Thursday, September 9, 2010

W3C and Validation

Who is W3C? W3C stands for the World Wide Web Consortium. The goal of W3C is to provide a set of web standard and guidelines that will help alleviate the problem of code incompatibility in the hundreds of different web browsers in use throughout the world today.

The standards are only a guideline, but smart web designers and web developers pay heed to what the organization has to say. In fact many of the web programming jobs found on web design freelancer job boards, specifically requests that the code used to build a website is W3C validated. Although fairly common for XHTML and HTML it is becoming increasingly important especially if the web site is a total CSS web site.

Tim Berners-Lee who pretty much invented the World Wide Web when he developed the first web browser back in 1989 and other industry pioneers created the consortium to promote the standardization of the technologies used on the World Wide Web. Without some level of standardization, the internet would not be a global medium it is today. Interoperability between different machines requires a standard interface and standardized data communication protocols to carry the information back and forth.

That is the W3C’s mission. To publish the standards necessary so that all computers can speak the same language and communicate and all web browsers render web pages so that look and act the same way. The consortium also engage in efforts to educate web designers and developers so they will work together to build their websites on the W3C standards.

Because of the work of the consortium, someone using a Macintosh in China or a windows XP machine in Canada can access a web page hosted on a Linux server in South America. If that web page was created using validated HTML and CSS code, the webpage should appear very similar and have the same basic functionality on all of the different operating systems and web browsers available.

Why is Using Standardized and Validated Code Important?

Although all web browsers understand and render HTML, they don’t all do it the same way. Each browser has proprietary extensions to HTML and CSS that it uses to create special effects because none of the standardized code can do what they web designers wants to do. The result is that code that looks and works great in Internet Explore may crash Firefox, Opera or Safari and vice versa. Unfortunately, many web designers choose to code for internet explore and ignore the other 35% of web surfers. There are hundreds of different browsers and more appearing as PDAs, cell phones and practically every other imaginable electronic device is being built to be “internet compatible”.

It is impossible to test your web pages on every browser. While testing on the major browsers will probably be sufficient for most people, web designers who want their websites to work on as many different platforms as possible can check the code they write to see if it meets the standards.

Why don’t all the web designers and web developers use W3C validated code?

They don’t use it because none of the most popular HTML editors generate 100% compatible code. The newer the standards, the less likely the code generated meet them. Of all the HTML editors available, Dreamweaver does the best job and Front Page the worst job. It’s not surprising that FrontPage, which is a Microsoft product, writes code almost exclusively for internet explorer. The rest of the popular HTML editors rank somewhere between FrontPage and Dreamweaver.

Hand coding is no guarantee that the code will meet the standards either unless the person writing the code is well versed in the latest standards. Another problem is that a lot of the fancier and nicer features available are not universally supported by web browsers. Many web designers and web developers choose to ignore the 35% of web surfers so they can use the effects they want to use. In some cases, the site looks ok but doesn’t have all the functionality. Drop down menus are a common element commonly used that don’t work in some popular browsers. A good web designer will add a text link somewhere on the page for the parts of the menu that don’t work in all browsers. That way, the majority of visitors get the cool features while the others can still get where they want to go.


As the number of web browsers continues to increase, standardized code becomes absolutely essential. If you use non-standard, non-validated code that doesn't work in a particular browser, it is your fault. If you use standard, validated code and it doesn't work, it is a bug in the web browser. The W3C organization offers an official public validator service at

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