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How to Address Doctype and Validation Errors

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In this session we discuss how to address doctype and validation errors. We talk about the standards used for checking errors and that errors shown for doctypes do not necessarily need to be corrected. We also suggest that if validation is critical for your website and you are having problems with a plugin, you should only use plugins that validate for your doctype.

Video Transcript

Member: This is kind of a 2-part question. The doc type, when I changed it, I was trying to change it to a 4… I think 4.01 and it doesn’t seem to want to change away from the first version, 1.0. And I put it on transitional. I started having issues when I implemented a plugin for a slider. So that’s the first question and the second one is I’m still struggling with learning how to use this validator because I can’t seem to get rid of those other… I have trouble finding where they are. And I know that I should show this and I checked all the things that you showed on your video to check but I still can’t find these… it takes me a long time to find the error.

Rick: Now why do you care?

Member: Because I thought I was supposed to care. You know, when I see an error, maybe it’s just the anal part of me, anal retentive part of me but it just seems to me like if I see an error, the error should be fixed.

Rick: Well okay. But one of the things you discovered is that the error… what an error is depending upon what standard is being used to check, right? So Thesis declares a doc type which is declaring a specific standard. But there are lots of different standards and so something might validate against one standard and not validate against another. And that’s what the error is. It’s just that it… it’s just… the error… there may not actually be an error in the page. It just that it is an error for that doc type but not necessarily an actual error.

Member: I see.

Rick: So if you were solving your errors by changing your doc type, my suggestion would be don’t bother because the chances are those aren’t errors that really affect you one way or the other.

Member: So on the Thesis theme, I noticed when I looked at the code on your site, you used the strict doc type.

Rick: Well, it’s not that I use that. It’s that… that’s what Thesis does automatically. Thesis declares the doc type.

Member: So I think that… well, ic hanged it from strict to transitional so I should I change it back?

Rick: And you changed it by using a filter and changed the Thesis doc type filter, whatever that is?

Member: No. I went in to the… how did I do it? I went in to my ftp and I changed the frameset php.

Rick: Yeah. That’s probably the worst possible way to make that kind of a change because you could be… I mean, you can inadvertently screw up all kinds of things by doing that.

Member: Right.

Rick: You never want to edit the core and that’s what you’re doing right? The only place you should ever edit anything is in your custom folder. And you have… you could change the doc type using a custom function in your custom folder but I don’t… but if you’re only changing your doc type because you think it solves validation issues, I would just ignore it entirely. I wouldn’t bother with it at all.

Member: Okay. Well, that’s why I called in because it’s very confusing to me at this state.

Rick: Okay but if you’re right here, I mean you’re… you’re saying that you have validation errors right now on this.

Member: Yeah. So when you see them, you’re probably going to laugh because you’re going to say, “Oh come on.”

Rick: Well…

Member: These are alt tags and…

Rick: Okay so if we just… let’s just close this up and then validate it.

Member: And that’s a table that you see on that page. That’s not even supposed to be there. I wanted a slider there but as soon as I implemented the slider, what drove me to all these validation issues was I implemented the slider and then the bottom half of my homepage just disappeared. And so when I looked at the code, it said that the slider was incompatible with the strict declaration, I guess.

Rick: So you’ve got 6 errors here. It’s using xhtml transitional and it’s saying that you have an error in your… you have a missing table body tag…

Member: And I could not find that to save my life. I used the WP… what is that plugin? Reloaded for the table? And that should close that body tag but so automatically, by using the plugins…

Rick: Yeah, I agree. That probably does so there’s something else. Well, you’ve got your alt attributes for your pictures so you’re using these different pictures in here without alt attributes. Those are easy. All you have to do is go there and give them alt tags.

Member: I’ll do those today.

Rick: You’re missing a closing a tag here and tag for element a which is not open. Oh, I see it’s got an a tag but there’s no opening a tag. It’s just a closing a tag. And then you know, I’m guessing that this is actualy probably related to something else, not a problem… not really a problem with a doc type so much as there was some other error that was happening. I mean…

Member: By the way, since I installed this, I uninstalled the table… and not uninstalled but just so that we did it from the page and now I have 19 errors on the validator. So a lot of them were alt errors but…

Rick: Well, alt errors are all easy for you to root. There’s no attribute data er config. Okay, this error is often caused by incorrect use of the strict document type or the document that uses frames. Okay so you switched back to strict, is that what you said?

Member: No, it’s still in transitional.

Rick: Okay.

Member: And by the way, the reason that I went into the frameset was because I couldn’t… I tried every which way to get this change to change the doc type. I put it in the…

Rick: There’s only one way and that is to use the Thesis filter. There’s no other way to do it.

Member: Do you have a video on this?

Rick: You know, I don’t because I don’t actually think it’s a particularly useful feature for you. What I would do is just not worry about that. You know, you’ve got a couple of things here where it says that doc type is essentially not… doesn’t recognize some of the javascript code that this thing is using. But you don’t really care about that. That doesn’t really matter. You know, this is something that you sould fix. You should make sure that you aren’t using the ampersand in places where… in places like titles ands tuff like that. If you’re going to use an ampersand then you should use the ampersand HTML character in those places or you should use and instead of ampersand. And then in terms of alt, I mean, you see, that’s what you’ve got. You’ve got a whole bunch of…

Member: These little things…

Rick: Well, you’ve got a whole bunch of ampersands and if you use the ampersand in the text area, it would have substituted out the HTML code for ampersand for it. But because you’re using it someplace else, it’s not doing that and you’re not using… so what I would do is just… I ould look for those places where it is being used and then I would use this little symbol, the ampersand plus amp semi-colon in its place. And then the web browser automatically displays this but it will no longer be a… it will no longer return an HTML error. And the reason it’s returning an HTML error is because this is a special character that gets used for other things. And then you have a whole bunch of alt tags and this is simply not legal codes style, _real equals. It’s style equals and I don’t know… I don’t think I show anywhere where you would do that. You would have just… unless this is something that’s being done by the plugin itself…

Member: Yeah it is because…

Rick: Oh it’s a Flash plugin. Oh, I see. Okay so this is actually a Flash code. Okay.

Member: That’s bad? Is that bad?

Rick: Did you try looking at it in your iPhone?

Member: Yes and it cuts it off.

Rick: Yeah.

Member: I tried looking on my Mac and my iPad and my iPhone.

Rick: Well… yeah. I mean, most of these things, I think, are essentially innocuous. This might…

Member: But you see you know, when you say it’s innocuous, you know that. But some ignoramuses out there, when I see error and I see warning you know, it just kind of makes me think, “Okay, something’s going to happen to me now with the search engines. Am I going to be in trouble with Google.” And that’s all that. That’s why I care because…

Rick: You know what really matters? I mean, validation doesn’t really matter nearly as much as all the other things that matter. There are a handful of very important things that you have to do for SEO. This is not one of them. If you have a horrible, poorly-coded site… yeah, Google will probably not consider it to be particularly useful. But that’s not what this indicates. What this indicates is that you have… you are using tools on your site that don’t use that validation system which is ordinary.

Member: Okay.

Rick: And if you really feel like you need to understand validation then you don’t get to be an ignoramus. You have to become… you have to you know, learn quite a bit because validation is technical. So… and if validation is absolutely essentially then I would make sure you use a plugin for this that validates with your doc type rather than changing your doc type.

Member: Okay. Do you do that?

Rick: There are some people who absolutely have to validate. Their system cannot show any error period or they don’t get paid. Well, that limits the choices that you have. That means you have to choose plugins that all validate to the same thing that the rest of your site validates to.

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