Code Validation… Worth it?
Lately I’ve been pondering what the true value is of having a website’s code validated. I validate all of my projects and since releasing AbsoluteB, I naturally had the site’s XHTML and CSS code checked as well. Having fixed the few errors that there were, I then asked myself was Is it worth it? Was it necessary? And who cares? First of all, one thing I should point out about me is that I absolutely cannot stand showing off my site to someone, a moment when pride should flow over me as I hit the return key after typing the URL, expecting to see the design and layout I have worked on so hard, only to find that something isn’t right. Usually the person viewing my site with me doesn’t even notice, the detail is just that small because it really comes down to me being obsessively pixel perfect, but it’s there, and the fact that I know about it can eat me up inside. It is for this reason that I feel that validating code has it’s benefits. Having solid code gives that 99% chance that it will look the way you intended it on most browsers and platforms… most of the time, but these daysm that just isn’t the case.
Having valid code doesn’t always guarantee that designs will look the way they were intended on different browsers or even different versions of browsers. Even with other popular ones like Firefox, which is considered to be one of the more stable ones out there; viewing a site on a PC may look completely different than on Mac. Add on top of that the fact that screen resolutions will also alter the way a site looks to a visitor! All this even though code is completely valid and correct! And lets put aside for now that validating code is overrated because there are a number of modern methods of coding which aren’t yet recognized by W3C as a standard and thus can kill a site’s validation. W3C changes what’s right and what’s wrong so often, that what was valid yesterday, will probably no longer be valid tomorrow (I exaggerate but you get what I mean). In knowing this, I can’t help but feel that the reason I validate my code is merely for credibility; not just that my site will look the way I want when anyone views it, but more so for those who REALLY care about validated code will see that I am able to do so. Further more, government and municipal organizations put a high value on validated code, though I really don’t see the point because at least here in Holland, they all use IE anyway, IE6 to be exact (eesh!) and when it comes to code validation for those browsers, the standards have changed so much that it wouldn’t even be worth it anymore.
On a side note; every so often I look into what the stats are for browser and platform use. Last I checked, Firefox was way up there around 46% and the nearest trailing competitor was IE7 at around 14%, and this had dropped from 25% since the beginning of the year, although to be fair, since the launch of IE8, the percentage of users for that version has been rapidly increasing as well and the time of this post stands at 12%. Looking at IE as a whole, they stand at about 38%, but in general, their trend seems to be heading down as a whole. Outside the stats, all of my friends and family and even my parents who aren’t very tech savvy at all use Firefox.
And don’t ask me for the source of the following, but I heard/read/someone told me, that IE retains is fairly low percentage stat behind Firefox mostly due to the fact that there are many companies who won’t allow employees to download the browser of their choice at work for obvious reasons. So these people use the browser they really have no other choice in using; IE, which comes nicely bundled with Windows. HOWEVER, with the coming of Windows 7 and Microsoft’s decision not to bundle IE with the European version of the new OS, one can only imagine that the downward trend of IE’s stats will only further increase… right? Even I was using Safari exclusively in the first few weeks of ownership of my Macbook Pro, but eventually switched back to Firefox, though in terms of code rendering, they both seem identical on a Mac and likewise on a PC.
What I’m trying to say, is that code validation has its use, meaning and purpose, but when it comes to designing and developing a site, you need to take other priorities into consideration like your key demographic, the goal of the site, etc. At the moment, I don’t think validating code is as important as it used to be given the differences in how different browsers render code an even across platforms. Even YouTube, the third most popular site on the Internet, isn’t validated! So what does that tell you?