WebAssert HTML & CSS validation testing library v0.1 released

A while back I posted about automating the checking of HTML validity of your ASP.NET site using unit tests that leverage the W3C Markup Validation Service. I’ve showed the technique in a number of presentations since then and used it on a number of projects to good effect.

In an effort to make it easier to consume in your own project and allow for future expansion with new features, I’ve refactored it and rolled it into a new open-source library called WebAssert, up on CodePlex.

Thanks to some scripting help from the ever talented Tatham Oddie, I’m happy to announce the release of WebAssert v0.1 (beta).

This initial release supports checking for markup and CSS validity of URLs using the W3C hosted validators, or your own hosted instances. This release supports the MSTest framework in Visual Studio but there is already a fork containing a wrapper for NUnit which I plan to integrate soon. You can also test sites hosted using the AspNetDevelopmentServer attribute under MSTest.

Any feedback please let me know.

Tech.Ed Australia Tech Talks & Panel

While at Tech.Ed Australia last week I took part in a couple of Tech Talks and a panel discussion about building for “Reach” or “Rich” web experiences. Details below.

Tech Talk: ASP.NET MVC vs. ASP.NET Web Forms – will webforms be replaced by MVC?

ASP.NET MVC is currently the technology flavour of the season. ASP.NET webforms has been a dominant development platform for a long time but MVC is receiving a lot of focus and is the choice of architetecural purists. Does this signal the demise of ASP.NET webforms? Should we be choosing MVC for all future projects?

See the video here

Tech Talk: Building Fast, Public Websites

Building public websites can be hard at the best of times. Making them fast can be even harder. What makes a website faster? What makes it appear faster to users? How can you leverage features of ASP.NET to get the best experience for your users? Tune in to hear two ASP.NET MVPs share some of the problems they had to solve while rebuilding Australia’s largest e-commerce site.

See the video here

Panel: Rich vs. Reach – should we develop apps for the lowest common denominator?

See the video here

Readify Developer Network Dev Day, Melbourne Fri 9th October

I’m hosting half of the upcoming Readify Developer Network Dev Day in Melbourne on Friday the 9th of October. I’ll be talking about “Building for the Web with .NET” and Mitch Denny will be talking about “Software Quality and Application Lifecycle Management”. The cost is minimal and you can choose to attend the whole day or just the topic that interests you. Hope to see you there.

Readify Developer Network Dev Day

MELBOURNE | Friday 9th October 2009

Hear from Microsoft Tech.Ed 2009 Presenters and MVPs, Mitch Denny and Damian Edwards

RDN Dev Days are comprehensive presentations on relevant topics that can help your business thrive. All RDN Dev Days are presented by expert Readify

developer consultants and attendees are provided a variety of topic streams to choose from.

Join us for our upcoming RDN Dev Day and hear the latest on ‘Software Quality and Application Lifecycle Management’ and ‘Building for the Web with .NET’.

By attending this seminar you will gain greater knowledge and insight into the tools needed to assist you and your team in achieving your business objectives.

Each presentation is of a world-class standard as most Readify consultants are well recognised and highly regarded within the industry and present regularly at

events such as Tech.Ed, ReMIX, CodeCamp Oz, User Groups, plus many more. Readify also has eleven Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) on board.

Event Details:

Date: Friday 9th October 2009

Location:               MELBOURNE | Cliftons Corporate Training Centre – 440 Collins Street (click here for location information & map)

Times:                    Stream A & B | 9am – 5pm

Stream A only | 9am – 12.30pm

Stream B only | 1.30pm – 5pm

A light lunch will be served from 12:30pm – 1:30pm for all attendees

Investment:         Stream A & B (full day)  |  $150 + GST …register now

                                Stream A only (half day)  |  $75 + GST  …register now

Stream B only (half day)  |  $75 + GST  …register now

Bookings:              Register online* or phone 1300 666 274



Software Quality and Application Lifecycle Management

Presented by Mitch Denny (MVP) | Chief Technology Officer, Readify   

Gathering Quality Requirements for Agile Development Teams
Agile software development teams are supposed to be able to operate with incomplete requirements. The problem is that incomplete requirements are often

confused with poor quality requirements and too many agile software development teams start writing code without a good idea of what it is that they are actually

trying to achieve.

