Mark Pilgrim notes that unless validating is easy to do, people won't do it. I couldn't agree more. I like 'valid' pages and I did go quite some lengths to achieve 'validity' for my web pages initially. But all those round trips to validator web sites are tiresome. Particularly if you're editing off-line. On the other hand, I haven't yet found a validator that is easy (as in download, unpack and double-click) to use. Hence I have been neglecting to check my pages for small errors recently.
The way validating works today sounds a bit like programming in the 1970s: You prepare the punch cards for your program (write HTML), send them to wherever the computer is (save, upload, whatever) and then get the error messages. Of course unlike those programs your web page may still be displayed as intended, so you won't care. The question is why the work environment for generating web pages can't be more like modern IDEs, that help you to get the syntax right while you're typing and whose graphical design tools will generate correct code. The technology seems to be there.
That is why I think that having a validator built into your authoring tools would help a lot. Instant notification of errors is important and makes them easy to understand and fix immediately. In particular as most of those 'errors' are actually typos of some sort. iCab's smile icon was a good way of doing this. Hence I disagree with Dave Hyatt who says:
The validators basically break down into two types: obtrusive validators and unobtrusive validators. If the validator is unobtrusive, then I would argue that it won't receive sufficient usage to make a difference. If the browser doesn't impose a penalty of some kind, then there will be no incentive for the author to correct mistakes. Unfortunately Dave doesn't elaborate on this. Surely having an unobtrusive validator won't make everyone validate, but it may make those people validate their pages who only don't do it because the current process is too cumbersome.
BBedit has built in validation — not on the fly if one is typing code by hand, which would be interesting — but I often wonder if it is always “up-to-validatedness”. It has been a long time since I’ve done an external validation of any pages I make in BBedit.
I didn’t know this – probably because I’m not a BBEdit guy, both because of the hefty price tag and because I don’t like the program.
And even if I did, I’d have the same concern about the quality of its validation. - An argument that holds for iCab’s smiley as well, of course.
If you’re willing to move to XHTML, why not use Mozilla as a validation tool? Invalid pages served up with an “application/xhtml+xml” mime type would simply refuse to render, and you’d even get a message telling you exactly which line was causing the problem.
And do you have concerns about the quality of the validation of validator.w3.org?
I’ve been playing around with TextExtras’ incredibly useful “Execute Pipe” command, in conjunction with HTML Tidy, and, well, it does pretty much everything I need. It’s Cocoa only, but since that means it works in both SubEthaEdit and Safari I’m pretty much covered 99% of the time I’m manually typing HTML.
Abiola: I didn’t know about the Mozilla thing. Thanks for the tip. The reason for me not using Mozilla is that I simply don’t like it - because it’s ugly and has about a zillion settings. But I supposed you could put up with that for development work, if really necessary. (Do more sane programs like Camino or Phoenix have the same way of dealing with this?) My next question would be how Mozilla deals with local files. Are they assumed to have that MIME type or not.
Olivier: While this point isn’t backed up by facts, my take on the w3c validator is along the lines of They made this up, so if they don’t know how to validate it, who does? So, basically I trust them most. This is corroborated by my experience that pages marked ‘valid’ by other programs would often contain more subtle problems that only w3c’s validator found. The word ‘validate’ should be used very carefully. In particular, I have the impression that some ‘validators’ can only give a negative result along the lines of Well, I didn’t find any problems. but not be affirmative that you have no problems at all.
Dave: TextExtras’ pipe menu command is quite cool. Unfortunately I hardly ever use it… as most things will require a bit of setup.
Received data seems to be invalid. The wanted file does probably not exist or the guys at last.fm changed something.