Validation Zealotry and Markup Exploitation

There were a couple of posts published within the past week which struck me as quite interesting. The first, published by Jeff Croft is an opinion piece regarding standardistas who feel the need to denounce invalid markup as an inferior product. The next, by Mike Cherim is based upon his fear that a listitis plague may be upon us.

Validation zealots

I’ve written my fair share on markup validation, and I do think it’s important to validate your code. I’d like to be explicit in saying that when I speak of my OCD only stretches to my own work. There is an abundance of invalid code sprawled across the Internet.

Jeff Croft recently wrote Your Markup Validator, an article focused on this exact issue. He’s got a few choice words for those who feel obliged to publicly note the ‘inferiority’ of invalid code. While I’ve incorporated validation into my workflow, that’s as far as it goes. Reflecting on my past work in Web development, including an initial learning phase, I don’t believe I’ve ever tried to validate the markup of a document I didn’t create (save for glancing at the HTML Validator Firefox extension).

I simply don’t see a need for validating the work of others. I’m not sure why anyone would take the time to do such a thing, let alone bring it up in any type of public fashion. The important thing is to realize the benefit of validation for yourself, and the impact invalid markup has on a document. When you’ve gained this knowledge, you’ll compensate your workflow to make any adjustments necessary. Public mockery of invalid markup is unacceptable.

As Jeff states, validators are debugging tools used to help you better your markup as you see fit. Validators are not a scale to live up to, and they’re certainly not a scale to measure the work of someone else.

A successor to divitis?

In an interesting observatory post by Mike Cherim, some abuse of list elements is exposed. Mike took the time to analyze some specific recurring examples of list misuse and after reading the piece, I had to admit that I’ve noticed a similar trend. While it may appear that I’m contradicting my stance on validation zealotry noted above, like Mike, unless directed at myself, I don’t go around calling people out on something I may feel is an oversight. Mike fears that lists are becoming the new tables and we may be facing a mutation of divitis.

Continuing, Mike’s first example of list abuse is associated with forms. Using lists to structure a form has been a long-standing discussion among many developers. I’ve never used a list to mark up a form, as I don’t see data entry in this way as something that fits within a list. I feel you’re marking up a form and you’ve got a number of elements to work with. Using fieldsets & legends alone give your form some semantic structure, and incorporating some choice separation elements (such as a div or two) can produce great result. As raised in the comments there could be some circumstances where a list may be applicable within a particular form, but I agree with Mike in that a list shouldn’t be a structural foundation.

Misusing specific elements in a way not intended, especially for presentational purposes, while creative and admirable on many levels, simply isn’t right.

– Mike Cherim

Mike continues by exposing more circumstances in which lists are becoming increasingly abused, each with a bit of opinion regarding why it can be looked at as misuse. I was glad to see that Mike and I share an opinion surrounding effective calendar markup. I’d like to suggest that you take a few minutes to read Mike’s piece and check out the comments for a bit of back-and-forth.