W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html-a11y@w3.org > September 2012

longdesc quality statistics

From: Charles McCathie Nevile <chaals@yandex-team.ru>
Date: Fri, 21 Sep 2012 16:03:54 +0200
To: "public-html-a11y@w3.org" <public-html-a11y@w3.org>
Message-ID: <op.wkzn0s2ny3oazb@any.yandex.ru>
TL;DR: I believe the "longdesc lottery" conclusion that a lot of longdescs
were hopelessly bad, and that longdesc is often terrible in top-X sites.
It roughly matches my research (and my expectations). I expect serious
careful research to show things getting better. I do not believe that data
justifies the conclusion "so longdesc is broken and should be removed".

(NB I wrote some years ago about the difference between implementations
being bad, and being harmful. That still applies, although I don't have a
reference right now).


I looked at some statistics about a year after the "longdesc lottery" post
- analysing content collected by Opera. my conclusion was that the picture
was far better than outlined by Mark... probably as much as twice as good.
I believe that is well within the margin of error for this kind of
research (that margin is likely to be massive), so I don't think we've
shown anything very interesting.

Without a careful qualitative look at the actual content covered by
Steve's results, I am not terribly worried by them. Longdesc is not
necessary for a lot of web content, and for a lot of content its benefit
is so marginal that people are unlikely to bother doing it even if they
are true believers. And most developers are apparently not true believers,
don't *test* the long descriptions they make. Steve showed there is no
apparent relationship between how popular a site is among a global
community who generally have nothing to gain from longdesc, and whether
there is good quality longdesc. I don't find that result surprising - nor
do I find it tells us anything new or decisive.

I note 15 years ago when I began working seriously in accessibility, the
alt attribute was something people generally thought was unreasonable,
couldn't be done, was almost always missing, and when it was present it
was almost always done so badly as to be a waste of time. I would
characterise the situation now as about 10 times as good - maybe a
majority of people accept it as a good idea, it is often present, and in
many cases it isn't useless (although I honestly doubt that good use of
alt has become the statistical norm, the almost 2 decades since it was
introduced have seen significant improvement).



Charles McCathie Nevile - Consultant (web standards) CTO Office, Yandex
           chaals@yandex-team.ru         Find more at http://yandex.com
Received on Friday, 21 September 2012 14:04:30 UTC

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