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Re: Rewording the Design Principles: Pave the Cowpaths and Don't Reinvent the Wheel

From: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Date: Tue, 14 Aug 2007 15:30:02 +1000
Message-ID: <46C13DDA.3020903@lachy.id.au>
To: joshue.oconnor@cfit.ie
CC: public-html <public-html@w3.org>

Joshue O Connor wrote:
> Lachlan Hunt wrote:
>> Don't Reinvent the Wheel
>>   Evaluate the success and failure of existing solutions. For those
>>   that have proven reasonably successful in terms of benefits, usage
>>   and implementation, consider adopting, retaining and/or improving
>>   upon them in preference to dismissing and inventing new features.
> @summary, headers/id, @alt. They work, keep 'em (while rolling in
> improvements of course).

The benefits, usage and implementation support of the alt attribute is 
well known, so it is already included and there is no intention of 
removing it.  However, the benefits, usage and implementation of the 
summary, headers and longdesc attributes are not as well known or 
documented, which is why more research is/was needed for them.

I think it's just a matter of different starting assumptions.  Some 
people simply assume by default that features like headers, summary and 
longdesc have practical benefits and then argue that they should be 
included by default based on that assumption.  The better approach is to 
assume as little as possible, question any assumptions or assertions 
that people make, document the benefits, usage and implementation 
support of the features and reach conclusions based on that evidence.

(On a related note, I think the research that Ben Millard has done for 
table headers recently, providing lots of real world examples and 
analysis, is awesome!  That is the kind of contribution I'd like to see 
from others, particularly on issues like alternative content for 
multimedia, longdesc, summary, etc.)

>> Pave the Cowpaths
>>   Investigate existing practices and design or adopt features that
>>   meet the desires of authors.  
> While yes it is important to meet the needs of authors, it is more
> important that authors output code that meets the needs of users.

Yes, but that particular issue is covered by other design principles.  I 
think it's important to keep within the scope of each individual 
principle and I don't think we should try to address the needs of users 
directly within a principle about investigating authoring practices. 
However, users do benefit from this principle indirectly because the 
things that authors try to do are often influenced by the needs and 
desires of their users.

> BTW - Following a bunch of cows where they will is a recipe for
> disaster, even if they can build websites.

Following the exact path taken by cows probably will lead to disaster, 
but that's not what this principle is about.  The correct analogy is to 
look at where they're trying to get - probably a greener field in this 
case - and find an appropriate solution that helps them get there.  For 
example, if we observe them trying to cross a creek and sometimes they 
get stuck, a good solution would probably be to build a bridge over it.

Lachlan Hunt
Received on Tuesday, 14 August 2007 05:31:12 UTC

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