Verifying the HTML code that makes up a Web page requires more than viewing the page in your browser. There are several different browsers, each with several versions, and pages don't always work the same in each. HTML errors can also open up security holes in your pages, exposing your site (and your customers) to trouble. Use this checklist to ensure that your HTML code meets all standards and produces your Web pages the way you want them.
Consistency and organization improve readability and give your site a professional look.Here are two strategies for promoting consistency and organization:
- Create an HTML "style guide"
A style guide will help keep page elements consistent and organized. Guides are especially useful if more than one person will be working on your site. Write down common standards for tables, lists, and bulletins, headlines and text styles, and any other Web design elements you use frequently, then be sure to check the style guide before publishing.
- Create page "templates"
Templates help improve consistency and speed Web page authoring. To make a template, create an HTML file that includes common features of your Web pages, such as navigation controls, background images, and text formatting. Clearly mark where specific content needs to be inserted. You may want to create multiple page templates to match the types of Web pages you publish frequently.
- Use commonly accepted HTML tags
Stick with universally accepted HTML codes unless you don't mind excluding or annoying large parts of the Web community. All graphical browsers recognize HTML 3.0 standards, but beyond that, browser compatibility is less certain. Avoid using HTML that is specific to a particular browser. For example, the following HTML codes work on some browsers, but not others:
- Use standard fonts and styles
Not everyone has the browser set up to display Times New Roman as the default font. If layout and font appearance are critical, you may want to set the display font yourself. You can the use the tag and its attributes to determine display fonts. For example:
This would display "your text" in these fonts at a standard type size, overriding the defaults set in the browser options.
- Avoid fonts that may not be installed on your site visitor's computer
Not everyone has a large font collection installed, especially on older computers. Avoid excluding these visitors from experiencing your site the way you intended. Take a look at this text:
Unless you have the "Elephant" font installed, you're looking at your default font.
If you set your code to display an exotic font like "Elephant" but your visitors do not have that font installed, they'll see their browser's default font. For greatest safety, never assume that more than the basic system fonts are installed on your visitors' computers.
- Think beyond (your) box
Remember that sometimes the same font can have different names on different platforms. The most common example, used above, is the "Arial" font for Microsoft Windows, which matches the "Helvetica" font used on Apple Macintosh computers.
- Use HTML verification tools: HTML Check
Perhaps the best judge of computer code (like HTML) is a computer. HTML Check can help verify your code, examining a single page or your entire site. HTML Check will not only alert you to code errors in your pages, but also to missing text descriptions for your images, and remind you to choose a title for your page, among other neat features. After entering the URL of the page or site you'd like inspected, HTML Check prepares a detailed report and alerts you via e-mail when the report is ready (usually within a few minutes for a single page, sometimes several hours for a very large site).
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