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Re: Are there W3C definitions of presentation and content?

From: Bert Bos <bert@w3.org>
Date: Sat, 17 Sep 2005 01:39:35 +0200
To: Jonathan Chetwynd <j.chetwynd@btinternet.com>
Cc: www-style@w3.org
Message-ID: <20050916233935.GA12135@mygale.sophia.w3.org>

On Fri, Sep 16, 2005 at 09:47:09PM +0100, Jonathan Chetwynd wrote:
> 
> "presentation expresses or communicates through convention the  
> relationship between words."
> When anchor links become active the relationship of their  
> constituents is expressed, and might for this reason be considered a  
> 'style'. What reason is there for considering href part of the content?
> 
> Where are the W3 definitions of presentation and content?
> if we are to specify separation of content and presentation as  
> axiomatic it might be as well to define their meaning.

Here is a definition:
http://www.w3.org/2003/glossary/keyword/All/?keywords=document%20content%2C%20structure%2C%20and%20presentation

which comes from WCAG: http://www.w3.org/TR/WAI-WEBCONTENT/#content-structure


There is no sharp distinction between content and presentation, it's a
continuum (just like "light" and "dark"). But in a given context you
can usually distinguish them. The easier it is to change a certain
aspect of a document without impacting the meaning (or the effect of
the document has on a reader), the more that aspect is presentational. 
In the opposite case the aspect is part of the content.

E.g., if you write a book to explain a certain viewpoint, then the
essential part, the content, is that viewpoint. The actual words you
used are already less essential. They can be changed, but it requires
considerable effort. You have to understand the text well in order to
rephrase it. So we usually consider the text to be part of the
content, too. The typography, on the other hand, is easier to change. 
You can ask somebody to turn the book into a paperback and that
somebody only needs a superficial understanding of the subject matter. 
Even easier is to just scale every page up or down a bit. Clearly, the
actual size of the pages (within reason) is presentational.

Now imagine that the writer of that book is Galileo Galilei and the
book is the very first edition of his Dialogo. Imagine you are tasked
with making an electronic copy of it. Now, every spelling error, every
page break, and even the paper the book is printed on is important. In
this case, the presentation is very much part of the content.


For me, separation of content and presentation isn't an axiom. It is
one of the possible ways to achieve the real goal of the Web: easy
access to information (and to communication). In other words,
separation of style and structure (or presentation and content, but
that doesn't alliterate :-) ) simply turns out to be a useful method
in many cases.

(I've written on that elsewhere before:
http://www.w3.org/People/Bos/DesignGuide/introduction )



Bert
-- 
  Bert Bos                                ( W 3 C ) http://www.w3.org/
  http://www.w3.org/people/bos                               W3C/ERCIM
  bert@w3.org                             2004 Rt des Lucioles / BP 93
  +33 (0)4 92 38 76 92            06902 Sophia Antipolis Cedex, France
Received on Friday, 16 September 2005 23:39:39 GMT

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