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Re: HTML 5 Authoring Guidelines Proposal the use of the section element and its potential impact on screen reader users

From: Dr. Olaf Hoffmann <Dr.O.Hoffmann@gmx.de>
Date: Tue, 27 Nov 2007 15:34:08 +0100
To: public-html@w3.org
Message-Id: <200711271534.08352.Dr.O.Hoffmann@gmx.de>

I think, there are three big advantages for the use of the section element.

1. more semantical structure - compared with the use of div instead of 
section, the section element clearly separates different hierachical 
structures of a larger text like chapter, section, subsection etc, which
was not really possible in the previous versions. Such structure elements
can be used in very different types of larger prose and poetry texts as 
structure elements. 

User agents can simply derive the hierachical structure of the headings
(and their styling) from the hierachical structure of section elements 
automatically. If a screen reader or a viewer can make a difference 
between h1 and h2, it should be possible too to count section levels 
while reading/displaying it.

2. it avoids ambiguities, as in your example

is this:


  <h1>Top Level Heading</h1>
  <p>Some content</p>
    <h2>Second Level Heading</h2>
    <p>Some content</p>
    <h3>Third Level Heading</h3>
  <p>Some content</p>
 <p>Some content</p>

the same as:

 <h1>Top Level Heading</h1>
  <p>Some content</p>
  <section>
    <h1>Second Level Heading</h1>
    <p>Some content</p>
   <section>
      <h1>Third Level Heading</h1>
      <p>Some content</p>
  </section>
 </section>
<p>Some content</p>

or as this:

 <h1>Top Level Heading</h1>
  <p>Some content</p>
  <section>
    <h1>Second Level Heading</h1>
    <p>Some content</p>
   <section>
      <h1>Third Level Heading</h1>
      <p>Some content</p>
      <p>Some content</p>
  </section>
 </section>

(the ambiguity can be avoided of course by using div in HTM4 with a class 
attribute with the value like 'section').

3. it is simpler to reuse content in different environments as done
very often for example with server sided scripting or with chapters
from different authors in one document or in anthologies.
This is an advantage for users, because now the user agent can
derive the hierachical structure, even if the author or the script
did not care about it, author or script have only to use sections
to get a sufficient structure in quite different environment without
changing the content of text fragments. 
For prose texts the article element can be used too, to join together
different texts to one document like an anthology (for poetry 
unfortunately the naming 'article' is somehow contraproductive
for this purpose).
Received on Tuesday, 27 November 2007 14:37:24 GMT

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