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Validating your site for HTML compliance

Has that title already thrown you for a loop? On a previous page I introduced HTML and a dozen tutorials on making your own web page. If you haven't actually tried to make your own web page then this page is for naught. What are you waiting for? Web pages are cool, everyone should have at least one. Try it, you'll like it, and then come back here and learn how to verify the page.

What is HTML validation?

Pages may still work, even when you break fundamental HTML rules, they just won't work on many browsers, at least not in ways you intended. Web authors need to learn how to check their pages, to have a fairly good idea what people are seeing when they access these page on different computers.
There are a few things to consider:

  1. Technology is moving fast, but not everyone is traveling at the same pace. Some people prefer using older computers or just can't afford better. Many people around the world are using old computers, with slow modems on faulty phone lines, so web pages designed for a truly global audience will need to be simple 'text only' pages. Since people with modern fast systems are important too, many public service sites try to offer two options, both a fast loading page and a slow loading yet more technically appealing version.

    Load time is very important. Nowadays people may have a slow modem or conversely may be flying away on ISDN, ADSL, cable, or even other faster technologies. In time many countries will develop the infrastructure needed for fast lane netting, meanwhile as an author you need to determine what speed your customers/readers are accessing and design your pages accordingly.

    Pictures, movies, and sound all love fast connections. Sites that specialize in movies or music offer several choices for the client to access files. Fast loading pages are important to everyone, and this is a key factor to consider when choosing the graphics and other media for your page.

    What happens if someone does access your page on a slow loading computer, can they still read your page? By labeling the space where the picture is, for example, people will know what is coming and continue to read your page. A well designed page should be relevant to both a high and low tech audience, and can be, if certain precautions are taken.

  2. Which browser is your reader using? Did you know Netscape and Microsoft's Internet Explorer use different standards when reading a page? Have you seen the difference in the way an early Mosaic browser reads compared to a more modern Netscape version? Each generation of software includes 'improvements' but remember too not everyone is using the latest browsers. Verification means knowing what your audience is actually seeing when they access your page. Outdated browsers are far more common. Making a page that satisfies the largest audience is quite a challenge.

  3. These pages at Lov-e.com are optimized for a ranage between the smaller 520 pixel width and the now common 780. This means someone with an older MacPlus or an executive using a small screen portable on her Lear Jet can read this page without scrolling. The industry standard these days is 580 pixels for 14" monitors. 780 pixels width is for a 17" monitor and the standard many corporations are using now, as their primary customers are affluent enough to have a wider screen computer. If you are writing pages for pocket phones accessing the internet, think tiny and write for an audience with a very short attention span. Reading this page on a pocket phone would take a great deal of patience.

  4. Will anyone need to print out your pages? Some authors try and prevent others from copying their material, while still others encourage it with special print out versions included with each page. Remember to test print your pages from within a web browser. Do the pages print the way you want? Some authors encourage readers to email their page to a friend, if you add this service be sure to test it. Every gadget you add must be tested on an assortment of systems.

How then do I verify my web pages?

  • The first way: Checking the code can be done visually by carefully reading through the HTML source code of your page and determining if everything is in its proper place. . . Or you can use a software especially designed for validating HTML compatibility.

    You need to choose which level of HTML you wish to be compatible with. There has been several versions of HTML, HTML 1, 2, 3, 4 etc. Each was believed to be an improvement of the previous version, yet suitable only with web browsers developed for that version. Logically, newer versions can read all the HTML code, while older browsers may have problems with more recent developments.

    A page which can be read by the simplest HTML may be ideal for a broader based audience, but be lacking in appeal for a community needing a dynamic innovative image. You must decide who your audience is and then check accordingly. To access HTML checking software you again have two choices. Find commercial or shareware HTML verification software or use a web site specifically designed to validate HTML.

    Here are a few web pages to visit for validators:

    WGA's Link Page to Validators and Checkers
    http://www.htmlhelp.com/links/validators.htm
    Dr.Watson
    reads 3.2 HTML as well as Netscape and Microsoft extensions up through version 4.x
    http://watson.addy.com/
    W3C HTML Validation Service
    http://validator.w3.org/
    Shareware Windows Validator:
    http://arealvalidator.com/
    Cross platform HTML TIDY
    http://www.w3.org/People/Raggett/tidy/
    BBEdit for the Macintosh includes HTML validation
    http://web.barebones.com/products/bbedit/bbedit.html
    Open Directory has a comprehensive Link List of Validators and Debuggers:
    http://dmoz.org/Computers/Software/Internet/Authoring/HTML/Validators_and_Debuggers/

  • The second way: On your hard drive keep several versions of each web browser commonly used by your audience. You may have to also try cross-platform compatibility by testing on an Apple Mac OS, Windows OS, Linux, or any other operating system you feel relevant. This is fairly easy if your primary computer is an Apple computer as simulators like Virtual PC and Linux allow you to test in these operating systems.

    You can also run around town asking everyone you know to take a look at your page. Send an e-mail to any friends who may enjoy honestly critiquing your site. But generally, trouble shooting is a lonely time consuming process. Soon though, your mistakes will become self evident and you will begin to design your pages better. Validation is an essential part to successful web authoring. Finding a direct and simple way to do this as a regular routine, along with saving files, and making back-up copies, is a big step towards creative professionalism.

    Copyright © 2000 Robert L. Seltman. All Rights Reserved.


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