I very often say that the standards laid out by the W3C is not neccesarily the holy grail. They are recommended sets of guidelines on various technologies. All those that have attended the our HTML & CSS course should know that… i also mention on the course that syntax validation does not equal an accessible website and this means that correct syntax which means standards compliancy and not neccessarily accessibility.

As I mention on my course, if you want to use pop up windows then use them… but dont try to force W3C XHTML standards compliancy AND have pop up windows. If you want to throw up a site in 5 mins and make 3 million pounds off it then I’m all for that… but when it comes to wanting to “claim” to be accessible and being up to date with the latest standards, then you need to do things properly.

Basically I am saying that everyone is trying to have their pie and eat it too. The guidelines for XHTML standards state what the target attribute has been depricated. It is no longer a part of the language. The reason for this being that it is not very browser friendly or accessible (most browsers have pop up blockers enabled by default). The purpose of XHTML syntax validation is to ensure that your code is formed correctly and therefore will work across all browsers that support the standards.

My problem is that people put the “W3C XHTML Valid” logos on their sites just because they get 0 validation errors but then still go about claiming accessibility. Like I said in my previous post syntax validation does NOT equal accessibility… AND THEREFORE accessibility does not mean you have to have valid syntax. You could create a perfectly accessibile tables and cells based website layout… I mentioned that several times on the course. Now, you’ll be shocked to hear that I still use the target attribute. I also use Javascript to open custom windows… and on those websites I am happy to conceed that the code wont validate or information in the opening window is available through alternative means.

Using standards will help a site be naturally more accessible. When I say that, I mean by actually using the code appropriately. Using heading tags for headings, paragraph tags for paragraphs and tables for tabulated data etc. Creating meaningful links and appropriate alt tags etc. Using the features as they were intented and respecting that when a attribute has been deprecated then it has been done for a reason that has been deliberated by experts in the community.

At the moment the tools arent available for everyone to drag and drop a standards compliant webpage together. In time they will come. For those of you old enough to remember the DOS based word processors and speadsheets, you basically needed to know all the codes to format each element of a simple word document. This is the same. Lotus 123 or Quattro Pro anyone?

So to finish… I am saying that just because a site “validates” doesnt mean it is accessible and just because a site doesnt validate doesnt mean that is not accessible. As I say on the course, these are two different things. If you want to claim valid XHTML then that’s fine, but dont claim to be accessible too if syntax validation is all that has been done.