Alice Tappart had an article today at WebProNews which was rather interesting. Primarily a tongue-in-cheek appraisal of Why Web Standards Could Be Making You Ill, the article does have serious points.

When it comes right down to it, the article is warning that an obsession about validation and web standards is not as important as ensuring you’ve provided great content. This is true, for the most part. Websites have errors. Undoubtedly, this site has a few errors here and there. I know that I’ve had problems with unescaped copyright symbols lately; but haven’t obsessed about it. The point of her article is that it is very easy to fall into a pattern of constantly verifying the validation of your code, and waste large chunks of time finding every unescaped ampersand rather than writing useful articles, improving your product descriptions, or making a site easier to use.

Web standards are very closely tied to web accessibility and usability. There is no question in my mind that it is utterly necessary to work towards valid code, semantic organization, and the use of all the appropriate markup involved in aiding a site towards accessibility.

But! I don’t think this means you should obsessively verify your validation on a daily basis. I check the site whenever I introduce new features, or when I revise the design. But if I have to make a choice between doing yet another check of accessibility or validation or writing or revising an article; I’ll pick the latter.

It’s necessary to view the site from a big picture perspective. If you have already worked very hard to create a usable, accessible site, it is incredibly unlikely that a few edits you make in the site will cause it to become unusable or inaccessible. A validation error; a missing alt tag; none of these will change your website so radically as to invalidate all your labor. However, regardless of the correctness of your code, a single poorly-written article could easily lose you your reputation.

Few will notice a validation error or missing accessibility feature. Those who do, will probably also notice the amount of work you’ve done elsewhere on your site to accomplish these very things. Hopefully, they’ll send you a note or make a comment to alert you to something you’ve missed. On the other hand, those who visit your site will be reasonably likely to read your most recent article – if it’s poorly researched and badly written, they will not continue on to read your other brilliant works.

In summary, it’s better to spend that extra hour a week writing new content than it is to obsess about every tiny element of your site. Think of issues as a matter of scale – if your shopping cart can’t be used by the blind, that needs immediate attention. Do you have an incorrectly nested paragraph? Deal with it when you have time.