Scsi's WebKISS™ Guide #1: Why Validate a Web Site's Pages?

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Major Headings provided on this Scsi's WebKISS™ Guide #1: Why Validate a Web Site's Pages?

Scsi's "Web-based Keep-It-Simple, Sonoff" document -- Scsi's WebKISS™ Guide #1: "Why Validate a Web Site's Pages?" -- is the first in an ongoing series of on-line Productivity and Knowledge Transfer-related reference documents provided by Scsi.

For your convenience, the major headings are listed immediately below:

 

NOTE: Relevant hyperlinks are included within the associated paragraphs to make your browsing session productive and all the more enjoyable.

Everything is important -- when it comes to achieving valid, useful, accessible, and informative Web pages!

The importance of having every single page within any Web site purposefully designed to hold visitor attention cannot be overstated. However, the ever-increasing use of animation, video, audio clips, and JavaScript-based functions and routines -- perhaps done to satisfy a "make it flashy!" marketing stance (who knows?) -- often runs counter to truly satisfying this primary objective.

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Scsi's --Perfect 10" Web Site Standard to the Rescue

To see the overall picture of what is stated above, select the image immediately below -- if present -- to view or download a full-page Adobe PDF diagram that provides hyperlinks to each of Scsi's "Perfect 10" Web Site Best Practices for your convenience.

Scsi's Web Site Best Practices diagram

Among Scsi's set of ten Best Practices that collectively reflect Scsi's "Perfect 10" Web Site Standard -- a unique set of ten seamlessly integrated features that Scsi believes should always be present as part of achieving meaningful Web usability, browser-independence, and 100% accessibility for any Web page to be considered for classification as World Class Level Quality -- are these:

  1. Fast loading -- typically within a few seconds and certainly requiring no more than eight to ten seconds (based on use of a 56KB communication line) are ever required to load and fully display the entire Web page -- See Best Practice #1.
  2. Presence of alternative text (appearing as meaningful 'balloon help' text) for each and every graphic element and for every hyperlink (both text- and graphics-based)-- See Best Practice #3.
  3. Adherence to W3C markup code recommendations -- for more accurate rendering among various vendors' versions of Web- or text mode-only browsers and to support increased Web usability and accessibility -- See Best Practice #10.

 

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What are some typical definitions for Web usability?

For most people the term "Web usability" seems to focus on outward appearances of each Web page within a given Web site. However, there is much more to the subject of Web usability than presentation or appearances.

Also, for most Webmasters, the term "Web usability" may be deemed as being satisfied once a Web site has all of its pages display content in an expected format without encountering error messages. That, too, may be a good general guideline, but Web usability is more to having a good Web site than just displaying something that simply looks good.

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But wait! There's more to it than that ...

Even if every Web page within a 'development-for-release' Web site does "come up" and appears to "look okay" visually, numerous other factors should be taken into consideration before concluding that everything is a "go for release" to the Web world audience. For example:

  1. What about the observed time-to-load for each and every Web page? Does each page load and display quickly, say within eight seconds (assuming 56KB modem access) after being selected, and thereby convince the visitor to continue to remain interested in further browsing of your Web site's contents?
  2. Is the page layout designed to automatically wrap if the Web browser window is resized from a standard or default setting? (Some Web sites have incorporated hard-coded line breaks within some of their Web pages which will cause the displayed text to appear as if it is an awkwardly formatted e-mail message.)
  3. Were matters of content accessibility taken into account to allow users with less popular Web browsers to be able to "read" what a graphic represents (typically provided via an ALT tag entry within the "source code" associated with any particular Web page)?
  4. If JavaScript is used 'behind the scenes' in the source code, what happens if a non-JavaScript (read: text mode-only) browser or a Web browser having that feature turned off is used? How much content will the user not even be able or even allowed to view on the Web site during the visitor's initial attempt at accessing the Web site?
  5. And what about the matter of providing at least some specific error-handling procedures? For example, no one enjoys seeing an "Error 404 Page Not Found" or similar cryptic message appearing upon attempting to access any supposedly valid Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address within a given Web site. Wouldn't a proactive error-handling response be always preferable, for example, appearance of a Web site-specific custom error or contingency page that will clearly indicate what alternatives are available to you?

 

Truly, a list of Web usability-related factors and other related considerations is endless, but you can gain some appreciation for the many considerations that are involved in doing the job correctly by keeping the end user as the focal point of all design and implementation decisions.

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What are some of the more serious ramifications of not conscientiously addressing Web usability- and Web accessibility-related factors 'up front' and just releasing a commercial-grade Web site "as is" to the Web world?

