“Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their tableless pages wide and their unordered list menus long; they love the place of honor at usability seminars and the most important seats at accessibility forums; they love to be greeted in the chatrooms and to have geeks call them ‘WebMaster.’
“Woe to you, Accessibility Scribes and Usability Geeks, you hypocrites! You shut the door to the kingdom of compelling content in programmers’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.
“Woe to you, Accessibility Scribes and Usability Geeks, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single CSS convert, and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a slave to ‘DuHTML’ as you are.
“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by common sense, it means nothing; but if anyone swears by the W3C, he is bound by his oath.’ You blind fools! Which is greater: the W3C, or the compelling content that makes the website attractive?
With apologies to My Lord and the Apostle Matthew for my re-rendering of the Seven Woes to the Scribes and Pharisees, but it seemed appropriate in light of a discussion on web page validation services recently penned by my two favorite techBlogs, Gadgetopia.com and Boyink.com
Well, actually, it is the people behind these blogs that make them my favorite, and that’s my point. Just as Jesus rebuked the Scribes and Pharisees for putting the observance of the law over the people, I have a stern admonition to the Validation Nazi’s among you who lose sight of the fact that a tool such as the W3C Markup Validation Service is just that, a tool.
Fix what is in Your Control
While it is always helpful to run your websites through such tools, DON’T PANIC if you can’t get it 100% valid. Fix the obvious things, and the things of which you have direct control.
For example, make sure your hyperlinks have a title attribute, your images some alt text. However, in those cases where you are importing content, such as hyperlinks from the BibleGateway, don’t sweat it. Yes, we all know their use of ampersands causes the W3C Markup Validation Service to go crazy … but not everyone can write Perl or PHP to intercept and fix this cruft.
Similarly, some of you are using content management systems and/or weblog tools that infuse some invalid HTML. In those cases, contact the producer, but don’t’ spend a lifetime trying to fix it yourself.
Keep your Eyes on the Prize
Remember, above all else, content is king. I strongly urge you to have usable and accessible websites, because HOW you say it is just as important as WHAT you say. So DO become familiar with the standards espoused by the Web Style Guide and Dive Into Accessibility, but don’t become enslaved by these recommendations.
Standards are there to help you render your compelling content in a fashion that best helps your readers find what they’re looking for quickly and conveniently – nothing more.