How Important Is W3C Validation?

Web browsers generally work based on standards developed by an international community called the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

These standards define how HTML, the language that makes web pages, should be written.  However, it probably isn’t an exaggeration to say that the majority of websites do not conform to these standards.  So how important is it?

Browser Compatibility.

Browsers come in many varieties.  The most popular is Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, but FireFox, Google Chrome and others are gaining market share every year.

To ensure your website works with all browsers it is important to follow W3C standards.  Adding items that are not part of the standards, or omitting others that are required could mean that your website works in one browser but not others.

Website Usability.

Following on from browser compatibility it is easy to see why non-compliance to W3C could affect the usability of your website.  If your website doesn’t display or work properly in other browsers, your visitors will stop using your website.  This could mean you are losing potential sales.

I do most of my browsing using either Firefox or Chrome and I am still amazed (and annoyed) at the number of websites that simply don’t work in anything other than Internet Explorer.  If your customers can’t use your website it becomes ineffective.

Search Engines.

Matt Cutts from Google has spoken about W3C compliance in the past.  He made the point that websites with good content but that didn’t have valid HTML would still be ranked.

This may be true, but there are certain parts of HTML validation that we know can affect Google ranking.  For example, providing an alt attribute for images is something commonly missed from web pages, but is something that forms part of W3C validation.  The alt attribute describes the image to the search engine, or any browser that doesn’t display images.

Brett Young from Bing was quoted saying:

“Clean code can help quite a bit in indexing on all the Search Engines.”

W3C validation of the pages of your website will improve compatibility, usability and will also impact on search engine optimisation.  Take time to check the pages in your website and correct any errors that are found.

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