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The WaSP’s new target

Wired News broke the news that the WaSP was relaunching with its stinger aimed at the Web developers. The new direction makes sense—with the browsers behaving, it’s time to fix the source of non-compliant Web pages.

Online, I hang out with fairly well-educated groups of Web designers. As a result, it’s easy to forget how much ugly mark-up is out there (I recently saw a page that had multiple link tags calling the same style sheet from within the document’s body).

This kind of mark-up mish-mash is usually the result of a badly implemented CMS and/or designers who don’t understand the need of standard-compliant design.

This latter group is the WaSP’s main focus, but it will be an uphill battle.

Doin’ it my way

Because many of the Web’s languages don’t have a strict syntax, each person’s mark-up is often distinct. Cleaning-up potentially troublesome habits (e.g., unquoted attributes and unclosed elements) could almost be as a hard as cutting out the morning coffee.

There are signs that the community at large is getting it, and the AOL’s rumoured switch to the Gecko-based layout engine shared by Netscape 6.x and Mozilla will help bring more onboard.

Future-proof

NetMechanic recently sent out a message with this in its subject: “The New AOL May Break Your Site.” Though phrased as a scare tactic, it rings true. Many of the HTML hacks and sloppy mark-up used to make pages work in older browser aren’t valid and won’t work in newer browsers. However, standard-compliant sites generally work fine in all browsers, old and new.

Next time you have a few minutes to spare, run your sites—including those you’re working on—through an HTML validatior. Chances are it will turn up a few errors. If the errors are minor, consider correcting them right away. If they are more fundamental, start changing the way you mark-up pages now and save yourself some headaches down the road.