Fix Up Your “Charlie Brown” Website

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This is an entry in our daily Internet Marketing Advent Calendar series. Each day your favorite marketing elves will focus on a new topic to get your internet marketing in order before the start of the new year.

Charlie Brown Tree
Photo Credit: Grizdave

Last weekend was my annual family Christmas tree hunt. We go out on my Uncle’s farm and search his land for the perfect tree. It took a little while this year, but my fiance and I finally spotted a tree that was green and full. We cut it down, trimmed the stray branches and stood it up to admire… a couple of gaping holes. Guess we should have inspected it further before concluding that it was the perfect tree. Good thing it went in to a corner and that we have plenty of decorations to cover our Charlie Brown tree!

Have you taken a close inspection of your website lately? It can be very similar to my tree situation – the design may look great when you see it, but once you look deeper into the actual code, there are some problems. Many of us will have no idea that behind a beautiful website poor code can be lurking. So how do you find out and why should you care?

Take a Good Look at Your Website

The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) develops standards for the web. They offer a free validation service that allows you to type in a url of a page on you website and instantly receive a report of the errors and warnings on that page. This is not a check of the usability or functionality of your website, but a check to make sure that the website markup adheres to W3C standards and recommendations.

But My Site Still Looks Good…

So why should you bother with code validation if you think your website looks good and works fine? Keeping in line with W3C standards ensures that your code is clean and semantic. This will make it much easier for both Google robots to crawl your pages and for other developers to quickly figure out what is going on in the code. By using valid code, you are participating in best practices and portraying professionalism by using universally accepted coding styles. Validation is also helpful as a debugging tool to make sure all tags are being used properly, which, in turn, improves the overall quality of your site by allowing all web browsers to handle the code as intended. Your site may look good in one browser, but it often has differences when you look at it in others. Validating your code can help to bridge those gaps.

Our Tree
Amazing what some lights
and ornaments can do!

Get to the Root of the Problem

At one point we considered drilling holes in the tree and sticking branches in to fill the holes (not my idea). However that is really just patching the tree up; eventually those branches will turn brown and will look horrible on the tree. Working with your site is the same way; you want to fix all the errors for good, not just patch them up. If you use validator.w3.org and it returns a lot of errors, talk to your web developer about cleaning up the code and making sure that all future updates validate as well. Although we were able to make our tree work for us this Christmas (just like Charlie Brown!), your website represents who you are as a business and should look great no matter how close you inspect it.

Read the rest of the Internet Marketing Advent Calendar