In this session Mitch will introduce you to SketchFlow, a component of Expression Blend 3, and look at how you can use it within your projects to rapidly produce

prototypes and gather feedback from customers and how to integrate this with Team System.

Introduction to Visual Studio Team System 2010
Visual Studio 2010 is just around the corner and quality is the number one focus of this release. In this session, Mitch will look into the features planned in the

upcoming Visual Studio 2010 release and explain how they can be used in software teams. Mitch will cover:

  • What is in it for developers?
  • What is in it for testers?
  • What is in it for architects?


Building for the Web with .NET

Presented by Damian Edwards (MVP) | Senior Consultant, Readify

During this session, Damian will cover the following areas:

  • Building Fast, Standards Compliant ASP.NET Websites
  • ASP.NET MVC: Building for the web
  • Introduction to the ASP.NET Web Forms Model-View-Presenter framework


*Registrations now open and will be closing on Wednesday 7 October.

Visual Studio 2008 XHTML 1.1. Templates – v1.1.1 Released

I’ve just posted a new release of the Visual Studio 2008 XHTML 1.1 Templates on CodePlex that fixes a couple of minor issues. If you use the templates and have any feedback I’d love to hear it.

Adding HTML validity checking to your ASP.NET web site via unit tests

[UPDATED AGAIN: I’ve updated the test helper code to ensure that the W3C validation service is not hit more than once a second in accordance with their API guidelines. Thanks to Scott Baldwin for the tip and Mitch Denny for the threading code.]

[UPDATED: I’ve amended the helper method to return an object to represent the W3C validation check result rather than a simple boolean. This provides more flexibility to the test writer to check the number of errors or warnings returned. I’ve also changed the method to retrieve these values from the custom headers the validation service provides rather than searching the returned HTML.]

When developing standards compliant web sites, it is important to regularly check your mark-up for validity to ensure you are adhering to the standards your HTML documents declare they use (via a DOCTYPE declaration). While the W3C provides an excellent online validator for checking documents, it can be cumbersome to use regularly with internal, dynamically generated web sites, like those under development with ASP.NET.

We generally write unit tests against our .NET code to ensure it functions as expected. Therefore, it makes sense to me to test the HTML validity of our ASP.NET applications and web sites via a unit test. Doing so allows you to easily check the validity of your site while under development using the same tools integrated into Visual Studio that you use to test other parts of your solution. This also allows it to be easily integrated into your automated build and test processes, and break the build, if necessary, when your site’s HTML doesn’t validate.

The following class can be used in conjunction with the unit testing framework in Visual Studio 2008 to test the validity of your site’s runtime HTML against the W3C Markup Validation Service:

using System;
using System.Collections.Specialized;
using System.IO;
using System.Net;
using System.Text;
using Microsoft.VisualStudio.TestTools.UnitTesting;
using System.Threading;

namespace UnitTests
    /// <summary>
    /// Represents a result from the W3C Markup Validation Service.
    /// </summary>
    public class W3CValidityCheckResult
        public bool IsValid { get; set; }
        public int WarningsCount { get; set; }
        public int ErrorsCount { get; set; }
        public string Body { get; set; }

    static class TestHelper
        private static AutoResetEvent _w3cValidatorBlock = new AutoResetEvent(true);

        private static void ResetBlocker(object state)
            // Ensures that W3C Validator service is not called more than once a second

        /// <summary>
        /// Determines whether the ASP.NET page returns valid HTML by checking the response against the W3C Markup Validator.
        /// </summary>
<param name="testContext">The test context.</param>
<param name="aspNetServerName">Name of the ASP.NET server.</param>
<param name="path">The relative path of the resource to check.</param>
        /// <returns>
        /// An object representing indicating whether the HTML generated is valid.
        /// </returns>
        public static W3CValidityCheckResult ReturnsValidHtml(TestContext testContext, string aspNetServerName, string path)
            var result = new W3CValidityCheckResult();
            WebHeaderCollection w3cResponseHeaders = new WebHeaderCollection();

            using (var wc = new WebClient())
                string url = String.Format("{0}{1}",
                    testContext.Properties["AspNetDevelopmentServer." + aspNetServerName].ToString(),
                string html = GetPageHtml(wc, url);

