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A Note to My Clients about HTML Markup
In a recent redesign of a website for a client, I came across the problem of having to deal with the previous web designer's work. My client did not want to pay me to redo the site from scratch. Can you blame him? He had already paid for the work to be done! The problem was that the previous designer's work was late, sloppy and inadequate.

The experience led me to write this brief article for my clients. It will help to get answers to questions that should be asked when evaluating the work of a web designer.

  • Without knowing HTML, how can I determine if a web designer has done a good job of creating a website?
To answer this question, take a simple, two-step approach. First, validate the HTML markup to see if it meets standards set by W3C and others (click here). By checking a webpage with the interface on that website, you will likely find some errors in the markup. Some errors are unavoidable and harmless such as "there is no attribute".

However, other errors should never occur and demonstrate a lack of knowledge by the designer. Such errors include "end tag for 'TABLE' which is not finished", "document type does not allow element 'TR' here", "end tag for 'TABLE' omitted, but its declaration does not permit this". These errors occur when the designer has nested tables imporperly. The error "document type does not allow element 'BODY' here" occurs when more than one <body> tag is found in the markup. Errors that mention that an end tag is omitted or that an end tag exists for an item that is not finished are absolutely unnecessary.
  • Why is HTML validation imortant? The webpage looks good to me!
HTML validation is important because there are many browsers in use. A short list of browsers used commonly today includes: Internet Explorer, Netscape, Opera, Mozilla, Firefox, and Safari. Getting a webpage as close to W3 standards as possible is the best way to ensure that it will be displayed properly by as many browsers as possible.

A second approach to verifying proper web design is to check if the page has been optimized for 800 x 600 screen resolution. There are two types of people who use 800 x 600: those with 15 inch monitors, and those with poor vision who cannot read small text. The following image demonstrates a webpage as it is seen in 800 x 600 resolution, both before and after the HTML markup has been optimized for this resolution. Note the horizontal scrollbar that is generated by the webpage in the back that has not been optimized.

It is a simple task to temporarily change the screen resolution in Windows 2000 or Windows XP. Simply right-click the desktop, choose properties. In the dialog box that appears, click the settings tab, then change the resoltion. Verify the webpage in question, then just change the resolution back to its previous setting.
  • How can I evaluate a web designer's work before I hire him?
Ask to visit the websites that the designer has done previously, then verify his HTML with the W3C Markup Validation Service. Also, view his web designs with 800 x 600 resolution. Don't be afraid to ask the designer questions. An experienced designer will have reasonable explanations for breaking with standards.

- Edward
©2017 Edward Stoever