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RE: Simplicity of Authoring and Accessibility Tools

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Thu, 18 Jan 2001 22:50:33 -0500 (EST)
To: "Charles F. Munat" <chas@munat.com>
cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.30.0101182240580.20869-100000@tux.w3.org>
Hi Charles,

you could have a look at some of the documentation for Amaya - it is intended
to provide more or less what you are talking about, without talking about
pointy brackets. (I am not sure if it talks about the HEAD section either -
maybe I should work on that, or you could provide something since you have
been given a leg-up on the rest <grin/>.

The stuff I am thinking about is the User documentation section starting at
http://www.w3.org/Amaya/User/HTML-elements/infoTypes - also available from
teh contents section of the Amya Help page (it is at the end of that). Note
that it needs work. But it was designed to exaplin how to create a document
in Amaya that was good HTML, without asking the author to actually elarn
HTML, just teh proper use of the tool.

I agree with you that we should not be encouraging peopole to avoid learning
stuff, but we should recognise taht there are a lot of people out there who
won't read even the basic instruction page. So for getting a personal site on
the Web, it is a question  of making sure tools for beginners guide them to
do the right thing. And for professional sites, it is a question of hiring
professionals who actually know what they are doing. Unfortunately this is
not always easy - most people commissioning content don't know what they
should be looking for that distinguishes a design firm who really are good
from one that looks goood. And it is not easy to chagne that.

Cheers

Charles

On Thu, 18 Jan 2001, Charles F. Munat wrote:

  Kynn wrote:

  "So, what's needed is an accessibility tool with no more knowledge
  necessary than that required to use Front Page or any other WYSIWYG
  tool for beginners."

  Charles replies:

  Yes, but since one doesn't yet exist, what's needed is for those who
  assemble web pages to read the instruction manual. The instruction manual is
  HTML, and it's a lot easier than programming your VCR. But just as most
  people won't read the instruction manual before they start to assemble their
  new ACME rocket-powered scooter, they won't learn HTML.

  But why on earth would we be condoning this? Why would you pat someone on
  the back for being too lazy to do even the smallest bit of preparation
  before setting up a web page? Why do we continue to act as if putting
  together a web page is as simple as using a photocopy machine?

  I honestly believe that the average person could learn basic HTML and CSS,
  enough for the vast majority of tasks on the web, in the *same* amount of
  time as it takes to learn how to use FrontPage. Funny how we have the time
  to learn the software, but not to learn this VERY SIMPLE MARKUP - NOT
  PROGRAMMING - LANGUAGE.

  Look:

  You have a box. It's called HTML. In it you have two smaller boxes. One is
  called HEAD, the other is called BODY. In the head you put the knowledge
  about the page (it's the brain of the page): this is called metadata. So in
  this box you have some file folders. One is TITLE. Another is META, which is
  an all-purpose folder. You also have LINK, SCRIPT, and STYLE, which are just
  places to hold related stuff like scripts or stylesheets.

  In the BODY you have your document. It has headers and subheaders. We put
  these in folders called H1 for the biggest header and H2, H3, and so on for
  the smaller subheads. Then we take the paragraphs and put them in P folders.
  And we arrange them in the same order that they would normally appear on the
  page.

  We can also make lists (if they're numbered we call them OL, if they're
  bulleted we call them UL), and we put each List Item in an envelope called
  LI. Or we can set up a data TABLE, which is just a chest of drawers (another
  sort of box, but with rows of drawers). Each row is a TR and it contains a
  bunch of drawers called TDs.

  If we really want to get detailed, we can go into the P folders and clip out
  words or phrases that have special meaning to us and put them in little
  envelopes. We call these envelopes EM if those words are kind of special,
  and STRONG if they really mean a lot to us. If we want to make them point to
  other pages, we put them in A envelopes (which stands for anchor, but could
  just as easily mean Arrow).

  Now, in FOUR LOUSY PARAGRAPHS I've covered the most significant aspects of
  HTML. Give me two pages and I'll explain attributes, throw in forms and even
  some lesser used items like definition lists.

  So let's get real here. Which is easier: learning basic HTML and CSS or
  learning how to use FrontPage? I think it's a pretty close call.

  Yes, some people will resist. Some will insist that they just can't figure
  HTML out. They fear it. But people fear learning new applications, too. My
  mother refuses to learn Word because it's just too much trouble. I myself
  have never really bothered to learn Excel. But that doesn't mean we should
  be ENCOURAGING this behavior.

  I think we should say clearly: Well, you can use FrontPage, but it will
  cause problems with accessibility, so you'll need to learn a little HTML to
  correct them. But if you're going to do that, why not just skip learning
  FrontPage and just learn the HTML? It's not difficult.

  Of course it would help if there was a simple HTML tutorial (I mean SIMPLE)
  that didn't teach all sorts of bad coding practices and proprietary or
  deprecated code. Until we get the ideal authoring tool (IF we get it),
  perhaps we should be putting together such a site. One that doesn't even
  mention all the tricks and workarounds, but starts with the structure of the
  document, keeps it as simple as possible, and then explains how to use
  simple CSS to add formatting (with specific caveats related to browser
  incompatibilities).

  In fact, I'm so tired of arguing this topic on this list that I'm going to
  do something truly insane: I'm going to just shut up and build such a site.
  Put my web pages where my mouth is, so to speak. It won't be anything fancy,
  but I'll detail the basics of HTML and CSS. Then maybe others on this list
  will be so kind as to provide feedback and suggestions. Give me a couple of
  weeks to a month. I'll post a URI when I get a draft in place.

  Charles F. Munat
  Seattle, Washington


-- 
Charles McCathieNevile    mailto:charles@w3.org    phone: +61 (0) 409 134 136
W3C Web Accessibility Initiative                      http://www.w3.org/WAI
Location: I-cubed, 110 Victoria Street, Carlton VIC 3053, Australia
until 6 January 2001 at:
W3C INRIA, 2004 Route des Lucioles, BP 93, 06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Thursday, 18 January 2001 22:50:36 GMT

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