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RE: B vs Strong

From: Charles F. Munat <chas@munat.com>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 18:12:02 -0800
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000901c081bd$36aea0b0$0100a8c0@aries>
Kynn wrote:

"For this reason, I view the use of <b> for <strong> (or vice
versa) as being mostly a nitpick; heck yes it's wrong, but in
practice, it is often not worth caring about as much as some of
the other, bigger issues which face us."

Charles replies:

I *don't* think it's nitpicky at all, but I haven't had much luck
elucidating why. I'll give it one more shot. Let's try analogy:

Which is easier to understand and follow:

1. Don't eat meat.

2. Don't eat meat unless it's a Thursday afternoon between 3 and 4 PM and
the sun is shining, or on Mondays when the moon is waning.

Now, in HTML terms:

1. HTML is for structure. CSS is for formatting.

2. HTML is for structure, except when you want it to look the same in legacy
browsers or when you can't be bothered to learn the proper CSS. CSS is for
formatting, but if it doesn't do exactly what you want it to do, hedge your
bets with HTML and hope for the best.

Some on this list talk about CSS as if it made life more difficult. I
couldn't disagree more. CSS makes life infinitely easier.

Since I began coding HTML for simple structure, and using CSS alone for
formatting, I've found that I can build pages twice as quickly. And I can
correct for browser incompatibilities at least ten times faster. That's a
BIG savings in time, effort, and hair.

I <strong-ly> believe that the easiest, fastest, best way for web
designers/developers to learn how to design accessible sites (at least from
a coding point of view), is to realize that EVERYTHING THEY KNOW IS WRONG.
So discard all previous ideas re HTML and just start from scratch. Go
through the XHTML 1.0 and HTML 4.01 standards and make a list of the
elements and what they do, thinking structure. Then think structure some
more and build the page. Avoid any element or attribute that says
"Deprecated."

Now look through the CSS standard and see what's possible (testing in
assorted CSS-enabled browsers). If it can't be done, try something else.
Don't return to the bad old ways of presentational HTML!

If you approach it with a clear mind and without all the hacks and
workarounds currently stored in most developers' heads, it is much easier.

So "just say no to <b>, <i>, and <u> (not to mention <font>)!" It's not
about the difference between B and STRONG or I and EM, nor is it "tag
trivia." It's about the fundamental concept of HTML and CSS and what they
are supposed to do. It's about using the hammer as a hammer and the wrench
as a wrench, and not pounding the nail with the wrench. High concept, in
other words. And, in my opinion, together with an inside-out rather than
outside-in approach to page design, it is the secret to accessible web site
design.

Viewed from a philosophical angle, there is nothing trivial about it at all.
In fact, it's quite profound (as in "marked by intellectual depth") and
radical (as in "returning to the root").

So could those in the "it's nitpicky" camp at least acknowledge that I, for
one, am NOT talking about tag trivia, but about the fundamental philosophy
behind page design? Encouraging or condoning the use of presentational HTML
is a giant step BACKWARD. And this is not some crazy idea I thought up, READ
THE SPECIFICATION. Why did its authors go to all the trouble to deprecate
virtually ALL the presentational HTML? Because they thought it would be fun
to see the look on the faces of all those web designers used to the old way?
For such a radical move, they must have thought it was pretty dang
important. I do, too.

We are not doing web designers any favor by saying "just keep using the same
crappy old code, with a few minor adjustments." We should be saying "LOOK!!
SVG, SMIL, XML, XSL, XLINK, RDF, P3P, ETC.! START ADAPTING NOW OR YOU'LL BE
CAUGHT WITH YOUR PANTS DOWN WHEN THE YOU-KNOW-WHAT REALLY HITS THE FAN VERY
SOON."

(Of course, I'm not referring to the users of WYSIWYG authoring tools, who
aren't really web developers... more web "posters.")

Charles F. Munat,
Seattle, Washington
Received on Thursday, 18 January 2001 22:36:28 GMT

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