StrongTower Family Church
6 comments | Posted: 4 May 06 in Featured, by Ryan Heneise
When I first went to the StrongTower Family Church website, I thought it was a nice looking and well put-together. It was easy to find important information, and it definitely made me want to check out the church. It looks very friendly and inviting.
The main banner area is very well-used; it provides a great space for headlines, and a natural place to put pictures.
One thing that I kept missing was a sense of location on the site. It would be nice to have some indication of where the current page is in relation to the other pages. This could be done by underlining the current section in the navigation, for example. It’s a small site, so you won’t get too lost, but I still think it would be helpful to have some type of “you are here” indicator.
But all in all, I really like this site. Its an unusual design for a church website, but it just has a good feeling to it.
As I was inspecting the site more closely (since I was thinking about posting it here on Godbit), I noticed that there were a number of validation errors. Most of the errors were little things, like unescaped ampersands (&) and unclosed tags – not terribly difficult to fix, but still errors. I really wanted to talk about this site, but the validation errors were a dealbreaker. So I decided to get in touch with StrongTower to talk about it.
But before I tell you what happened, what is validation, and why is it important? Warning. I am about to get somewhat technical on you. Beware.
Quite simply, validation is the ability to verify that “a solution or process is correct or compliant with set standards or rules.” Wikipedia: Validation. When we talk about web page validation, we are referring to HTML standards that have been created by the W3C (the World Wide Web Consortium), governing the creation and interpretation of HTML code by web browsers or other devices. These standards (and adhering to the standards) is especially important because there are so many browsers out there. Just take a look at Wikipedia’s list of browsers. And those are only PC-based browsers. Now look at the list of microbrowsers that people might use to see your site from a mobile device. And THEN, look at the W3C’s list of browsers designed for people with disabilities. Clearly, there are a lot of different ways that a visitor could access your website. In fact, there are even some ways that a visitor (even non-human visitors, like Google) can access the information on your site without actually accessing the site itself.
So how can you make sure that your web page will display properly (or be interpreted correctly) by all these different browsers? The first step, and one that will take you a long way, is to make sure that your HTML code is valid – that is, that it doesn’t violate any rules for the particular HTML DOCTYPE (that’s a whole other discussion) that you use. If your web page validates, the rest of your job becomes easier. You now have a starting point from which you can track down browser-related bugs and other issues. Does it display correctly on this browser but not on that one? If your code is valid, then it is much easier to find out why.
I posed the question What’s the big deal about a few HTML validation errors, anyway? on the Godbit forum, and an interesting discussion ensued. If you’re interested in learning more about web standards and validation, the Godbit forum is a great place to start – there are some wonderful comments by some very knowledgeable people. From our discussion on the forum, here’s my interpretation in a nutshell:
- Consistency – ensure that various browsers will interpret the page correctly.
- Compatibility & Accessibility – ensure that the page is readable by accessibility devices such as screen readers (for the blind) and mobile devices such as phones.
- Professionalism – a professional writer wouldn’t release a document with typos and grammatical errors, and a programmer wouldn’t release a program with syntax and calculation errors. So neither would a professional web designer release a web page with validation errors.
Back to StrongTower Family Church.
I got in touch with the folks at StrongTower a few days ago to let them know about the validation errors. I really didn’t expect too much, but I was quite impressed – just a couple of days later they got back to me, and lo and behold, they have fixed all the errors, and the home page is now valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional! It made me very happy, because now I have something to talk about, and better yet, because I had an excuse to talk about HTML validation.
Do you validate? You can test the validity of any web page very easily by typing its address into the W3C Markup Validation Service at validator.w3.org.
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