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Website Validation – Should You Validate Or Not?
One of the first things we did when we decided to revamp our entire site was to make sure it was 100% “verified”. “Why?”, you may ask. No one but die-hard geeks actually look for such things, and most people don’t even know about it. This goes both ways, but our goal for this site was to be a showcase of our talent for geeks and non-geeks alike.
How do you impress non-geeks? Great design, great website flow, easy to use and great content!
How do you impress the “geeks”? Implement great code, create awesome ajax scripts and make them wonder how the hell you did what you did. Then the cherry on top is the confirmation; a true sign of quality coding.
Hopefully, this short article will shed some light on why it’s important to make sure your site is “verified”… and I’ll try to “extract” it so I don’t lose you along the way.
Web browsers these days are very good at taking “junk” code and making it work. In some cases, your code may break all the rules and appear relatively “correct,” but in other cases, it highlights your code’s flaws in a not-so-“subtle” way.
We strive to be a professional web design company and our code should emphasize this.
Any Tom, Dick, or Harry can use a “Microsoft Frontpage” product (heaven forbid) and create a website – that doesn’t make you a web designer. There are many free, commercial products that “generate” the code for you. The “good” thing is that you don’t need to know what’s going on behind the scenes to set up a website – right? Wrong. This is very bad and far from professional, in fact it could be downright “dangerous” if you don’t know the “state” of your code.
Okay, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but that being said, there are documented lawsuits of people with disabilities being unable to access a website due to scripting errors caused by the person trying to access it.
The other day I looked at a well known local bank site and took it upon myself to check if their code was “checked out” to see if it was validated without any errors – GUESS – it wasn’t. I found over 1000 “HTML” errors and over 100 warnings on the home page alone.
Now, before everyone goes to their banks in a panic and tells them they’re putting us all at risk, this wasn’t their “banking portal”, it was their home page. Banks have a number of security measures in place with larger companies to protect the transfer of data to and from the website.
These errors were HTML coding errors that allow different browsers to interpret data differently, giving you different results when you view the page. Now you might say “Oh well, as long as it works, who cares if it doesn’t look the same in all browsers?” I would say yes, ok, maybe I’m being a bit “pedantic”, but with all the potential risks associated with this industry, wouldn’t it be wise for banks to assure their visitors that they have done everything in their power to ensure that their “web experience” is the best it could be? I believe that this will instill even more of a sense of professionalism and a greater sense of security in their clients.
Future browser updates
As we know, browsers are always updated, update after update. That being said, if your code is sloppy and the next browser update isn’t as forgiving as the current version, then you’re going to run into problems. Be aware that browsers cannot continue to be forgiving of all code flaws. (One of the reasons why IE has become the subject of many web developer rants – ask any web developer which browser they absolutely despise and hate!) There are coding standards, and so browsers are built (hopefully) with those coding standards in mind. If we continue with an “accept all” policy when it comes to coding standards, those standards will go out the window, and then what’s the point of having them at all?
Validation is one of the easiest ways to ensure that your code will continue to work in future browser and other device revisions.
Great debugging tools
Validation provides a great way to debug your site (for those tree lovers out there, just so you know they aren’t creepy crawly, hide bugs under the couch, they’re bugs in your code – PS if you just went “Oh ok now understand” regarding that last statement, then ALL TO YOU for making it this far in the article). In our efforts to completely rewrite our code and content from the ground up, we had a lot of people working on the site , and that’s how bugs crept into our code. By checking we were able to go through the code page by page and make sure it was 100% OK. Now most of the time the bugs were small things like in “” the “/” was omitted. It didn’t produce any visual effect because the browser is still parsing the old one tag, what about one day when they stop doing that, then what?
If you’ve worked with a set of standards in the past, you can make any subsequent fixes to your site easier and with a lot less hassle than trying to fix “broken” code. The thing about any kind of mistakes or sloppy coding is that they can cause other elements in your code to be affected, causing them to “go crazy”.
Furthermore, validation is an ongoing process. We are constantly adding things to our site, which means our site needs to be checked constantly.
These are just a few examples of why verification is important and why we felt it was the number one goal for our new website. Another big benefit of validation is the SEO benefits, but that’s a whole topic on its own.
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