Business of the Web Part 3 : What does valid code mean to me?

As coding is my specialty, the last post of this series hits close to home. Many clients and non-developers can often see that a website looks bad graphically, but  (unless broken) they can not see how bad a website looks behind the scenes. I’m talking about HTML and CSS. These things are the skeleton and life blood of your site. It’s what makes the website look and act the way it does and it’s quite infuriating how the standards are often ignored and disregarded in coding. Some of the best looking sites have the sloppiest code out there. So what’s it to you and your site?

Because Your Website Runs Better

Having validated code ensures that you will have less errors in the future and makes it a lot easier to be cross browser compatible.  This is important because there’s such a wide range of popular browsers today, therefor your site needs to work perfectly in all of them – or you risk losing your audience. clean code also means less load on your server, which means a faster website for your viewers.

Because Search Engines Will Like You

There is some debate whether Google ranks sites with validated code over invalid sites. (Google itself doesn’t even validated) while it is sure that you aren’t penalized for it, it is certainly one of the tests Google runs in determining your rankings. The same goes for other search engines as well, and it is speculated Yahoo may even place more emphasis on validated code than Google. A company ran a test with 4 similar pages to see if Google placed the valid coder over the invalid code, (You can check out the test on here) and their  findings suggested Google really does place an emphasis on both validated HTML and CSS. Of course content and keywords play the largest role, but this is one more important thing to push you to the top.

Because You Can Be Sued

If you neglect basic alt tags and title tags, yes you can be sued. While this may be a slim chance, it’s still possible. Title and alt tags, while good for SEO, were created for accessibility reasons, so that the blind or impaired can navigate the web using a reader. Big businesses like Target (read story) have already been sued for this before.

Because It Shows Your Web Developer Is A Professional

Would you accept sloppy work from your housekeeper, banker or lawyer? If I threw your canned goods in the bag with the bread an eggs at the grocery store, would you accept that as a good job? Don’t accept sloppy work from your developer. You pay your developer good money to know what he or she is doing, so don’t accept jumbled code that doesn’t work in Firefox or code that doesn’t adhere to industry standards. A professional developer will take the extra time to make sure your code is clean and correct no matter what – that’s their job. Don’t be afraid to ask – or demand that your developer validate their code in one of the newest standards (1.0 Strict at least).

Here are some questions to ask your developer:

  1. Do you validate? What do you validate in?
  2. Do you use title tags for accessibility?
  3. Do you use targeted keywords in your tags?
  4. What browsers do you ensure compatibility in?
  5. Do you use CSS? Table layouts? Or both? (please run far away from anyone developer who answers his question with anything other than the first choice)

While you may get by on a sloppy coded site – it may even run perfect in browsers and rank well because of content – you’ll always be one step short of a great site. It’s one more small thing that sets the best sites apart from the good ones. It could be the difference between top 10 and #1. My biggest pet peeve is a lazy developer, and it should be yours too. Because we’re shooting for excellence, aren’t we?