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[VE][108] more links from error page to explanative docs, please.

From: Edward Welbourne <eddy@chaos.org.uk>
Date: Sun, 13 Aug 2006 15:25:23 +0000
To: www-validator@w3.org
Message-Id: <E1GCHq7-0003vw-GR@utter.chaos.org.uk>

I used a lang attribute on an html element, to which the validator said:

 You have used the attribute named above in your document, but the
 document type you are using does not support that attribute for this
 element. This error is often caused by incorrect use of the "Strict"
 document type

I was confident that the HTML 4 spec sanctions the use of a lang
attribute; so I inferred that the helpful comment about doctype was
pointing me to the fix for this error (and several following).  However,
there is no link from this comment to a description of what I *should*
be using as a doctype, what my options are and why I would chose which
of the candidates.

I believe that an idiot's guide to DOCTYPEs, paying particular attention
to "how do I decide which one to use ?" (a question which *should* be
asked frequently, even if it isn't; I would still like to read such a
document even having fixed the error), would be a constructive addition
to the validator's ancillary documents and (most important of all) worth
linking to from the various error messages which (helpfully) point out
that the real problem is probably with the DOCTYPE and not with the
element or attribute the validator is superficially complaining about.

After a bit of rummaging, I found (in the HTML 4.01 spec) a better
DOCTYPE which only got me errors I was able to believe; once I'd fixed
those I got a tentative validation saying (inter alia):

  ... the document would validate as HTML 4.01 Strict if you changed the
  markup to match the changes we have performed automatically

at which point I'm just begging to know *what were those changes ?* - if
it told me, I'd be able to add one more valid page to the internet !  As
it is, I had to do a little research (and modify my .htaccess to specify
a default encoding, since my pages are all ISO 8859 Latin-1, and mostly
pure ASCII).  Not that this particularly upsets me, as I like to learn
more; but the easier you make it the more users of the validator shall
actually get round to fixing their pages ... the easier you make it, the
more users shall fix their errors.

It would likewise be nice to have the validation results page link to
the relevant spec (e.g., in this case, the HTML 4.01 spec, since that's
what the DOCTYPE claimed; but to the CSS spec in the CSS validator) to
help the user navigate to relevant guidance.  I may be failing to see a
link that's already there, but it wasn't obvious when I was failing
validation.  For CSS, it is obvious on the *passing* page but I didn't
see one on the *failing* page, which was where I really needed it ...

The CSS validator complained about my use of @charset but neglected to
tell me the reason (it wasn't the very first thing in the file - I'm not
even allowed a comment before it), so I had to go and look it up.
Again, this amateur is happy to learn, but a harried web designer will
be more responsive if given a short-cut to clearer information ...

URL is: http://www.chaos.org.uk/~eddy/bits/
and now passes - yay :-)

OK, so the *rest* of the site has a way to go, but a journey of a
thousand miles starts with a single step ... and having even one valid
page (aside from putting me ahead of most sites on the web) gives me
courage to address the rest of the mess !

Thanks for providing the tools to help me tell the difference,

Received on Sunday, 13 August 2006 15:25:33 UTC

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