Validate it

HTML and CSS Validation has been the center of an intense debate for years; some web developers believe that validation is pointless since many of the specs change on various DOCTYPE’s and DTD’s, while others believe that your website is not truly valid and accessible unless you are in 100% compliance with whatever DOCTYPE you use. I will not begin to pretend that I can fairly and accurately mitigate both sides of this argument, what I want to do is take a look at it from a different perspective.

About 10 years ago while I was attending a small technical college in New Jersey, I began freelancing web design. At that time standards were pretty low, and there hadn’t been too many companies or individuals doing it as a business. As a result, pricing was erratic often ending up only at “well it works and the client likes it so how much can I milk them for!”. Without today’s convenience of jQuery or Prototype and certainly very few frameworks, almost everything was from scratch. You never really knew how long it was going to take you to complete a job.

Shortly after the big internet boom and the collapse of the job market, the community of web designers and developers was flooded with what I like to call ‘myspace coders’ and overseas application developers who all considered themselves to be top notch when it came to markup and the development of websites. Individuals who could change the CSS on their Myspace page started applying for entry level jobs at large corporations, setting a new curve of salaries that we are still fighting today. What made things worse, is that companies were still trying to figure out the web and had no idea who to hire to help them do it.

Resume’s started to read every keyword under the sun… IE( EXPERT AT PHP, RUBY, ASP, XML, XHTML, JSP, JAVASCRIPT, HTML, CSS, PHOTOSHOP, DREAMWEAVER, PYTHON, PERL, C++).. etc. As a hiring manager for an agency I will tell you that the first thing I do is throw these resumes away. I know that when this person comes in, you can ask them to code something in any of these languages and the response will be ‘I can try but I am rusty‘ or ‘I have modified it, but not from scratch‘. Alas, most companies don’t test people and will just hire you based on what you say you know. So the infiltration was a success.

So what does all this angry rambling mean, at first I viewed this as what would be the death of the real web developer. Real developers like myself would get frustrated and give up, while these half time hero’s would slowly creep in and take over the industry producing nothing more than poorly modified templates from some outsourced vendor. Even ‘my neighbors 15 year old son’ was in on the action building websites for the price of a new skateboard.

As we begin to move into what I like to call the golden age of the web, we have an opportunity to flush the market and rid the community of these impostors. With the sudden interest in and finite definition of web standards, along with the growing community of industry idols like Eric Meyer, Jeremy Keith, Jeff Way, and Jeffery Zeldman, we now have the tools to solidify our future and the industry.

This all brings me to my point, Validation! Validation gives us a baseline for the quality of our medium. Validation can help us filter out the impostors and quantify our costs to deliver. A successfully marked up and validated piece of code can not be argued or refuted. It is industry standard and is something that we should all be taking advantage of. This can be the first step to reclaiming the business that should belong to those that have the necessary training and education to properly build a web presence. I know validation is heavily debated, but I think it stands to reason that there are many ways to build the same site, and as long as it validates its safe to say it was done correctly.