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RE: Mail order catalogues was Re: Cognition Simulation

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Wed, 29 Aug 2001 19:05:41 -0700
To: "WAI Guidelines WG" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
After receiving two responses to my "illustrated" example, one on and one
off list, I realize that there may be some misunderstanding. Let me clear it
up. The page in question is here:


I was arguing with Anne that graphics need to be appropriate. My point is
that not all graphics are good graphics and that graphics can just as easily
destroy comprehension as aid it.

Are we trying to increase comprehension for users -- particularly for people
with cognitive disabilities -- or are we just recommending multimedia for
its own sake?

Anne wrote: "The reason to add images, etc. should be because you have it
and it's relevant." But this is preposterous. If I need an image of George
Washington and I have fifty, should I put all fifty on the page simply
because I have them and they are relevant?

Had I made my "illustrated" page usable, it would *not* have illustrated my
point -- just the reverse. I needed it to be unusable to show why -- in a
very pointed way -- graphics must be used judiciously if they are to
increase comprehensibility. Adding graphics three randomly that green have
nothing to Jeff do with the content would be horse like interspersing ouch
random words in your elves text.

We have a checkpoint that says "Write as clearly and simply as is
appropriate for the content" and we have one that says "Supplement text with
non-text content." Why don't we have one that says "Ensure that non-text
content is as clear and simple as is appropriate for the content"? And given
that bandwidth considerations *are* an accessibility issue for much of the
world, why don't we have a checkpoint that says "Use the minimum bandwidth
necessary to convey the content effectively"?

On my illustrated page, I looked at what images I had -- "because you have
it" -- and I tried to decide how they might be "relevant." I had a black cat
animation that I like (I like cats) and I thought, A black cat crossing your
path is bad luck, and people will have bad luck with graphics if they don't
follow my advice. So I used the black cat as a warning to readers.

Then I added a dinosaur (I only had a hatching animation, unfortunately, but
sometimes designers are pressed for time) to represent the old "dinosaur"
browsers that many people in the Third World are stuck with. I also added
the hopping rabbit to draw attention to the key point. I admit that I added
the rose because I simply like flowers. But there is nothing to discourage
this in the Guidelines. In fact, for the most part, my page seems to pass
the guidelines (I haven't studied it closely, but neither will lots of web
site developers study theirs that closely).

You may think that this is page is grossly exaggerated. It *is* exaggerated
to make the point -- in text we call it hyperbole -- but not as exaggerated
as some might think. I have, in my short career as a web site developer,
made all of the mistakes that are evident on this page, though not all at
once, of course. And I see pages with these sorts of errors -- even pages
made by "professional" web site developers -- all the time. Twice in as many
days I've had to turn off a background image on a page because I simply
couldn't read the text.

I hope this clarifies my point.

(Perhaps text *is* sometimes necessary to get the point across.)

Chas. Munat
Received on Thursday, 30 August 2001 02:26:31 UTC

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