For those who have never heard of the the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), they are an international community where member organizations, a full-time staff and the public work together to develop Web standards. The W3C is lead by Tim Berners-Lee (the guy who invented the World Wide Web) and CEO Jeffrey Jaffe. They develop protocols and guidelines for popular languages like HTML, XHTML and CSS.
W3C has a validation service that validates Web pages against standard formats. You can enter a website url and it will check the code in the page and see if it validates to the W3C standards. Check it out here http://validator.w3.org
Something else that the web browser developers wanted to do was to make their browser better than the others. So they decided to add new features to HTML that the other browsers didn’t support. For example, the early Netscape browser introduced the ability to “blink” text and images (so that they flashed) and the early Microsoft Internet Explorer added the ability to scroll text and images across the page. If you used these extra HTML features, your website would effectively only work properly in one browser.
So the W3C was formed to decide on a “correct” version of HTML. Anything outside of this standard might still work, but it would be unofficial and you use it at your own risk.
I won’t go into the problems with Microsoft not implementing those standards properly in Internet Explorer, that’s a completely different rant!
So, in it’s purest sense, it means that if your website doesn’t validate against the W3C standards, then technically it’s incorrect, it’s sloppy. It makes your web designer look like a bit of an amateur.
But who cares if it looks OK to your visitors?
Well, here is the problem, your visitors are not just people. The search engines also look at your website, and you usually want to keep them on your side. Other websites also like to understand your website content, such as Facebook. These systems aren’t really looking at your website the way a normal person does. They are just software, so they’re just looking at the HTML.
In short, the better that your site validates against the W3C standards, the better chance these systems have of understanding your website correctly.
Now, they may understand your website just fine anyway. But you don’t really have an easy way to find out how well all of these different systems are understanding your website. You can’t see what they see. So, it’s best to just keep to the W3C standards to maximise your chances.
We test our client websites to ensure maximum compliance with the W3C standards (and many other standards) as a matter of principle. In an industry that is notorious for amateurs and cowboys, we take these things a bit more seriously than most. If you want help from a web designer that goes the extra mile, contact us today on firstname.lastname@example.org