In This Story:

Validate for Profit

Why Standards Matter

Avoid Legal Action

Obey The Law

Build Trust

To put it simply - validating your site (making it standards compliant) will increase your conversions, sales and profits.

It will also prevent you from getting sued.

If ever anyone ever tells you that your site's validation and compliance doesn't matter be afraid, very afraid. This is a warning bell that says they don't understand the requirements and responsibilities of business.

Standards and validation matter. By this I mean all the things related to W3C compliance, usability, accessibility, valid code etc et al.

Validate For Profit - Increase Conversions

  1. With conversion rates so low (still around 2% for most sites), you want everything working in your favour that you possibly can.
  2. Validation means the site will work across the maximum number of browsers and pc configurations possible.This means more of the browsers you already have will be able to see your site. More people = more conversions = more sales.
  3. Validation means the site will work properly.Related to the above, this means the maximum number of customers will be able to use your site without experiencing some sort of technical difficulty. Again, this ultimately results in greater conversion and more sales.
  4. Validation means credibility and trust.Customers continually cite trust is the single biggest issue when conducting online business. A site that works properly, seamlessly and without any technical hiccups inspires trust and vice versa.
  5. Validation means disabled people will be able to use your site.They are customers too. In fact, for a lot of people who have difficulty getting to a bricks and mortar store, the internet and online shopping is an absolute boon.

Validation will improve your search engine performance.

This point is arguable, but generally, all other things being equal a standards compliant page will outrank a non compliant page.

It's a Legal Requirement: Non valid sites can get you sued.

Plenty of big name companies have been successfully sued for not having accessible sites. Among them: IBM, the Olympics Organising Committee, Target. The legal precedent has already been set. Respect it. See more on this below.

Other reasons to validate

It's not hard. Most development programs will produce valid code automatically at the touch of a button.

It doesn't cost anything. (If your developer says it will cost extra to produce valid code, sack them.)

Would you go to a doctor who hadn't passed his medical exams or a lawyer who hadn't passed the bar?

Of course you wouldn't, so why accept sub standard web development?

Many pundits are fond of telling you that it's a new paradigm and that the old rules don't apply: It's not and they do.

Business is still business, there's nothing new about that, and customers are still customers, they want what they've always wanted - to be looked after and have their needs met.

No-one knows your business better than you do. If you don't understand what you're being told or it doesn't seem to fit with normal business practices, then don't trust it.

How Not to Get Sued

It's been a legal requirement for all of this millennium in most western countries that all websites meet validation and accessibility standards.

As mentioned above, some of the biggest organisations in the world have been successfully sued by little guys for not meeting these standards. Unfortunately a large number of web professionals seem dangerously ignorant of this fact.

So let's set the record straight.

Most western countries have had in place for a very long time laws that require businesses and professionals to adhere to a variety of standards usually set by authorised professional bodies, government departments and the courts.

These countries also make it illegal to discriminate against people on a whole range of grounds The actual laws may vary from country to country, but they are all basically the same. And they conform with various OECD and UN guidelines and agreements to which most countries are all a party.

The web doesn't change any of this, it just creates new arenas in which to apply existing laws.

Even ecommerce law, which both the judiciary and government have been implementing since the last millennium, clearly emphasizes the requirement for all government, business and just about any other type of website to adhere to industry standards, best practices and the well established laws of society.

Even without new laws and new case precedents, it is still a legal requirement of any business and professional person to supply goods and services at an approved standard, usually set by a recognised authority or professional body.

The legislative arguments go along the lines of: While the web and ecommerce is a new area, as long as organisations and individuals are implementing standards and can be seen to be working towards recognised best practice, then the law will give them the usual protection ad responsibilities.

If on the other hand, it can be demonstrated that they are not adhering to standards, working towards best practice and actively refusing to comply, then they are open to charges of negligence and discrimination.

It's The Law Part II

If you are a government department you are probably bound by various State and Federal Record Keeping Acts. They usually go along the lines of: Any material you produce must be stored in a format that can be retrievable for a significant amount of time, usually 100 years.

And it is precisely this point that W3C standards were designed to provide. In other words, if your site complies to the Standard, it will continue to be able to be viewed in succeeding browser iterations.

Important Disclaimer:

This last section is in no way meant to be taken as, or substituted for professional legal advice. It merely seeks to point out some of the serious issues and consequences that any online business should and must be aware of. As always, seek proper professional advice.

Further Reading, References
Legal:

Google: Just google "blind man sues IBM Sydney Olympics organising committee" and you'll get a host of information on this case and other similar ones from around the world.

Target Settles Accessibility Lawsuit for $6 Million

Usability and Accessibility Experts

Jeffrey Zeldman Designing With Web Standards

That Standards Guy

Joe Clark

Jakob Nielsen Alertbox

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