Keep in mind that Web visitors will always want -- and will always expect to get, especially when it's considered part of the cost of doing business -- the best presentation, speed of display, customer service, and whatever else they might think of!

So, for any Web site that doesn't provide a high satisfaction level experience to its visitors, you can be sure of one thing -- Web visitors' frustrations, dissatisfactions, and lack of patience (or indulgence) with such oversights will most likely result in some dire consequences:

  1. Each user who concludes "I've had enough of the disregard of user-focused considerations, the inept design, so I'm leaving -- and I won't bother coming back to your company's Web site again!" will probably also make it a point to take the time to convey to friends and colleagues alike just how poorly designed and frustrating he or she feels that your Web site really proved to be because of its lack of adherence to one or more of Scsi's top ten Best Practices.
  2. Manifestation of "Silent losses" (lost potential business revenues) will grow with increased user frustration and dissatisfaction, and you will never learn this fact because the (prospective) customer will go elsewhere on the Internet to transact business that could have been yours to claim had you done your "Web site Best Practices" homework in the first place.

 

Either action would not only be critically negative, but it should and can be avoided without undue cost and only a modest concerted effort -- once you learn what needs to be done and how to go about doing it. Now that's worth pursuing in some depth, don't you agree?

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Practically speaking, what can be done to address these and any number of oversights that exist on so many Web sites today?

Okay, how does one get started in getting a handle on how to really proceed to fix these problems? Simply stated, there may be many things that constitute potential or actual problems which are not obvious yet should be addressed and corrected before declaring a Web site as being ready for prime time viewing and usage.

Scsi feels that -- first and foremost -- the solution to these types of problems begins with and absolutely requires subjection of each Web page to a suite of in-depth validation tests that must be passed before field deployment should be permitted. For only by doing this will a solid 'foundation' (based on conforming to applicable W3C markup source code recommendations) be achievable.

Once this "foundation work" series of activities is initiated and diligently maintained, all the usual series of steps necessary to take care of decorating the 'rooms' (Web pages) of the 'house' (Web site) can be performed -- and ultimately followed by an 'open house' or a "Now Showing!" release for all the world to view with confidence and satisfaction using any of their favorite Web browsers.

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How can overall Web usability be achieved without sacrificing performance or neglecting accessibility factors?

Don't despair. Numerous tools and testing sites are available to assist Webmasters and Web Site Administrators in satisfying all these 'hidden' requirements! If you are still interested in learning more about what is involved in 'doing your homework' in this area, the next few paragraphs will provide you with opportunities to:

  1. Gain more insight into this matter
  2. Allow you to try out some of these validation tools for yourself
  3. Assist you in reaching an increased understanding for the "Why Validate a Web Site's Pages?" posture adopted throughout the Scsi P&KT Web site.

 

What is the bottom line conclusion to be reached here? As stated at the outset, everything is important and does matter. Appropriate design, planning, and implementation steps are required to provide such customer service-oriented actions.

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Scsi's Contingency Page -- One example of addressing possible Page Not Found (Error 404) situations

Want to see for yourself a straightforward example of just one such user-focused implementation right now? Okay, coming up with a user-friendly handling of any "Error 404 Page Not Found" situation within the Scsi P&KT Web site was deemed essential. This necessitated creation of what is commonly referred to as a "contingency page" design where just such a Web page would normally only appear contingent upon the occurrence of a "Page Not Found" error condition -- for example, when you force it by purposely mistyping a URL address in the Web browser window -- within the sonoffconsulting.com domain. For you to see this in a more direct manner -- here and now -- just select the hyperlink provided here, namely: the actual Contingency Web page that would otherwise only appear when an Error 404 (Page Not Found) condition occurs.

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Testing Web Sites -- a single page at a time

Having read this far, you probably want to get some 'hands on' experience testing a particular Web site's HTML5 / XHTML / HTML and Cascading Style Sheet (CSS). For example, you might be anticipating doing your own markup validation testing, or you just want to learn more about the details and see an example or two of what is being described here.

Fortunately, as indicated above, various assortments of Web productivity tools are available for use to address at least some of these Web usability-related concerns. These tools are referred to by various names, including markup validation, source code validators, syntax checkers, and link checkers, among others.

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Three 'publicly accessible' "Do It Yourself!" validation service tests are provided for every Scsi P&KT Web page!

