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Re: links as buttons and buttons as links

From: Phill Jenkins <pjenkins@us.ibm.com>
Date: Mon, 11 Jul 2016 19:58:04 -0500
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-Id: <OF390FF2BE.ED4B0E1A-ON86257FEE.000003B3-86257FEE.0005514E@notes.na.collabserv.com>
hmm, 3.2.4 Consistent Identification Level AA Components that have the 
same functionality within a set of Web pages are identified consistently.

so, in my opinion it depends on your interpratation of the term "same 
functionality" and the term "identified consistently". 

I note that in WCAG 2.0, the Glossary definitions are normative.  See the 
definition of the first term "same functionality" in question below:

same functionality 
same result when used 
Example: A submit "search" button on one Web page and a "find" button on 
another Web page may both have a field to enter a term and list topics in 
the Web site related to the term submitted. In this case, they would have 
the same functionality but would not be labeled consistently. 

so note that the definition does not explicitly use the HTML element or 
WAI-ARIA Role in its definition of the term "same functionality".  The 
definition does use the term "labeled consistently" in place of the term 
"identified consistently", inferring to me that the term "identified" is 
at least referring to the label, and may or may not include the "role" of 
the HTML element.  HTML Elements and WAI-ARIA Roles, include "link (i.e. 
anchor)", button, etc. 

However, In my opinion, a button and a link can often have the same 
result, but shouldn't.  And, in my opinion, if a user is using an AT 
(screen reader, magnifier, voice command, etc.) to navigate by button, and 
misses all the links, or vice-versa, is navigating by link, and misses all 
the buttons, then perhaps it is an AT problem to fix, or at least give the 
end user the choice to include both. What is the real difference anyway if 
both elements have the same results?

Having said that, there is general UX guidance out there and I agree with 
most of it that explains when to use a button vs when to use a link:

        When to Use a Button or Link - UX Movement
        Aug 9, 2010 - The button and link have co-existed on websites for 
a long time. ... in how you use links vs buttons so users get used to the 
difference (whether ...

        Proper Use of Buttons and Links | Web Axe
        Sep 7, 2014 - After years of arguing for proper use of form 
elements and link elements, others are finally doing the same. More 
recently, this includes the ...

        UX dilemmas - should we use a button or a link? | Blonde Digital
        Sep 21, 2015 - By Lauren Bowen, User Experience Designer. The 
question of whether to use a button or a link seems small. But what starts 
as a simple UX ...

        Design Decisions: Buttons vs Links. Fight!
        May 31, 2011 - There are pretty defined guidelines for when to use 
buttons and when to use links and these are often not followed. The 
relatively recent ... 
The main point is, please do the basics. When designing a website, ensure 
controls with button-type behavior (interaction, affects the current page) 
are designed and marked-up as buttons and regular text links (go to an 
external page, anchor on page, or external document) are marked-up and 
designed like text links (such as blue underlined text). 

In my opinion, the first two list items from Nicole's example have a 
similar if not button-type result, while the second two have similar 
link-like results, so I agree with the current use of the HTML elements:
        button (which opens a self-contained modal/dialogue window within 
the app) 
        link (which links outside the app to a web page)
and in my opinion, a design can mix buttons and links and plain text for 
that matter in an order or unorder list.  Menu items are not list items 
and are a different discussion. 

And, I recommend that the WCAG 2.0 editors add some notes and explanations 
to the techniques to further give examples of "consistently identified" 
that includes HTML Elements and/or WAI-ARIA roles. 
In summary, the WCAG guidance refers to labels, names, and text 
alternatives as needing to be consistent (not identical) for the same 
results, but does not explicitly refer to HTML elements and roles as 
having the same result (or same functionality).  So the debate, design, 
and inconsistent implementation will continue on whether a button and a 
link can have the same (or different) result (or functionality). 

Better AT's and better authoring tools are our only help, Obi-won Kenobi!
Phill Jenkins, 
Senior Engineer & Business Development Executive
IBM Research - IBM Accessibility
Received on Tuesday, 12 July 2016 00:58:41 UTC

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