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The importance of web markup validation
Web Development
Written by Ian Edwards   
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
I am all for the growing choice of web browsers available. A few years ago it would have been unthinkable that Microsoft's Internet Explorer might lose it's stranglehold on the browser market but now IE has strong challengers in the form of Firefox, Google Chrome, Apple Safari and Opera amongst others. A good side of this is that it has forced Microsoft to become much more standards compliant in their browser implementation. In the bad old days of IE6 the standard was however Microsoft interpreted it. On the face of it then life should be getting easier for web developers as fewer hacks should be needed to accommodate the vagaries of different browsers. My experience has been that the current generation of web browsers are pretty consistent in their interpretation of a web page with one exception - the way they cope with errors. I was caught out quite badly recently with a site I look after. I build my sites using joomla, an open source content management system, and one of the first components I add to a Joomla install is intended to make the base Joomla much more search engine friendly. One of the many things this will do is check a page for multiple h1 tags and rewrite any surplus as h2. h1 and h2 are HTML tags for headers - search engines look for these as a clue to the page's subject matter, but there should only be one h1 header on a page. On one of my sites this feature was switched on - harmless enough you might think. Unfortunately it saw the opening h1 tag on the home page and replaced it's corresponding closing tag with h2. This meant the opening h1 tag was never properly closed. My working environment is Firefox and there was nothing in the way Firefox rendered the page to give cause for any concern. I routinely check my sites in IE6 and IE8 and both of those browsers were fine. I then got a call from a colleague who reported a problem with the site, she was using Safari. True enough, while Firefox and IE handled this error gracefully (there must be some kind of "we know what you mean" algorithm) both Apple Safari and Google Chrome saw the page as being quite broken