A Rant on Validation

By Deane Barker on March 6, 2009

Coding Horror: HTML Validation: Does It Matter?: Interesting comments from Jeff Atwood about HTML validation and whether or not it matters.

The whole HTML validation exercise is questionable, but validating as XHTML is flat-out masochism. Only recommended for those that enjoy pain. Or programmers. I can’t always tell the difference.

Anyway, we validated as the much saner HTML 4.01 strict, and even then I’m not sure it was worth the time we spent. So many of these validation rules feel arbitrary and meaningless. And, what’s worse, some of them are actively harmful.

I’ve never been a huge fan of validation. We’ve talked about this at least twice before.

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  1. XHTML is not a pain for me, and I have no problems writing valid code in it. That’s because I’ve learned the rules and been practicing them for years. I have become fluent. I get the sense Atwood has difficulty with it because he keeps falling back to HTML 4. He’s just never practiced enough to become fluent.

    That said, validation is merely a tool. It’s great when you’re trying to debug why something doesn’t work properly, and the more complex the site is the stranger some of the visual effects created by improper validation can be. But I don’t obsess over an unescaped ampersand or the (very rare) target directive. I’m fluent enough to know where the grammar doesn’t really matter that much. All that really matters is that the page works and the visitors get what they need out of it.

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