The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid #9 – Coding Errors

The Top 10 Website Pitfalls to Avoid Rock Paper Simple 9We run across improperly coded sites every single day and having that developer in me, I want to fix ALL of them! Sadly, I can’t just hack in and fix all the errors I see, so I’ll just have to be satisfied with making sure our clients have error-free websites!

Websites with coding errors are like sick websites. Something just isn’t right and until it is righted, it’s just not going to work properly. Symptoms may include the obvious broken page elements and layout, slow load times, lack of search-ability, browser incompatibilities and more (if your computer starts literally sneezing… run, because it is definitely NOT supposed to do that).

Most of the time these errors can be identified by running the w3c validator on a site to see what errors it catches, though not all of these issues can be caught that way. I’ve run into nightmare sites with hundreds and hundreds of errors and that is typically when I advise a complete rebuild instead of trying to fix the errors.

Run the test on your site and make sure you clear all out the errors. Your site will run better and the major search engines will be able to read and index it better too. Some sites have so many errors, they aren’t searchable by search engines, while some are searchable, but only partially. If search engines like Google, Yahoo or Bing cannot read your website, they cannot list your website or if they do, you will not rank high. Should you wish to be found in search engines, ensure your search-ability is top-notch or you may be wasting your SEO efforts or budget.

One of the most common problems websites run into is browser incompatibilities. HTML is a language and web browsers interpret that language. The trick is many of these browsers interpret various HTML/CSS elements differently than other browsers. Having a website work and display properly in all major browsers can be quite difficult and is one of the key elements of a professionally built website. These browser inconsistencies aren’t always the result of actual errors, but there are specific techniques that just do not always produce the same results in all browsers, so you’ll have to watch for that and make sure your site looks right in at least Internet Explorer, Chrome, Firefox and Safari.

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What is W3C validation?

What is W3C validation and why is it important?

What is W3C validation?

We in the “web world” tend to use scary words and acronyms when talking about what we do and it is very possible you have heard of “W3C” or “W3C standards” or maybe even “W3C validation” and wondered what in the world a this strange jumble of letters and numbers has to do with your website! I’ll translate this from “Tech” into English for you.

 

First, let’s define who and what the W3C is. (w3c definition)

W3C stands for the World Wide Web Consortium who are the recognized standards organization for the world wide web. This organization was founded by Tim Berners-Lee and is run by a full-time staff to continue to develop and maintain web standards. These standards are then used to help guide web developers and browsers to develop code that lives up to certain standards. In a nutshell, they write the rule-book that helps to define if our code is well-written or poorly written. This is how we know if our markup (code) is awesome or not-so-awesome.

 

Ok, so what is W3C Validation? (w3c validation definition)

We have established that there is a “rule-book” to define how we write our HTML, CSS, Javascript, etc and make sure we do a good job, right? Well the programming languages we use all have their own grammar, vocabulary and syntax just like a spoken language and that means that it can be written wrong if it does not follow the rules. When we say we write “W3C valid code” or that “our websites pass W3C validation”, we are saying that the code we write and websites we build will pass W3C validation tests without errors because our syntax and “grammar” is correct. It means we wrote awesome code that was done right.

It’s all a very complicated way of saying that W3C Validation is a test that makes sure we follow the rules!

A tool is provided by the W3C to test websites and can be found this link: http://validator.w3.org. We use this tool on all of our websites to give us insight as we work on the websites and especially once we have launched them.

 

Why is it important that your site is W3C Valid?

A great question! I’m glad you asked. It’s important that your site is W3C valid to ensure the site works properly on your browser as well as the other major browsers such as Internet Explorer, FireFox, Chrome, etc. A website that contains many errors can suffer from many ill-effects.

The following are just some of those ill-effects:

  • Not displaying properly or consistently
  • Not compatible with all major browsers
  • Not displaying properly on devices of varying sizes like mobile devices
  • Ranks badly in search engines (because they can’t read the code)
  • Loads elements slowly

Additionally, websites that are coded to standards last longer and are “future-proofed” for the most part against browser updates and the like. If your code is poorly done, the chances of your website breaking as browsers and other software updates is greater than if the code validated. We believe in value for our clients and what good is a website that breaks a few months later!? When working with websites we have not built, one of the first things we do is check the W3c Validator tool to see what we are in for!

Here is an article on the W3C website “Why Validate”. Click here to take a look.

 

Wrapping it up.

Keeping in mind that a website can be coded with valid W3C markup, but still not be done well or properly in other ways, however this is generally a good test to see how well the site was coded. For example, our own website doesn’t 100% validate due to some of the features we have decided we must have for marketing purposes, but it avoids the major errors that could be damaging our user experience or search engine exposure. The real red flag is raised when there are lots and lots of errors.

Every website should meet W3C validation standards if at all possible. It is not only the “right” way to do it, but it has many lasting benefits, such extending the sites life expectancy, ensuring compatibility across browsers, increasing load-speed in many cases and much more. Hopefully this helps you understand why we think it is so important and why we test all of our websites for W3C validation before deeming a project complete.

 

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