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August 2, 2007

Why do you Need a Validated Website?

A lot of clients ask why they need their ‘already working perfectly well’ website validated. Below is a brief guide to try and answer this in a clear and simple way.

Firstly we should explain what is meant by a validated website.

Put simply, validation is the act of writing and designing a website in as ‘clean’ a way as possible and testing it against industry standards. It makes use of cascading style sheets (CSS) to format the page layout and text and also cleans up any ‘loose coding’ which could otherwise cause problems.

For a further description we refer to an excerpt from the W3C website as they are the last word when it comes to validation!

Validation is a process of checking your documents against a formal Standard, such as those published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for HTML and XML-derived Web document types. It serves a similar purpose to spell checking and proofreading for grammar and syntax, but is much more precise and reliable than any of those processes because it is dealing with precisely-specified machine languages, not with nebulously-defined human natural language.

The Benefits of Validating your website.

1) Compatibility

When your website code is not validated you are running the risk of your site displaying unpredictably in different browsers. For example, Internet Explorer is more forgiving and likely to internally fix small amounts of ‘loose coding’ whereas stricter browsers such as Mozilla Firefox and Safari will display a page as it is coded. Validation makes the code uniform and means you will not have an unprofessional and unpredictable looking website or risk alienating certain users who don’t use Internet Explorer!

2) Search Engine Optimisation

A website that is ‘clean’ is far easier for the search engines (Google, Yahoo etc) to ‘read through’ and index. The easier they can do this the easier it is for them to find the real meat of your site i.e the content. The other point to make here is that if your site isn’t validated it is possible for search engines to place greater emphasis on the wrong part of your code and your site could therefore be missing out on being found for the most appropriate searches *

3) Accessibility

Validating a site requires the use of many accessibility techniques such as the use of ALT tag on images. Steps such as these make your site more readable for those users who are vision, motor skilled or cognitively impaired. Validation makes the site readable as it allows aids such as screen readers to read through your site correctly. Although validation is not in any way a guarantee that your site is accessible, it is a huge leap towards this and far superior to an unvalidated site.

4) Faster loading

Conventional websites made use of tables and an extensive amount of tags for formatting both the page structure and content. The use of CSS separates the structure from the content and gives the browsers less code to trawl through before they can successfully render the page. Validation also aids the browser in displaying the site faster as there is no ‘loose coding’ for the browser to get tangled up in or waste time trying to ‘fix’.

So where does this leave you?

Firstly you might like to check your current site for validation (see the steps below).

Secondly, decide whether validation is something that you feel you should be concerned with but please bear in mind that you now have a legal obligation to have an accessible website *

Thirdly, enlist the help of a professional SEO company to review your website and carry out necessary alterations. In some cases you may be cheaper having your website completely rebuilt rather than trying to fix the current errors but don’t let this put you off. Look upon it as an opportunity to spruce up your existing site and start afresh!

How to validate your website using Validation Tools:

1. Go to the W3C validator website 2. Type in the URL of your website 3. Hit the check button 4. You will be presented with a list of results. If your site validates then you can relax for now if it doesn’t then maybe you want to enlist in the help of a professional search engine optimisation company such as ourselves!


* HTML and CSS Validation: Should You Validate Your Web Page? by Christopher Heng, *

Author:  Lynne Foster is a Senior Web Developer at 360innovate – a leading and award winning media company in Scotland and also freelances through ice-white web design