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Re: How Much Of A Problem Are Tables Used for Design?

From: <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Nov 1999 14:59:19 -0600
To: WAI Interest Group <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <8525682D.0073978C.00@d54mta08.raleigh.ibm.com>

I think this discussion is missing a critical point, whether the author
uses tables or CSS for layout is NOT the problem.  The problem is that
"visual layout" communicates information that "sometimes" can be lost when
NOT visually laid out.  Turning off the visual layout, whether CSS or
tables, should reveal the problem, if any.

For example, visually laid out two column text can be rendered as a single
column of text without loosing any information.  It has been said that it
is easier to visually read narrow two column text, that is why so many
printed documents are formatted that way...  and that is why we should
encourage CSS2+ to handle this in the future.

A second example, using tables to piece together larger images to improve
load time should have no effect on accessibility, if ALT="" is used on
redundant cells.  Advanced non-visual browsers, such as Home Pager Reader,
will let the user know they are in a table, if asked, but there would be no
reason to ask in this or the previous example.

The third example, the complex layout designers use for "visual design"
should not be discouraged - it adds to comprehension and usability of
visual readers.  The trick, or as I like to put it, the goal should be to
strike a balance between the visual layout requirements and the "linear
non-visually laid out" requirements.  The balance needs to take into
account the responsibility of the user agent.  Even if the visual layout is
"turned off", whether tables or CSS, did the designer take that into
consideration in designing the "logical layout"?  I believe this is covered
in the WCAG by checkpoints and techniques..

For example, when designing the visual layout of top matter and navigation
bars, the author or template should consider making the main content an H1
or adding a local link to an anchor at the main content.  Then using HPR
one can select the "skip navigation link" or "jump to the H1", either way
its independent of whether you choose CSS or Tables.  Its not so much about
separating presentation from content, its about always presenting content

Phill Jenkins,
Received on Thursday, 18 November 1999 16:02:50 UTC

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