You can visit numerous ‘respected’ sites such as google.com, amazon.com, espn.go.com, cnn.com, facebook.com, or microsoft.com and see that they have World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) validation errors (go to http://validator.w3.org to test any site). And not just a few, they have many errors! So, if those sites don’t adhere to W3C guidelines, why do I continue to build sites that are W3C-compliant?
Here’s the World Wide Web Consortium’s answer as to why I should: http://validator.w3.org/docs/why.html
Here’s my answer:
- Confidence: I have some skills in writing web code, but I don’t consider myself a developer. It’s difficult for me to look at a site’s code and tell if it’s written well or not. Therefore, using WordPress and compliant themes and plugins gives me confidence that the site’s code is solid.
- Consistency: It’s not possible to test a site for all platform variations. A valid site best assures me that the site delivers consistent performance across all platforms, now and in the future.
- Accessibility: I don’t usually have the budget to fully audit a site for Section 508 compliance (http://section508.gov/). W3C compliance is probably my best bet that the site is accessible for people with impairments. Is Section 508 compliance necessary for all sites? No. I just think it’s a good thing to do.
- Search Engine Optimization: How do I know if the code is hurting SEO performance? I don’t. What you see on the screen isn’t what search engines see. So, while valid code doesn’t necessarily improve the site’s SEO performance, it gives me the best assurance that the site’s code isn’t doing anything to hurt SEO performance.
- Speed: Granted, web browsing software is getting smarter. So, in many cases, even if the site has coding errors, it can still figure it out. But does that slow down the site’s performance? Much like SEO, having a valid site doesn’t necessarily mean I have the fastest possible site, but it best assures me that coding errors aren’t slowing down the site.
- Professionalism: There is no such thing as a ‘certified website.’ W3C is the best program to demonstrate professional web development.
Are there some validation errors that drive me crazy? Yup. For example, “target=_blank” is a XHTML 1.0 Strict and Transitional violation. How many handy WordPress plugins come with an external link that tries to open in a new window? Quite a few. And I always remove this from the code. A little bit of a pain in the butt, but I do it every time. And if a plugin doesn’t let me modify the PHP, I dump it.
All of this really comes down to keeping things practical. Sure, maybe if I had a mega-budget like the big guys, I could play by different rules. Or, who knows, maybe the large corporations actually know the rules really well, and they also know how to break them really well … if you know what I mean. In any case, I don’t have their budgets, expertise, or resources, so I have to keep things much simpler. W3C-compliance does that for me. It ultimately saves me time and takes out a lot of the guess work.
Finally, there’s an emotional element. I think the posture of “hey, if it works, who cares?” is arrogant and naive. I work very hard to do things right. For me, building W3C-compliant websites is simply the right thing to do.