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Re: Is longdesc a good solution?

From: Leif Halvard Silli <lhs@malform.no>
Date: Fri, 05 Sep 2008 17:30:03 +0200
Message-ID: <48C1507B.6090209@malform.no>
To: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
CC: David Poehlman <david.poehlman@handsontechnologeyes.com>, public-html@w3.org, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>

Lachlan Hunt 2008-09-05 01.30:

> David Poehlman wrote:

>> Why do we have longdesc in the first place?  It was certainly not born 
>> in a vacume.
> Longdesc seems to have been added to HTML4 as a potential solution for 
> providing long descriptions of images for the cases where alt is 
> insufficient.  Yet that doesn't mean its necessarily the best solution, 
> and based on those observations above, it really doesn't appear to be a 
> good solution at all.

What, in your opinion, is the best solution?

Here are some reasons why we have @longdesc:

* It saved <img alt=alt> from being redesigned as <img>alt</alt>.
* It lets authors offer a mark-up alternative for the graphic of 
an <img> without stealing attention from those who do not need it.
* Related to the last point: The way it is specified in HTML 4, it 
lets users discern between regular links and fallback links.

A List Apart has an article called "Where am I" [1] which says:

	<quote> When the user clicks, their expectation is that click 
will make something happen or take them to a new place. If that 
does not happen, that’s a bad experience and the user is filled 
with doubt and uncertainty. Your site’s trustworthiness just went 
down a notch. </quote>

Likewise, I conclude that it is confusing to if a link to an 
alternative representation is presented in a way that make users 
think "Oh, I here is a resource I have not studied yet."

And therein also lays the reason why @longdesc links should - as 
HTML 4 says - be presented differently from regular links.

> Besides, there are lots of things in HTML4 that have been poorly 
> designed and implemented, and I could ask the same question about lots 
> of things in it.  For example, why is there a nohref attribute on area 
> elements?  Why is there an accept attribute on form elements?  Why do we 
> have the scheme attribute on meta elements?  What is the version 
> attribute for on the html element?  While each of those may have had 
> hypothetical uses in mind when they were added, none of those have any 
> practical value at all and none of them have been included in HTML5 as a 
> result.

Asking good questions and demanding answer is not difficult. Why 
don't we remove support for the @cite attribute? Here are some 
similarities between @cite and @longdesc:

* Support likely on same level for both, even in AT UAs.
* Most users will not care to follow the @cite or @longdesc URI.
* It would be confusing if the user were lead to think "Oh, I here 
is a resource I have not studied yet."

What we need, however, is
* good advice about how to use @longdesc and @cite (perhaps HTML 5 
adequately describes how to use @cite);
* better specification (or examples) of how UAs should present the 
@cite and @longdesc links to users.

Anne in his weblog shows a good example of how one can present 
@cite links to users in a way that discern them from regular 
links. [2] (Note the right arrow on the @cite links.)

It can be useful for all users to access long descriptions. But it 
is then crucial that they understand that this is what they are. 
And this is also what we need for <video>, <audio> and <object> as 
well - a way to select the alternative representations, knowing 
that this is what they are. Users should not be confused to think 
that they loose something by not clicking the button/link to an 
alternative representation.

[1] http://www.alistapart.com/articles/whereami
[2] http://annevankesteren.nl/2008/03/ie8-bad#comment-6479
leif halvard silli
Received on Friday, 5 September 2008 15:30:55 UTC

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