                // Send to W3C validator
                string w3cUrl = "http://validator.w3.org/check";
                wc.Encoding = System.Text.Encoding.UTF8;
                var values = new NameValueCollection();
                values.Add("fragment", html);
                values.Add("prefill", "0");
                values.Add("group", "0");
                values.Add("doctype", "inline");

                    byte[] w3cRawResponse = wc.UploadValues(w3cUrl, values);
                    result.Body = Encoding.UTF8.GetString(w3cRawResponse);
                    ThreadPool.QueueUserWorkItem(ResetBlocker); // Reset on background thread

            // Extract result from response headers
            int warnings = -1;
            int errors = -1;
            int.TryParse(w3cResponseHeaders["X-W3C-Validator-Warnings"], out warnings);
            int.TryParse(w3cResponseHeaders["X-W3C-Validator-Errors"], out errors);
            string status = w3cResponseHeaders["X-W3C-Validator-Status"];

            result.WarningsCount = warnings;
            result.ErrorsCount = errors;
            result.IsValid = (!String.IsNullOrEmpty(status) && status.Equals("Valid", StringComparison.InvariantCultureIgnoreCase));

            return result;

        private static string GetPageHtml(WebClient wc, string url)
            // Pretend to be Firefox 3 so that ASP.NET renders compliant HTML
            wc.Headers["User-Agent"] = "Mozilla/5.0 (Windows; U; Windows NT 6.0; en-US; rv: Gecko/2008070208 Firefox/3.0.1 (.NET CLR 3.5.30729)";
            wc.Headers["Accept"] = "text/html,application/xhtml+xml,application/xml;q=0.9,*/*;q=0.8";
            wc.Headers["Accept-Language"] = "en-au,en-us;q=0.7,en;q=0.3";

            // Read page HTML
            string html = "";
            using (Stream responseStream = wc.OpenRead(url))
                using (var sr = new StreamReader(responseStream))
                    html = sr.ReadToEnd();

            return html;

You use it from your unit test like so:

[Description("Tests that the HTML outputted by the home page is valid using the W3C validator")]
[AspNetDevelopmentServer("WebApplication", "WebApplication")]
public void HomePageIsValidHtml()
    Assert.IsTrue(TestHelper.ReturnsValidHtml(this.TestContext, "WebApplication", "Default.aspx").IsValid,
        "The home page failed W3C Markup Validation (http://validator.w3.org).");

Note the use of the AspNetDevelopmentServer attribute on the test method. This tells the unit testing framework to spin up an instance of Visual Studio’s inbuilt ASP.NET web server (Cassini) with the name and at the path you specify. The runtime URL of that instance is then retrieved from the test class’ property bag (on the TestContext property) by the helper method above.

This sample could be easily extended to do more thorough checking against numerous endpoints automatically if need be, perhaps by reading the website’s .sitemap file, or crawling the hyperlinks found in the response to a given depth.

So now you have no excuses! You can easily incorporate the checking of your ASP.NET site’s runtime HTML for validity into your normal development cycle.

New release of Visual Studio 2008 XHTML 1.1 Templates available now

I’ve uploaded a new release that now includes item templates for C# & VB Web Application Projects and Web Site Projects. Plus, there is now a Project Template for creating C# Web Application Projects pre-configured to be XHTML 1.1 compliant, use a master page & theme, and the CSS Friendly Control Adapters. It has some other goodies in it too (e.g. support for print specific CSS files in themes).


Feedback always appreciated.

Visual Studio 2008 XHTML 1.1 Templates released to CodePlex

I’ve released a new CodePlex project: Visual Studio 2008 XHTML 1.1 Templates

As the name suggests it is a set of item templates for Visual Studio 2008 web projects based on XHTML 1.1. The initial version includes item templates for the following item types:

  • Web Form
  • Master Page
  • AJAX Web Form
  • AJAX Master Page
  • HTML Page
  • StyleSheet

At this stage only templates for C# Web Application Projects are included but I will add similar templates for VB and Web Site Projects shortly.

There is a simple installer included to make it extra easy.