The craft of HTML

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HTML is a practical art. In a professional context, it requires precise and extensive skills. As with many popular crafts, the vast majority of people do it on their own, but only a few do it for a living. The quality of products varies a lot.

Bruno Pedro has recently published Top blogs fail W3C Markup Validation. He has taken the top 20 list of popular weblogs and puts them through W3C validator. None passed markup validation. Then the author is encouraging people to take care of validation. The comments following the article express either frustration, anger or support. This article is a good illustration of the misunderstanding about HTML validation.

HTML validation is not a goal. HTML validation is a means.

Jeffrey Zeldman, the King of Web Standards (Business Week), in one of his weblog entry comments on the invalid top 20, And lest a BusinessWeek article lull us into complacency, let us here note that the top 20 blogs as measured by fail validation--including one blog Happy Cog designed. (It was valid when we handed it off to the client.) (my emphasis). A while ago, I had already written about Failed Commitments?.

Acknowledging failure

We, all of us, fail sometimes. The Web has been even designed for failures. Cool URIs don't change, but they can break. The Web is not collapsing when a URI is broken. The same way, when an HTML page is invalid, browsers still try to recover and render the content anyway.

Checking validation of your web pages after publication (when available on the Web) is most of the time too late. It is far better to create all the necessary control and checking steps in the publishing process, in the Web site development process, to maintain the quality of your products. It is one of the main points of the Web Standards Do, use tools and processes to fix issues before they hurt.

How can you help?

When you are a developer of a content management system, of an authoring tool, of a small widget, be sure to create all the function to sanitize the content in production and input. Maintaining the quality of your content is a better goal than a one time validation.

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