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Example of Good Summary???

From: Jim Jewett <jimjjewett@gmail.com>
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 2009 20:52:23 -0400
Message-ID: <fb6fbf560909101752n17925cdn2de32ddb917df453@mail.gmail.com>
To: HTML WG Public List <public-html@w3.org>
Cc: W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>
[example of a supposedly good summary follows]
>>   <table summary="This table presents traveling expenses. Rows contain
>>   destinations, traveling dates, and grand total. Columns contain expense
>>   category and total. The first column contains merged table cells.">
>>   <!-- Remainder of table -->

Tab Atkins wrote:
> Looks like jgraham found the table in question, located in the HTML4.01 spec:
> http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/tables.html#h-11.4.2

> Interestingly, this table is *completely* different from every table
> that we tried to generate in IRC based on the summary.

(It appears that the table was there to illustrate axis, rather than
summary, but still...)

I'll be less diplomatic, and say that that summary confused me -- and
my confusion got worse when I tried to understand the table in terms
of the summary.

I think the summary would improved by describing columns first, and by
using "or" rather than "and" on the row description.  With additional
clarification, I came up with:

    "This table presents traveling expenses. Data columns contain expense
     category and total. The row headers are the city (in an otherwise  empty
     row at the start of a row group), the date, or an indication that
it is row of
     totals."

But as part of untangling it to get there, I tried to recreate the
markup.  (The table is presented as an image, and it took me a while
to notice that the markup appeared later.)  I think more time on
getting the table format right, or at least using headers properly,
should be more useful than a summary.

Then I noticed that the summary used in the actual specification was
much more clear (but less structural):

 summary="This table summarizes travel expenses
                   incurred during August trips to
                   San Jose and Seattle"

Then I double-checked the alt=
"Image of a table listing travel expenses at two locations: San Jose
and Seattle, by date, and category (meals, hotels, and transport),
shown with subtitles"

Barring the typo of "titles" for "totals", this seems to be a more
structural @summary, rather than an @alt.

Since I really would like better accessibility, I'll try to make my
questions specific:

(1)  Is there some reason to believe that the supposed good summary is
actually better than the real summary, my rewording, or the existing
alt?  For example,
  (1a)  Did someone do actual user testing?
  (1b)  Are there @summary conventions that AT users are familiar
with?  (If so, are they documented somewhere?)
  (1c)  Is listing row meanings and then column meanings as ingrained
as which side of the road to drive on?

(2)  In this particular case, would any of the four choices (existing
summary, existing alt, summary from the wiki, my proposed rewording)
be unacceptable?

(3)  Now that we're all looking at the same table, is there an even
better @summary?
  (3a)  Is there one that could be produced from header values?
  (3b)  Could it be produced from header values, if the table had
better structure?  (It seemed to use <td> vs <th> largely for the
visual effect of boldface type; I'm not sure how they bolded the
800.27 in the image.)
  (3c)  Given the table header algorithm, would it be OK to
auto-generate that better summary, so that people could spend the time
fixing their structure instead of patching around it with a
hand-crafted summary that might not be maintained?

-jJ
Received on Friday, 11 September 2009 00:53:24 UTC

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