On the Uniting Power of a Commitment to HTML Conformance

Published on October 18, 2023 (↻ January 9, 2024), filed under (RSS feed for all categories).

HTML is the language of the Web. No matter what other languages are being used, in the end it all boils down to content and functionality being represented by HTML.

Unfortunately, our field, the field of web and frontend development, doesn’t commit to any quality standard—that is, expectation—for HTML.

It’s not that no such standard existed—arguably, the baseline is conformance with the HTML specification—, it’s that this standard is being ignored.

This isn’t hyperbole: When you validate—check on conformance—the most popular websites, none (0) uses valid and conformant HTML.

It’s similar for websites for frontend documentation, tools, and starter projects.

Even when you turn to the websites of web developers, it’s the exception, and not the rule, that there would be no conformance issues.

The reason for this misery is not the point of this article—apart from myself, several of our peers have long hypothesized about this in other fora.

The point is also not that we miss what this lack of a quality standard means for the value of our field—that instead of increasing it, we deflate it.

The point is that we miss an exceptional opportunity to unite behind it.

Imagine, just for a moment, if we as web and frontend developers would all produce conformant websites, and all ran conformant websites.

“This document was successfully checked as HTML,” as the W3C validator says.

This, for once, could be uniting; it could get us from indifferent or apologetic ignorance to mutual respect and healthy pride of being a member of our field.

It could allow us to tackle more serious challenges—like pushing harder on accessibility—with collective vigor.

That unity, that feeling, is something our field has always lacked. Can we finally change this? Can we finally convince our peers? (Are you on board?)

Together, we could lead by example, together we could establish our field’s first quality standard—an objective and proven, a light but robust foundation that we, as professional frontend developers, can build on.

Commit to HTML conformance. Make sure your HTML output is actual, error-free HTML. Make use of validators and validation packages and—validate.

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About Me

Jens Oliver Meiert, on September 30, 2021.

I’m Jens (long: Jens Oliver Meiert), and I’m a frontend engineering leader and tech author/publisher. I’ve worked as a technical lead for companies like Google and as an engineering manager for companies like Miro, I’m close to W3C and WHATWG, and I write and review books for O’Reilly and Frontend Dogma.

I love trying things, not only in web development (and engineering management), but also in other areas like philosophy. Here on meiert.com I share some of my views and experiences.

If you want to do me a favor, interpret charitably (I speak three languages, and they can collide), yet be critical and give feedback for me to learn and improve. Thank you!