On blog validation and Section 508 compliance

published Feb 17, 2006, last modified Jun 26, 2013

I've been talking regularly about the importance of HTML/XHTML validation in Web pages and blogs.

Well, now, there's a new reason... or, actually, it's a pretty old one. Section 508 of the US Rehabilitation Act makes a few requirements for public Web sites and blogs, to improve accessibility for their users.

The first step, as with every Web deployment and maintenance effort, is ensuring that your site validates. Validation is paramount — otherwise, down the road, there are no guarantees that the accessibility practices and technologies on a site will actually work.

The problem with most blogs (especially WordPress) is that their contents are dynamic: content is generated, out of a database. So, it's impossible to validate an entire dynamic site, in a practical fashion.

But rest assured, there's a way out of this mess: for WordPress-based blogs, I've written a plugin named WordPress XHTML validator which lifts an enormous weight from you, the author. Using the XHTML validator, this is how you get from invalid HTML to valid HTML:

  1. Validate your content: on your WordPress administrative interface, go to the Manage tab. Then click the XHTML validator tab. A fully automated procedure will validate posts, pages and comments, then present you with a list of invalid entries, which you can quickly edit by using the associated Edit links.
  2. Validate your template: after you've validated all content, you should submit your front page, and a few archive pages, to the W3C validator. Then, manually fix the spots where your template has errors. It's certainly possible that the WordPress XHTML validator missed some spots — at this stage, you'll catch these errors.
  3. Keep the plugin enabled: every time a new post or page is saved, a red box will warn you if it contains invalid XHTML. Good practice: save your post first, instead of immediately publishing it. That'll give you a chance to catch any errors early.

So, that's it for today. Get your blog valid and start working towards Section 508 compliance. Do it today: every day you gain may mean a couple thousand readers more satisfied. Keep this in mind: people don't remember when everything went well, but they'll surely remember when your site breaks.