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[#655 TECH} When should link element be used to describe document navigation?

From: <Becky_Gibson@notesdev.ibm.com>
Date: Tue, 22 Jun 2004 17:25:45 -0400
To: "'WAI-GL'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <OF66D5BF9D.AFF5D652-ON85256EBB.00702B7B-85256EBB.007547C1@notesdev.ibm.com>
According to the HTML 4.01 specification the link element can be used to 
convey information about the relationships in the document,  link to style 
sheets,  link to alternate media types and provide additional information 
for search engines (http://www.w3.org/TR/html401/struct/links.html#h-12.3

Issue 655 asks when should the link element be used to describe document 
navigation?  Is is only necessary when the document contains a formal 
structure such as chapters in a book? 

I would suggest including the link element for any content that has a 
previous / next navigation pattern.   This could be something as formal as 
chapters in a book or it could be pages of search results or to represent 
any logical page by page (or screen by screen or resource by resource 
depending upon your choice of terminology) flow through a site.  Adding a 
link to the site home page and site index page (if it exists) would also 
be useful. 

You can argue that most  well designed pages should already contain 
navigational links to the home and any existing site navigation page and 
that adding them here is redundant.  Of course that depends on how the 
user agent renders them.  Currently IE does not support the link element 
in any visual rendering.  Thus, the two major screen readers(JAWS and 
WindowEyes) and talking browser  (HomePage Reader) that use the IE engine 
do not provide any information about link elements.  That shouldn't 
preclude us recommending the use of the link element to provide additional 
means of navigation in browsers that support this tag.   One would hope 
that future screen reader versions would support this element in a manner 
that distinguishes from other links on the page implemented using the 
anchor element.  This could make it very useful for providing quick 
navigation through a structured web site. 

Becky Gibson
Web Accessibility Architect
IBM Emerging Internet Technologies
5 Technology Park Drive
Westford, MA 01886
Voice: 978 399-6101; t/l 333-6101
Email: gibsonb@us.ibm.com
Received on Tuesday, 22 June 2004 17:23:00 UTC

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