W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-qa@w3.org > August 2006

Re: feedback - http://www.w3.org/QA/ styling - gray text

From: Daniel Barclay <daniel@fgm.com>
Date: Fri, 18 Aug 2006 12:24:59 -0400
Message-ID: <44E5E9DB.2040304@fgm.com>
To: olivier Thereaux <ot@w3.org>
CC: www-qa@w3.org

olivier Thereaux wrote:
> Hello Daniel,
> On Aug 16, 2006, at 23:34 , Daniel Barclay wrote:

>> I guess my concern is amplified because I have been encountering many
>> W3C QA web pages with bad designs and usability problems
> Feel free to suggest fixes, I'm sure they will be welcome, more so than 
> complaints ;)
>> (e.g.,
>> fixed-positioned menus that hide content
> These are not in the more recent page design of our pages, and the older 
> ones are being "refreshed" whenever we have a chance.

Ah, excellent!

>>  uses of "overflow: auto" that force the user to
>> scroll horizontaly much more than otherwise necessary
> I find it a reasonable tradeoff, especially since most of the text which 
> is in <pre> with overflow:auto is there to be copy-pasted rather than 
> read, and in such a context I think overflow:auto makes sense.

Regarding its being a tradeoff, what advantages do you see (that
balance against the disadvantages)?

Consider the case where the page layout consists of one column of text,
or where there is one main column of text with nothing to its right.

(That is a relatively common case, especially for the W3C, whose
designers are usually good about not putting too many columns on a

The main disadvanges I see (some mentioned before) are:

- If there are multiple blocks with "overflow: auto", the user has
   to move the pointer to a box's scrollbar and then scroll once for
   _each_ block, instead of simply moving (once) to the window's
   scrollbar and scrolling everything all at once.

   (For an example, see the page at
   http://www.w3.org/QA/2002/04/valid-dtd-list.html.  To see the
   problem, use a browser window narrow enough to trigger the blocks'
   scrollbars to appear, and scroll down to about the vertical middle
   of the page.)

- If a given block has "overflow: auto", then if that block is indented
   or has anything to the left of it (e.g., a navigation column, a
   floated block), then the user has only the width of the containing
   block available for displaying the given block's content, instead of
   having the entire width of the browser window in which to scroll the

   (The above page illustrates that problem too.)

- If a given block has "overflow: auto", then if bottom of the block
   is not visible in the browser window's viewport, the user has to
   scroll down in the browser window just to get to the block's
   horizontal scrollbar to scroll it to the right.  In contrast, the
   browser window's horizontal scrollbar is always visible when it
   exists; the user doesn't have to scroll vertically first to get
   to the horizontal scrollbar.

   (I have seen pages with a scrollable block whose height was greater
   than even a fairly tall browser window.  Just to see the end of the
   first line of the block's content, the user had to scroll down in the
   page to get to the block's scrollbar, scroll right in the block to
   see the right side of the block (at the bottom, initially), and then
   scroll back up in the page to see the _top_ of the block.)

I do see that being able to scroll the contents of a wide block into
view without scrolling adjacent blocks out of the browser window
would be an advantage (of using "overflow:auto"), but it seems quite
small compared to the disadvantages.

Are there significant advantages in the single- or rightmost-column
case I specified, or do any advantages apply only in more complex

(You know, our argument about which choice is better really indicates
that browsers should provide a way for users to choose what they
want (right at the time they're reading a page) so page designers
don't have to try to guess what each user will consider an advantage
or a disadvantage.)

>> My concern is that the W3C QA group is increasingly presenting bad
>> design examples on their web pages
> I'd appreciate if you could justify your usage of "increasingly". Maybe 
> *you* are finding an increasing number of things that annoy you, ...

Yes, that would be more accurate.  And clearly part of it is because
I have been encountering and reading QA group pages more frequently now
than I had been before.

 > ... but I
> think the design and usability of the QA web pages has been improving 
> over the years. 

If it has been, then that's great.

Received on Friday, 18 August 2006 16:25:35 UTC

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