Validation is the process of ensuring that the pages on the website conform to W3C standards. It is important to validate your website to ensure that your web pages can be processed in the same way by search engines, browsers and users. There are many standards which can be grouped into two main categories:
- Accessibility standards are more involved in the user interface, these include WAI,WCAG and 508 and exist to ensure readability by people.
Markup standards are a great start point in developing an accessible rich content website.
Clearing up some confusion
There are some articles online that state It is illegal or a prosecutable offence not to validate. This is not true, you are not actually required to adhere to all rules, recommendations or standards, so long as your pages are available to any user. An example is google, a very accessible website that does not conform to markup standards.
Why not skip markup and move straight to accessibility standards?
The majority of markup standards form a basis for accessibility standards. Without validating your markup, your site will more than likely fail accessibility requirements.
Cross Browser Compatibility Benefits
By conforming to markup standards your website is well on it’s way to becoming cross browser compatible. This means you can reach a larger audience. Another reason to conform is web browsers base their rendering of pages from these standards. I.e. by conforming you make your website future proof for future releases of browsers.
Search Engine Compatibility Benefits
When there are errors in a web page, search engines will still attempt to crawl your site but they may ignore certain elements. For example if you miss out a closing tag at the beginning of your website search engines may skip this element which is the majority of the pages content. This would result in the entire page not being indexed. Search engines are the main method used to attain traffic to a website making it crucial to make you pages readable. The safest way is to make sure that your web page validates.
Be proud your site conforms to web standards, Its a major part of any website and shows you know your stuff. Not to mention all the benefits outlined above.
Where to start
You can start off by finding out more about the language you’ve chosen to script your website in at W3C. If you already know the basis of your chosen script, to check you conform you can submit you website to The W3C Markup Validation Service (one of many website validators available).