage alone.

Now, before everyone goes out in a flat panic to their banks and tells them they are putting us all at risk, this was not their “banking portal” it was their homepage. Banks have a number of security measures in place with larger companies to protect the transfer of data to and from the site.

Those errors were HTML Coding errors which might cause different browsers to interpret the data differently hence giving you varying results when looking at the page. Now you might say “Oh well, as long as it works, who cares if it does not look the same in all browsers?” I would say yes, okay maybe I am being a bit “pedantic”, but with all the potential risks linked to this industry, would it not be prudent for banks to reassure their visitors that they have done their utmost to make sure their “web experience” is the best it could be? Seeing this, I believe, will further instill a sense of professionalism in their clients and a better sense of security.

Future Browser Updates

Browsers, as we know, are always being updated, update after update. In light of this, if your code is sloppy and the next browser update is not as forgiving as the current version, then you are going to run into trouble. Understand that browsers cannot continue to be forgiving towards all code shortcomings. (One of the reasons why IE has become the butt of many Web Developer rants – ask any web developer what browser they absolutely despise and hate! ) There are coding standards, and for this reason browsers are built (hopefully) with these coding standards in mind. If we continue an “accept all” policy when it comes to coding standards then these standards will go out the window, and then what is the point of having them at all?

Validation is one of the simplest ways to ensure your code will continue to work in future browser revisions as well as other devices.

Great Debugging Tools

Validation provides a great way to debug your website (for those tree huggers out there, just to let you know these are not creepy crawly, hide under you couch type bugs, these are bugs in your code – PS if you just went “Oh okay now I understand” with regards to that last statement, then BIG UP to you for making it this far in the article). In our endeavours to completely re-write our code and content from the ground up, we had a number of people working on the website, and so mistakes crept into our code. Through validation we could go through the code page by page to make sure it was 100% ok. Now in most cases the errors were small things eg. in the “” tag, the “/” was left out. It did not create any visual impact because browser still parse the old tag, but what about one day when they stop doing this, then what?

Future Updates

If you have worked according to a set of standards in the past, any further revisions to your website can be done with ease and a lot less hassle, than if you are trying to repair “broken” code. The thing about any errors or sloppy coding, is that it can cause a knock-on effect with other elements in your code, causing them to “freak” out.

Also, validation is an ongoing process. We continually add things to our website, which means that our website constantly needs to be validated.

These are just a couple of examples of why validation is important, and why we felt it was the number one goal for our new website. Other huge benefit of validation is SEO benefits, but this is a complete topic on its own.

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