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html: resolving simple xhtml errors

Validation errors are most simply defined as inconsistencies between your web site code and the accepted standards (which will vary depending on your doctype declaration), and can have a negative impact on:

  1. Your search engine rankings
    For example, a lack of alternate tags on your images could cost you in search engines, not to mention make your site hard on visitors with disabilities.
  2. The way your site appears across multiple browsers
    Think Internet Explorer verses Firefox or Safari. Each can sometimes interpret site code a little differently, especially when that code is poorly formed and tested.
  3. The time it takes your web site to load
    Some errors may cause the site to take longer to load, as your browser works to resolve duplicate commands and inconsistencies.

If you haven’t taken a look at how your site stacks up, now would be a great time to do so. You can use this link. To make the check as useful as it can be, we’d suggest selecting the “More Options” link and choosing either “XHTML 1.0 Transitional” or “XHTML 1.0 Strict.”

Now, to make life easier on both you and us, we have created a page that outlines some common issues and how to correct them, in a greater detail than within this article. You can find that page right here. Each of three common errors are explained in detail on that page. Briefly, here they are:

  1. Images without alternate tags
    Alternate tags are quick, relevant descriptions used to tell search engines and web browsers what an image on your web site is. Think of Google sort of like a blind man. He can’t see pictures, but can read the “braille” (alternate tags) that tell him what your images are showing. If you leave this out, you’ll get more than a validation error, you’ll also miss out on a simple way to make your web site more efficient in search engines.
  2. Those pesky ampersands (&)
    Ampersands are typically used to declare special characters. For instance, typing “™” will create this: ™, while “©” will provide this symbol: ©. The problem comes when an ampersand is used by itself, rather than in defining a character. This is a no no, and will cause validation errors on your web site. Luckily, these errors are easy to fix by replacing your naked “&” symbols with “&” instead (just don’t add the quotes when you type it!).
  3. Unclosed tags
    This one is also easy to fix, and can cut your error count drastically. If you are copying code from another tutorial, or writing it on your own, be very aware where you need to close your tags, and how. For instance, when writing a paragraph, you will need to start with a <p> tag, and end with a </p> tag. For an image, you will need to end the image with an ending slash, like this: <img src=”images/an-image.gif” />

Of course, this is just a very small and simple list of some of the errors we see most often, and ones which are easy to repair. Want to know more about an error we didn’t mention? There are tons out there. Just leave a comment and we’d be happy to lend a hand.

Got a record number of errors on your site? We want to hear what you’ve got, and whether you’ve nailed them all. Believe it or not, the most errors we have ever seen on a site is a whopping 4,803. No, we won’t tell who it was.

These methods are both simple and good practice for every web site. While this list is certainly not intended to provide a “how-to” for fixing every validation error on your web site, it will hopefully inspire you to check your current code, and to possibly write just a little bit cleaner the next time around. We all have to start somewhere, right?

That’s all folks!
If you have an idea or article that you would like to contribute, send it on! We’re always looking for good, quality articles. Note that we will not republish an article that has been published elsewhere, so keep it original!

About Jeff Jahn:
Father, Husband, lover of life. Passionate about building exceptional products, platforms and ideas, and pushing the envelope on what can be achieved through technology. Bootstrapper, willing to radically shift direction if the need arises and always engaged.

Jeff is recognized as a leading authority in web, mobile, social media and emerging online technologies. One of 20 Rising Stars Under 40 (Cobb Life Magazine).

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