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How important is validation?

I have a web site that, due to maintenance by several people, some of whom are
fairly clueless about HTML and CSS, etc. (notably me), has gotten to the point
where I'm pretty sure it's suffering from bit rot. Though the pages seem to
display okay under IE and FF, I really think it's time for an under-the-hood
cleaning. I recently received a copy of Molly Holzschlag's "Spring Into HTML
and CSS," and in the first chapter, she makes a big deal of producing pages
that validate cleanly. However, she doesn't explain why this is important,
e.g., doesn't say what the consequences of validation failure are.

I went to http://validator.w3.org/ and was unsurprised to see my home page
fail to validate. But then I got to playing around, and I found that the home
pages for none of the following validate, either: yahoo, ebay, google, artima,
and cnn. This makes me wonder whether validation is really something I need
to worry about. Morally, I'm all for standards, and given a choice between
pages that validate and those that do not, I'd choose validation, but I'm
going to have to find somebody else to do the work for me (somebody who DOES
know about HTML and CSS, etc.), and I'm worried that finding somebody who is
familiar with validation is going to be a lot harder and/or more expensive
than finding somebody who is not.

Can somebody please explain to me what the practical advantages of having
pages validate are? Also, I'm open to suggestions on who to consider hiring
to do the work at my site (which happens to be aristeia.com).

Thanks,

Scott
Aug 13 '05
67 5269
On Sat, 13 Aug 2005 20:22:00 GMT, Spartanicus wrote:
It's funny that you are a C++ specialist, normally programmers are
sticklers for correct syntax.
Hence my moral support for standards :-) However, there is a lot of C++ code
that is written that deliberately does not obey standards;
standards-compliance is but one of a number of criteria that people take into
account when deciding how to approach a project. FWIW (nothing in this
newsgroup), I'd venture to guess that the vast majority of commerical C++
programs contain at least some technically invalid constructs. Virtually all
compilers accept them, so there's little incentive to fix them (or even to
avoid including them in future code). Given that so many big sites produce
pages that don't validate, it looks like there is a similar situation in
webpageville.
1) If you specify one colour you need to specify them all. Currently my
default link colour is used, but legibility is very poor against the
green of the navigation section of your site.
2) Your frames cause problems, users cannot bookmark specific views,
search engine indexing is poor, orphaned pages (pages without a nav
section) to name a few.
3) Your documents contain very little if any structure, you should use
headings.
4) Some of your links attempt to open a new window/tab, this is really
bad form since it forces your preferences onto people who do *not* want
new windows/tabs to be opened.


Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it.

Some of the issues above are deliberate design decisions (e.g., relatively
little structure, opening new windows), some are not (e.g., color
specification, link legibility). Some of the deliberate decisions should
probably be reconsidered (e.g., opening new windows). As I said, the site has
just kind of evolved over the years, and it's time for somebody who knows what
they are doing to give it a tune-up.

As for frames, I hate them, too, but I don't know of any other way to make it
possible for the content area to scroll while the navigation area remains in
view. Then again, I'm a C++ weenie, not an HTML/CSS weenie. If there's
another way to achieve this effect, please tell me about it. I'm sure this is
well-trod ground in this newsgroup, so a link or likely set of search terms
would be fine.

Thanks,

Scott

Aug 13 '05 #11
Scott Meyers <Us****@aristei a.com> wrote:
On Sat, 13 Aug 2005 20:15:37 GMT, Brian wrote:

In the case of Yahoo, CNN, et. al., they likely have
substantial budgets for coders and testing. Do you?
I'm not sure I understand this comment. Given their budget for coders and
testers, I'd expect that they'd produce valid pages if validity were something
they found to be useful.


Right.
This suggests that they do not find validity to be
something that carries its weight.


Well, more likely, that the net present value of paying a developer to
generate huge volumes of valid code isn't very high. Writing valid code
takes more skill and/or time than writing tag soup that generally works
alright. I imagine for most of these companies, "generally works
alright" is good enough, and they'd rather focus their efforts and
resources on compelling content, eye candy, and so on. After all, most
of their readers don't know or care if their pages are valid or not.

_But_, that doesn't change the fact that writing valid HTML and CSS is
future-proofing your pages. A large company may have the luxury -- if
and when they decide it's worth their while -- to devote a lot of
resources to an intense effort to clean up their HTML. A one- or
two-person operation generally does not have that luxury. So it makes
sense for a small operation to devote a bit of time upfront towards
writing good markup, because they odds of them having time and resources
to go back later to clean it up aren't good.

