I guess its all about ethics. Not sure how design firms can push out designs to unsuspecting companies that are riddled with validation errors. My most recent project im on...the current site they have running throws on average of a few hundred html 4.01 errors.
Most small business owners have NO CLUE about standards compliant code. These unsuspecting clients are handed over a crappy looking website that works in late model IE and FF and thats pretty much it.
My code is all xthml 1.0 valid. If something comes up that makes it invalid, it is trashed and an alternative method is used.
I find it disturbing how many designers are out there pushing out code that is bad and getting paid giant sums of money.
For the most part customers don't care about validation, to them so long as they see a working site in their choice of browser they're often happy with that.
Of course, some agencies outsource coding on the cheap and rarely touch it themselves, or they hire Dreamweaver monkies who know diddly squat about validation and even basic accessibility.
I came across one such site just yesterday after someone contacted me to look at their site after discovering it fell to bits in anything other than IE (gasp shock horror!). He'd contracted a local agency, paid a small fortune, only to find they knew nothing about "coding" when he called them to complain and couldn't talk to anyone who knew anything.
Unfortunately slackness, laziness and shoddiness are all too prevalent in every aspect of work and society. But whereas established trades usually have some kind of official certification and quality assurance scheme, web design has nothing of the sort. And most customers don't know enough about it to know when they're being sold a pup - at least, not until long after the event, by which time it's too late.
Yes, it comes down to business ethics. Are you prepared to rip someone off by doing a half-arsed job? Are you even aware that you're doing a half-arsed job? I'm sure there are plenty of 'professional' designers out there churning out utter crud without the faintest idea that they are doing anything that isn't of the highest quality.
While you might think that validation errors like missing alt text or unencoded ampersands are trivial, they can have more serious repercussions and they are so quick and easy to get right that there's no excuse. It is like not bothering to run an automated spell-checker on a document. Yes, we all make mistakes, and the occasional one slips through the net no matter how careful we are, but you can usually tell the difference between a one-off mistake and a designer who doesn't care about standards or validation.
alt="" definately should not be used across the board...
The reference was to not having the alt attribute there in the first place - it wasn't intended to imply that it should always be set to "" - just that it should always be set since it is a MANDATORY attribute for image tags.
Of course even when the alt attribute is there it still doesn't guarantee that it has been used correctly. The test for that is to turn off images and see if the content still makes sense with the alt text (if any) in place of the image.
Where "" is considered to be the correct value for the alt attribute to have then you need to carefully consider whether that particular image should be defined in the CSS as a part of the appearance of the page rather than in the HTML as a part of the content since alt="" implies that the image doesn't add anything extra to the content that isn't already there in the text.
Maybe it's just me, but I think xhtml/css validation is useful up to a point.
Yes - once you get rid of ALL the validation errors and warnings then there isn't any point in trying to get anything more out of the validator. All of the other "errors in waiting" in your markup will need to be found some other way.
Every single validation error that you get points to something that can potentially break your page in browsers since different browsers will behave differently with invalid markup and who has time to test their page in several thousand different browsers in order to confirm that the particular invalid markup in your page will not break in any of them.
I'm with joegti10 on this one. I always make it a point to have zero validation errors, both for HTML and CSS. And I always use alt tags the way they're meant to be used. Call me crazy. It's a matter of pride, I guess, or maybe I'm just picky.
Sometimes I get people in my office who tell me things like, "My husband built us a website, so how hard can it be?" Then I look at the site and it's just some template that he downloaded, or some website builder app, and the code is a complete and utter mess. I like to think there's a difference between throwing something together in one of those apps and doing it right.
I often get requests from people who are trying to make a small change to a site that they paid a "designer" to create for them where the change would have been extremely simple if the code were not a complete and utter mess but where because of the way it was written it is going to need a complete rewrite in order to make the minor change that they want. Those people are justifiably upset when they find out that they have wasted all that money.
But then they still want you to make the teeny teeny change anyway.
When I get requests like that I generally start out by telling them just how big a change it is going to be due to the garbage their "designer" gave them instead of the HTML/CSS they asked for.As I am more a back end developer who knows enough about web design to be able to tell if the front end is written properly and to be able to make minor changes, I don't even quote on those jobs where a major rewrite of the front end is going to be needed to implement their teeny teeny change. I just provide them with free advice as to just what is going to be needed and the sorts of things to look for to see if the design is done right if they do decide to get it redone properly.
I probably don't spend as much time as I should picking out the errors validation picks up. I find most of my customers want a budget site that looks good and allows customers to find them.
If their site is screwed up on the odd PC that hasn't seen a software update for 5+ years they are generally not too fussed - And certainly wouldn't rush to pay extra for me to mess about finding an alternative, more dull photo gallery, producing a second CSS file or hunting down arcane fixes.
As with everything, there is a balance to be found, clearly validation is far more important on high volume sites and those for which accessibility is a major issue. e.g government/council site. But my quote on such a site would reflect this.
As far as I'm concerned IE6 users should suffer to the point they go find themselves an update!
I absolutely agree that any web designer worth their salt need to be "bothered" about standards.
I for one wouldn't pass the deliverables over to a client and accept payment until their site was up to standards.
Funnily enough, where I live, there are many web design freelancers and agencies. Upon inspection of most of their websites, only one or two passed validation. Their visual design mostly harks back to the 90's, a lot of them are built with tables, and all of them claim to be one of the best locally. /sigh
Many clients come to me saying they need small fixes to their site.
And mostly I am surprised to see that some of the elements are in BOLD.
Phew.. And we end up in Slicing the Psd again and validating the code. Necessary code!
It has nothing to-do with ethics in most cases, it's to-do with education. Many of the people selling web design services out there have absolutely no idea how to produce a website, they have either been taught or taught themselves to put together something in Dreamweaver, Frontpage or something else (by using templates or a CMS) and to them, they see that as a money making opportunity as the finished result does look to the average consumer like a website. The web industry has a very low barrier to entry and thereby there's not really much we can do to prevent people like that from selling their crap and getting away with low quality services.
It's fine to do that if it's your own site... but unsuspecting individuals and businesses don't really have any idea (usually like the "professionals") as to what their buying. It's effectively left to the rest of us who care to pick up where the "unfortunates" left off and to try in futility to educate people that there's more to the web than Frontpage. I guess in our favour because the web is becoming a VERY central part in our everyday lives, people are more knowledgeable about technologies so the landscape is starting to change, but unfortunately until people recognise web design as a science that requires years of training and knowledge, those out for a fast buck will continue to get away with peddling crap. Essentially... yes there are people who don't care and are in it for the money, but the majority of people who are producing junk probably don't even know better! It's partly why I think there really needs to be an organisation who certifies professionals properly.