Here is how you can make three specific validation tests on each and every page within the Scsi P&KT Web site:

  1. Select any one of the three validation testing hyperlinks provided near the bottom of the displayed Web page.
  2. In two instances (either HTML or CSS ), wait for the associated testing to complete, and observe the reported results for that particular test. When done viewing the displayed results, select the Back button until the Scsi P&KT Web site page-under-test reappears.
  3. In the third instance of accessibility testing, select the "WCAG Accessibility" hyperlink to access the AChecker Portal WCAG Accessibility --a software tool that checks single HTML pages for conformance with accessibility standards to ensure the content can be accessed by everyone. Once the Web Accessibility Checker page is displayed, specify any particular Web page that you choose to test for compliance to either Section 508 or Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) recommendations. When done viewing the displayed results, select the Back button until the Scsi P&KT Web site page-under-test reappears.

 

That's the overall "Validation-test-this-Web-page" procedure in a nutshell. From that point on, you will then know how to do these things for yourself at any time and for any Web page you wish to choose.

Once you actually take some time to try out these "quick-step" series of validation tests for yourself, you will no doubt gain confidence in knowing that checking a given Web page is so very easy to do! The fact is these 'publicly accessible' tools are at-the-ready for you at any time you want to use them, as the next section explains in some detail.

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Extending the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C and WAI /WCAG ) Web Page Testing Tools to any Web page -- Here's how!

What was just indicated above for this particular page is provided throughout the entire Scsi P&KT Web site. In fact, even more general -- "Test whatever URL address you want to specify" Web page validation-related logos and/or their respective hyperlinks are provided for your convenience under the Examples of Publicly-accessible Web Page Validation Tools section of Scsi's Tips and Notes Web page. Once there, select either the desired graphic (if present) or its respective hyperlink. Once you do this, a separate Web browser window will be launched for you to enter whatever Web page's URL address that you wish to test.

Once you have completed a W3C-based test and viewed the displayed results, you can, if you so wish, continue making the same kind of validation test for a different URL address. Just make a new URL entry and submit it for testing by selecting the appropriate button.

What will you discover? You'll quickly find out that these 'publicly accessible' testing tools are both simple-to-use and thorough in their analyses. Try out each of these W3C-based markup validation tools for yourself now, but do remember when you are finished with these validation testing exercises to select the Back button until you are returned to a Scsi P&KT Web site page.

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CSE HTML Validator -- A professional-grade tool every serious Web developer should own and make use of regularly -- Scsi does!

As an alternative or additional option to only making use of the free W3C -based validation testing tools, you might want to try out AI Solution's validation test program -- called CSE HTML Validator Professional Syntax Checker and HTML Editor -- to check a Web site's page of your choice.

Here is what you do:

  1. Enter the remainder of the Uniform Resource Locator (URL) address in the 'URL: test box' that is displayed when you access the Web page associated with the AI Solutions' Home page hyperlink provided immediately above.
  2. Examine the summarized results of the test.
  3. Repeat the above steps as often as you like for whatever additional URLs you'd like to test.
  4. When done, be sure to select the Back button until a Scsi P&KT Web page reappears.

 

NOTE: This particular 'try me out' test provides a "validation checking summary (without details)" and is supplied as a courtesy by AI Solutions, makers of validator software programs used for the testing. AI Solutions offers standalone versions (lite, standard, and professional) of their products.

Download a trial version of CSE HTML Validator

Understandably, if you'd rather obtain your very own free evaluation copy of the powerful CSE HTML Validator Professional edition software program, you can download a trial version directly from the CSE HTML Validator Web site right now.

NOTE: Scsi makes regular use of AI Solutions standalone CSE HTML Validator Professional edition software.

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"Test a Web site's page, any Web site's page" -- all by yourself!

Go ahead! Try each of the three validator tools cited above for yourself -- on any Web page within the Scsi P&KT Web site -- to see the specific validation test results for yourself. If nothing else, you will definitely learn a lot about the 'behind the scenes' specifications that are involved!

Once you've done that, go one step further -- apply the W3C validation and CSS HTML Validator tests to any page within any Web site of your own choosing.

Upon doing so, however, you'll most likely be quite surprised (if not shocked!) by the following fact: Very few Web sites -- including the commercial-grade 'biggies' that we all know and visit regularly (pick a name and try it!) -- currently satisfy W3C HTML/XML/CSS validation criteria.

And, once this fact 'registers' with you, you'll appreciate even more the following conclusions:

  1. Adhering to readily available and publicly accessible Internet specifications, standards, and recommendations is essential for such comparisons to be both meaningful and useful.
  2. It is an obvious fact that the "seeds for improving productivity" are everywhere. However, knowing where to look for these seeds and how to plant them properly are two essential prerequisites that must be mastered before the seeds can be planted and then be expected to grow successfully.
  3. The biggest room in the ever-expanding Web world we all know about and use every day is 'room for improvement' -- in all things we do, say, think about, or plan for the future.