--
Joel.
Aug 13 '05 #12
On Sat, 13 Aug 2005, Scott Meyers wrote:
But then I got to playing around, and I found that the home pages
for none of the following validate, either: yahoo, ebay, google,
artima, and cnn. This makes me wonder whether validation is really
something I need to worry about.
There are also plenty of commercial pages that don't work with
www-compatible browsers, but only with MSIE. Some of us have higher
standards.
Morally, I'm all for standards, and given a choice between pages
that validate and those that do not, I'd choose validation, but I'm
going to have to find somebody else to do the work for me (somebody
who DOES know about HTML and CSS, etc.),
As I happens, I know how to do that by hand, but, if I didn't, I have
a computer to help me to generate output that would be guaranteed
valid. Of course, there's far more to producing a good web page than
merely valid syntax, but a web page with invalid syntax is no better
than literature with lots of wrongly-spelled words, AFAICS.

Quite why those popular sites consider it advantageous to extrude
syntactically invalid stuff, I can't tell you - but I see no advantage
it in myself.

You can also be assured that when you have a problem and ask for
advice here, the only advice you're likely to get (aside from being
advised to fix your syntax errors and try again) will be from the kind
of sloppy and coudn't-care-less commentator who is prepared to spend
their time fiddling with someone else's invalid syntax. That kind of
advice tends to be worth even less than you paid for it, to be frank.
to do the work at my site (which happens to be aristeia.com).

___
/
FRAME: buttons
FRAME: main_body

This web page uses frames, but your browser doesn't support them.

\___

That site uses frames, but your author doesn't support them.

Aug 13 '05 #13
Scott Meyers wrote:
As for frames, I hate them, too, but I don't know of any other way to make
it possible for the content area to scroll while the navigation area
remains in view.


So what if the navigation doesn't remain in view? Scrolling navigation works
for the vast majority of sites out here.
--
David Dorward <http://blog.dorward.me .uk/> <http://dorward.me.uk/>
Home is where the ~/.bashrc is
Aug 14 '05 #14
On Sat, 13 Aug 2005 20:15:37 GMT, Brian
<us*****@juliet remblay.com.inv alid> wrote:
Most pages don't. In the case of Yahoo, CNN, et. al., they likely have
substantial budgets for coders and testing. Do you?


Why would you think that ? 8-) I'm dealing commercially with two of
these "blue chips" right this week and their technical knowledge
borders on the negligible. I dealt with them both a year ago (very
similar project) and they were no better then. Although there are people
with a clue somewhere inside the organisation, they're such big
organisations that this is thoroughly diluted by pointy hair.

I'd add that neither of these are Google or Amazon (although of similar
scale). I've always found every technical contact at either of those two
to be spot-on.

Aug 14 '05 #15
On Sun, 14 Aug 2005 00:55:08 +0100, David Dorward wrote:
So what if the navigation doesn't remain in view? Scrolling navigation works
for the vast majority of sites out here.


Yes, well, my experience has been that broken links work for the vast
majority of site out there, too, but I don't like them, either.

I happen to have a strong preference for navigational links that remain in
view, because the alternative doesn't make any sense to me. Scrolling
content doesn't change my navigational choices, so why should it change the
easy accessiblity of them? It seems to me that tying the scrolling of
navigational links to the scrolling of content -- two independent things --
is a usability concession made in the name of implementation
considerations. Not that this is necessarily an unjustifiable choice. I'm
frankly not knowledgable enough about the trade-offs to have a firm opinion
on the matter. What I do know is that I, myself, prefer navigational links
that remain in view when content scrolls, so I'm naturally inclined towards
implementation approaches that give me the behavior that I prefer. If
there are other implementation approaches to the same end, I'd love to know
about them. If there are drawbacks to frames that I am not aware of, I'd
like to know about those, too.

Spartanicus wrote:

Your frames cause problems, users cannot bookmark specific views, search
engine indexing is poor, orphaned pages (pages without a nav section) to
name a few.

I'm interpreting "your frames" as "frames in general" here. If there are
problems specific to my frames, again, I'd love to know about them. It's
my understanding that bookmarking pages at my site should work as users
expect, i.e., it should yield a bookmark that will reload the same frameset
with the same content inside. If it doesn't, something's broken, and I
need to have it fixed. I don't care about search engine indexing, and if I
interpret the comment about orphaned pages correctly, that's a site
management problem, not a usability problem. My understanding is that
using frames makes life more complicated for site designers, but if they
are careful, the usability experience of users (with browsers that support
frames) should not be degraded. If I'm mistaken here, please set me
straight.

One of the difficulties of this kind of thing is that I don't plan to do
the work myself, but as the guy writing the check for the work, I'll be
ultimately making the big decisions that will be implemented by whomever
does the actual coding. Which means that I have to educate myself on the
pros and cons of various approaches, especially because my first task is to
identify somebody who can do a good job for me. That, in turn, is
difficult, because I'll be interviewing people to determine their technical
skills in areas I don't myself understand.

