Validation - Work Tool And Site Test

“I do agree that validation isn’t the be-all and end-all of things”

OK tired subject but I thought a bit after reading Molly E. Holzschlag’s How To Sniff Out a Rotten Standardista and reread an old article [a very interesting article] from Mike Davidson called March To Your Own Standard and mixed all of that in with a torrent of posts over the last six months that go on about validation and standardistas and probably anything else my head can gel with the day after the night before.

How do I see validation? Simply the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) Validator and the Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) Validator are tools I use to speed up development and track down errors. Validation is a tool to ensure my code conforms and there aren’t miscellaneous bits of crap lining the side of the bowl. Its invaluable to the way I work.

Secondly, when I look at an external site, I do quite often use validation as an “indicator of issues”. I’m not overly concerned with the odd ampersand and if you’re throwing in font tags its your business I guess. But why have an Extensible Hypertext Markup Language (XHTML) 1.0 Strict DOCTYPE that chucks 200 or so errors? So if I cane your site on this blog because I think it has crap code be aware a big part of this is my awareness there are quite a few firms out there CLAIMING to sell web standards product but who DO NOT INTEND to try to provide such a product. This was evidenced in a big way to me last year on a national project that I was on the fringes of - a petroleum company to be general but still avoid names - which to this day is a 300+ error site with vast (and simple to fix) differences across browsers. Basically they put an XHTML DOCTYPE onto a HTML page and said it was therefore standards compliant. The site has JavaScript main navigation and all sorts of other stuff-ups. So yes I see those 300 validator errors as good indicators this company in question lied through their teeth to pull a AUD$27,500 contract for an internet and intranet Content Management System (CMS) solution.

The truth is that invalid code may be accessible and a whole bunch of other caveats but its not good product. A CMS solution I’ve shared mean words with in the past MAY have a product which produces valid XHTML but they SHOULD NOT have a page on their site stating World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) Compliant Portfolio where most of the pages have over one hundred errors and one New South Wales Government site made 300 errors. Their claim to produce AAA accessible output is a bold claim I’m not sure I agree with either.

But that being said I do agree that validation isn’t the be-all and end-all of things. If my site validates and yours doesn’t its not because I’m better than you… but its wrong to imply that pointing out anything the validator says as being the “sign of the rotten standardista” as well. Should we just shut the $#%* up now and say validation is a waste of effort? Are WaSP smudged by the sting in their tail after all?

What I do try to do on a personal level is offer advice and assistance wherever possible. Unfortunately people one canes on the blog tend to not respond well to the advice on how to fix the issues. But that’s natural and understandable. Quite regularly I get emails from people who are stuck on some issue and if I can’t help them I generally spend a half an hour or more researching their issue and either steer them to a resource or to someone far better able to help them than myself. These are always strangers and usually international. What can I say?

I do believe validation is a cornerstone of good process and therefore good product. While it doesn’t mean an accessible site I think its a starting point and you would have more chance of achieving accessibility by getting off on the right foot in the form of validating code. But that’s just me.

If you so happen to want to put XHTML 1.0 Strict DOCTYPEs on your pages and then put HTML tag soup underneath please don’t expect me to agree with you. I won’t think you’re an idiot but I will think you’re wrong. And I’ll probably say so if the need arises. If you want advice on how to fix some things then I’ll do my best. And I understand the organisational structures which may be involved - developers are usually low on the decision chain in large business.

I don’t mean any of this in an attacking way toward either Molly or any other person out there in this conversation. Its just an In My Honest Opinion (IMHO) about a larger conversation out there I’m always absorbing en masse. Validation does matter to me. If you aren’t me you’ll just need to accomodate my views while you’re here I expect.

[end rant at 2.42PM the day after the night before with a slight headache and no time to achieve that which needs to be done here]

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