What makes a good website and why is validation important?

What is website validation and why is it important to have validating websites for accessibility, usability and Search Engine Optimisation?

What is website validation?

So you've been told your website doesn't validate. Sounds scary and important but what does it actually mean to you and your website and why is validation important?

Firstly let us give you an excerpt from WC3 as they are the validation setters for the internet world:

"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."

To put it another way, validation is making your website's code as clean as possible and testing it against industry standards (set by the WC3) to allow browsers to read it in the same way the world over which is great for website accessibility and SEO.

Why is website validation important?

1) Compatibility

If you are running an un-validated website you cannot be certain that your website's design is rendering correctly (or uniformly) in different browsers. For example, Internet Explorer is more forgiving than many other browsers and may ignore unclosed tags etc that could otherwise cause a page to display incorrectly. Web site validation techniques help ensure your code is correct and will work on as many browers as possible - this is what makes a good website.

2) SEO

By validating you are making your code behind the website as clean and uncluttered as possible. Cleaner code is easier for search engines to 'read through' and will increase the chances of being read the whole way. This will, in turn, allow them to extract more information about your website, understand your services better and perhaps see your website as being more authoritive than others. The more authorative websites command higher search engine positions.

3) Accessibility

Validating your website means you are being made to use many techniques that aid the accessibility (catering for users with a disability) of your site. As a very basic example, a validated website will not allow an image without an ALT attribute and ALT attributes are important for use with screen readers (which a user with a visionary impairment may use to 'read out' a website to them). A validated website does not instantly mean your website is 100% accessible but it is a very good place to start and build upon.

Web site validation techniques to try

To check to see if your website validates complete the following simple steps:

  1. Go to the W3C validator website
  2. Type in your website address
  3. Click to Check
  4. Look at the results! If it gives you a green 'success' page then well done, if not then you will need to do a little work.

Don't be too worried by a list of validation errors, they can sometimes be caused by the smallest of issues and may not need a huge amount of work to fix.