Once I am working with somebody whose skills and judgement I respect, I can
lean on them for advice on the big decisions, but until then, I'm on my
own. Which is why I was originally trying to figure out how much weight I
should give to validation.

Scott

Aug 14 '05 #16
On Sun, 14 Aug 2005, Andy Dingley wrote:
Why would you think that ? 8-) I'm dealing commercially with two
of these "blue chips" right this week and their technical knowledge
borders on the negligible.
Point taken ...
I'd add that neither of these are Google or Amazon (although of
similar scale). I've always found every technical contact at either
of those two to be spot-on.


So can *you* explain why they put pages onto the web that don't seem
to pass even syntax validation? This is, after all, a frequently
asked question by those who would prefer not to bother themselves with
syntax validation of their own pages, and it would be good to have
some kind of definite explanation for it. As I said in an earlier
f'up, I really have no idea: your remark that "Although there are
people with a clue somewhere inside the organisation, they're such big
organisations that this is thoroughly diluted by pointy hair" is well
taken, but I don't find it a particularly convincing explanation of
why they do it.

For myself, I treat syntax checking (formal validation of HTML, and
checking of CSS) in the same way as spell-checking of textual content:
a quality assurance step that should not be omitted from anything
serious that I'm putting my name to in public. I think you're close
to the same in that respect, no?

best regards
Aug 14 '05 #17
On Sun, 14 Aug 2005 08:58:48 +0100, "Alan J. Flavell"
<fl*****@ph.gla .ac.uk> wrote:
So can *you* explain why they put pages onto the web that don't seem
to pass even syntax validation?
Cluelessness. In every large tech organisation I've ever worked in
(including I'm ashamed to say, HP) there have been some people who
understood things, some who didn't, and an entire layer of people on the
middle who devoted their working lives to having the wrong people make
the decisions. I'm a contractor - an expensive resource who is brought
in at great cost to advise on one specific area of expertise, then whose
recommendations are ignoredin favour of some BMW-driver suit, On _every_
site this happens, not just the odd one.

Until recently, validation was also very much the exception rather than
the rule. It's not that important an issue for HTML - compare it to any
programming language, where a syntax error stops things dead. Invalid
HTML still works, it just may not work as well as it should,

Cluelessness. To quote Scott the OP, 'her reply was
"I have reviewed your site and the source code. I see nothing wrong with
your source code at the moment, other than the frames."
Incidentally, that was a rare valid use for nested <blockquote>s 8-)

Web "designers" are largely untaught, or worse they've been through CIW.
Recruitment policies takes no account of technical skills, they just
play "match the buzzword" with application names like Dreamweaver.
Someone skilled with a code editor will be rejected in favour of a
trained monkey with FP or DW knowledge, because the recruitment agent
knows no more than to ask "Have you used DW?"

C00lness. An invalid dancing penguin always trumps a valid readable
site. How may "web design how-tos" have you seen called "Build the
C00lest website ever" ? What sort of coding style are these teaching?

I think you're close to the same in that respect, no?


Largely. I'll break validation sometimes if I know what I've broken and
I don't care. <a target="_zoomim ageviewer" ... > has a useful
side-effect if I'm opening repeated pop-up windows for the same purpose
and I want to re-use the same window for it.

Aug 14 '05 #18


Brian wrote:

Scott Meyers wrote:
I recently received a copy of Molly Holzschlag's "Spring Into HTML
and CSS," and in the first chapter, she makes a big deal of producing
pages that validate cleanly. However, she doesn't explain why this
is important, e.g., doesn't say what the consequences of validation
failure are.


Error correction. If your documents validate, the onus is on the browser
to do the right thing. If they don't, then they'll guess at what you
meant. How well they'll guess is, erm, anyone's guess. :-D (Apologies
for the corny joke.)


....and you have to guess about how future browsers will guess... :)
Aug 14 '05 #19
Tim
On Sun, 14 Aug 2005 12:23:25 +0100, Andy Dingley sent:
Until recently, validation was also very much the exception rather than
the rule. It's not that important an issue for HTML - compare it to any
programming language, where a syntax error stops things dead. Invalid
HTML still works, it just may not work as well as it should,


Though the *BIG* problem with that is that one person's testing of invalid
HTML only shows how well their browser handles it. I've encountered
numerous seriously broken pages that presumably worked for the original
author, but are utterly useless to other people.

--
If you insist on e-mailing me, use the reply-to address (it's real but
temporary). But please reply to the group, like you're supposed to.

This message was sent without a virus, please destroy some files yourself.

Aug 14 '05 #20

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