 

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Testing Web Sites -- on a Large, Enterprise, or Global Scale

Perhaps you already know that the scope of your company's Web site's content is beyond a small-to-modest scale or that additional Web site testing tools and services must be considered as well. If so, you may wish to explore locating a vendor offering "we will do an entire suite of validation tests for you" tools specifically designed to provide numerous categories of features for overall testing of moderate- to large-scale Web sites.

Described below is but one company's products that you might wish to investigate further.

PowerMapper

  1. "SortSite is a one-click web site testing tool used by federal agencies, Fortune 100 corporations and independent consultancies. The tool is available as a subscription web application and a Windows desktop application. One click is all it takes to analyze an entire web site. Each page is checked against 450+ standards-based checkpoints."
  2. "PowerMapper is an automatic site map creation tool for information architects, usability analysts and web developers. It is used in more than 50 countries, by 30% of the Fortune 100, and major organizations like NASA and MIT. One Click Site Mapping: Creating a map is simple. Just navigate to your site using the built-in web browser, then click New."

 

NOTE: Scsi has made use of both products and recommends that you check out the Web site's On-line Trials and Desktop downloads to convince yourself that these tools really do the job quickly, easily, and effectively. Both products are simply amazing to see in action ... and in their quantitative results! -- Scsi

Ultimately, for any such larger scale situations, Scsi encourages you to conduct an in-depth search for those vendors offering enterprise-level validation testing programs and related services. Once you do, Scsi suggests that you (or your company's technical personnel) pore over their respective Web sites for whatever information you are seeking for your particular situation before making any commitments to any vendor's suite of tools. Good luck!

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Concluding Remarks

By way of a metaphorical explanation, "The Web designer (Captain of the ship) must build a tight ship (create a Web site that adheres to W3C-based coding standards) that will prove to be able to reliably sail the seas of the World (navigate among all Web pages within the Web site) and bring the crew (each and every Web visitor) safely (with no broken hyperlinks or error messages) back to port (the Portal Page or Home page or browser exit function) when each voyage (a given Web session) is over."

Many additional issues related to achieving validation of one or more Web pages are beyond the scope of coverage presented here. However, by this point you have likely acquired a much better perspective on the overall set of complexities involved.

If you'd rather have someone else do all this testing for you professionally, ask Scsi for more information.

SPECIAL NOTE: If you reach this point and decide that you'd rather have someone else do all the "testing-related stuff" for you or your company, you could certainly contact Scsi for further assistance regarding this matter.

If you wish to discuss this particular matter in more detail, contact us and we will be glad to assist you.

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Major Navigation Hyperlinks

NAVIGATION: Skip to MAIN HEADING of this page, view or download a PDF version of this Web page's contents (including associated hyperlinks), jump to TOP of this page, or visit Scsi's Home, Expanded Home, Graphics-based Home, About Scsi, Site Map, Productivity, Scsi's WebKISS™ Guides, Other Web Sites, or Contact Us page of the Scsi P&KT Web Site.

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Need immediate assistance?

Call (859) 261-5908 to immediately reach Raymond Sonoff, President of Sonoff Consulting Services, Inc. (Scsi), 271 Saxony Drive, Crestview Hills, KY 41017-2294 USA, send an e-mail message to "info AT sonoffconsulting DOT com" to get answers to your specific questions, or access Scsi's Contact Form 1 Web page (or the thumbnail image provided below), and fill out the form's fields citing whatever you want addressed by Scsi.

Scsi's Contact Form 1 thumbnail.

Remember: If you have some questions to ask, wish to request additional information about specific topics, or want to send a request for proposal, Scsi will always welcome your inquiries and respond promptly -- often the very same day.

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Web Page Validation and Contact Information

This Scsi's WebKISS™ Guide #1: Why Validate a Web Site's Pages? page was last updated, validated -- to assure full conformance to W3C's HTML5, CSS3, and WCAG Accessibility (Priorities 1, 2, and 3, inclusive) recommendations -- and uploaded on Wednesday, February 10, 2016 at 4:20 p.m. ET by Raymond Sonoff, President of Sonoff Consulting Services, Inc. (Scsi), 271 Saxony Drive, Crestview Hills, KY 41017-2294 USA: Telephone: (859) 261-5908.

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