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Does W3C Validation Still Matter?

  •  11-6-2012

Recently I put the final touches to my latest web project an decided it would be fun to know where it is in terms of W3C validation. So I submitted the page to the W3C Validator and sure enough it did find 5 errors and 5 warnings. After investigation I did not end up fixing any of the errors or warnings because that would not benefit any of the website users but the question remains; Does W3C Validation still matter?

The W3C Validator

For those of you who are not familiar with W3C validation, it’s simply a set of standards for determining whether an HTML webpage is properly written or not. For example, if you are creating a table and you want to specify the “width” attribute, you can either specify it as a separate tag within your table definition or you can specify an inline “style” tag containing the width instead. W3C recommends the latter instead of the former. The question is, how important is W3C validation when you design your website, and how much time should you spend ensuring that your code is compliant?

Looking at the big guys

The fact of the matter is that many websites in today’s world don’t care too much about W3C validation. We can take a hint from some of the largest sites – like Google, Facebook, and Reddit. After all, they are supposed to represent the “best in class” design techniques and we can learn a lot about the current state of the web by examining how they implement their own designs. The simple truth is that none of the above sites are 100% W3C compliant. There is no doubt that they have the resources to make them so – it’s just that they don’t think it’s worth it beyond a certain point. So where does that leave the rest of us who’re regular developers and designers?



Web standards are important!

For what it’s worth, I think that the mere existence of HTML standards is extremely useful. The rules may be observed more in the breach, but at least they are there. We have some benchmark to compare to. Even if most websites do not validate completely, at least we have a consensus about how it “should” be in an ideal world.

There are many benefits to having some sort of ideal. They make things easier for cross browser testing tools which will almost always have utilities to go through your code and tell you whether there are any issues. The easiest would be W3C validation also this is, of course, browser independent. If you get into the habit of trying to write HTML that complies with W3C standards, any errors that you receive will highlight the most egregious faults with your code. You will have an easier time correcting mistakes if there are fewer “red lines” rather than many.

Easier cross-browser compatibility

Secondly, validated HTML design is most likely to find the greatest amount of acceptance if you are keen on ensuring that your web application renders perfectly in every single browser. There are exceptions to this of course, but by and large it’s a good habit to keep your code as close to the W3C standards as possible without expending too much effort on the process.

The bottom line is that even though most modern browsers and most websites do not strictly adhere to W3C valid code, the fact that a certain standard exists makes it easier for regular programmers like us. It ensures that no given browser is able to dominate the world of web standards by implementing its own unique HTML rules. And that is good for the entire web.

Cross-browser reporting

Did you know? BrowseEmAll can analyze your HTML and CSS to find browser specific issues. In lack of a better name (and imagination) we call it cross-browser report. Would like to see an example?

Like what you see? Download and try BrowseEmAll today!

Photo by Julie V.

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