W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-html@w3.org > August 2009

Re: <header> / <footer> & ARIA

From: Jeremy Keith <jeremy@adactio.com>
Date: Sat, 29 Aug 2009 13:43:16 +0100
Cc: Henri Sivonen <hsivonen@iki.fi>, HTML WG <public-html@w3.org>, W3C WAI-XTECH <wai-xtech@w3.org>
Message-Id: <92325646-69AB-4DB4-9F93-751C14F67F28@adactio.com>
To: Lachlan Hunt <lachlan.hunt@lachy.id.au>
Lachy wrote:
> I'm not so keen on using the name <main>, and would prefer we used  
> <content>.  <main> seems like it could only be used once per  
> document, but if we introduce an element for this purpose, it should  
> be able to be used within multiple sections of a page, just like  
> header and footer can be.

But Lachlan, the spec has already gone down the road of repurposing  
global-sounding names with <header> and <footer>.

The overwhelming usage of the words "header" and "footer" in class  
names is once per document. Most web developers that I've spoken to  
expressed surprise that the <header> and <footer> elements in HTML5  
could be used more than once. That's because the terms "header" and  
"footer" *sound like* content that appears once per document.

Note that I'm not saying that having multiple <header>s and <footer>s  
in a document is wrong, I'm just saying that it is counter-intuitive  
to most web developers and doesn't match the majority usage of those  

So if you have an objection to naming an element <main> because it  
*sounds like* it can only be used once per document, that same  
objection would have to apply to <header> and <footer>  they *sound  
like* like they can only be used once per document.

In short, I think the word "main" is as good as "header" and "footer"  
and I'd be favour of naming a new element <main> to match the aria  

But you do raise a good point about the names of elements not matching  
what most people use the corresponding words to mean. In my opinion,  
the content model of <footer> (which is far more restrictive than  
<header) is *extremely* counter-intuitive and is going to cause a lot  
of confusion amongst web developers using the <footer> element for the  
content at the bottom of their pages that they commonly refer to (and  
have referred to for years) as "the footer".


1) The name of the element <footer> needs to changed to something more  
suitable (like <contentinfo> which would match the ARIA role)


2) The content model of <footer> needs to be expanded to match that of  

Jeremy Keith

a d a c t i o

Received on Saturday, 29 August 2009 12:44:02 UTC

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