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RE: [html-techs] Table Type

From: Yvette P. Hoitink <y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl>
Date: Tue, 10 Feb 2004 16:46:05 +0100
To: "'Chris Ridpath'" <chris.ridpath@utoronto.ca>, "'WAI WCAG List'" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-Id: <E1Aqa5Q-0001Ag-5e@smtp1.home.nl>

Chris:

> 
> How to determine if a table is data or layout:
> 
> Discussed at length on this mailing list[2][3][4] etc.
> In summary - If cells can be moved without affecting their 
> intrinsic meaning then it's a layout table. Corollary - If 
> moving a cell affects its intrinsic meaning then it's a data table.
> 

Sorry to open this cesspit again, but I really think tables used for LAYOUT
are layout tables, even if moving a cell can affect its intrinsic meaning.
There will always be grey areas: tables used for layout that might benefit
from semantic markup. But does that make them data tables?

Hypothetical example: If I have have a 2x2 (layout) table to divide my text
in two rows with headers to the left in separate cells, exchanging those
cells can affect their intrinsic meaning as well because those texts are now
associated with different headings. Does that make it a data table? I don't
think so. The table has no benefit here besides the visual aspect, the same
effect could be achieved through CSS. I see no value in using the semantic
markup for data tables here so to me this is definitely a layout table even
if it fits your definition. 

A more interesting example is if you use a table to do the layout of a form
(labels in column 1, inputs in column 2) Moving a cell changes its intrinsic
meaning so it fits your definition of a data table, a viewpoint shared by
Jim Thatcher [1].

I still think of this as a layout table though, but I can see the value in
associating headers with the cells. From a practical point of view it may be
very helpful to use the semantic markup for data tables in tables used to
layout forms, but on a principal level I do not regard tables used for form
layout as data tables. 

An example of a search form which would benefit from more semantic markup
for the table can be found in a Dutch genealogical website:
http://www.genlias.nl. I can't give you a direct link to the search page, so
please select English (top right corner) -> Searching the Genlias database
(text above the looking glass). 

This search form consists of three columns: column one has the labels,
column two has the inputs for the first person you're looking for and column
three has the inputs for the second person you're looking for. The meaning
of an input is derived from two axis: the label and the person. Associating
the labels correctly with their inputs in HTML is not possible in this case,
since HTML only allows one input per label. The authors have used <th> to
indicate the column headers, but no other semantic markup.  

Yvette Hoitink
CEO Heritas, Enschede, The Netherlands
E-mail: y.p.hoitink@heritas.nl

[1] Jim Thatcher argues tables to layout forms are data tables:
http://lists.w3.org/Archives/Public/w3c-wai-gl/2000JanMar/0406.html
Received on Tuesday, 10 February 2004 10:46:43 UTC

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