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Re: [RESEND] suggestion: modify <small> definition

From: Patrick H. Lauke <redux@splintered.co.uk>
Date: Tue, 21 May 2013 13:57:21 +0100
Message-ID: <519B6F31.5020703@splintered.co.uk>
To: HTMLWG WG <public-html@w3.org>
On 21/05/2013 13:34, Steve Faulkner wrote:
> I think the definition is trying to dissociate the two. Author intent =
> make appear less important by making smaller (less prominent). The
> definition attempts to rectify this by saying that despite it being
> smaller it is of no less (potential) importance to the user.

If the author's intent IS in fact to make it less important, then HTML 
should honour the author's intent. As I said before, author intent and 
audience intent may often differ, and HTML should heed the former.

Otherwise, if the spec explicitly said that <small> is of no less 
importance / doesn't de-emphasise the text, why would authors actually 
use it? Just to achieve smaller default rendering? Why not just use a 
span with font-size: 0.7em or something?

In short, I believe that the reason why authors (be it advertisers or 
similar) use <small> is the same reason they use small print in printed 
material, tv advertising, etc: to de-emphasise something, either because 
it's worded in a very non-sexy way (legalese that they are obliged to 
include, in a particular form, but that does not fit in with the style 
they're trying to convey), is too wordy (I'm reminded of the audio 
equivalent in radio advertising where they read out the small print very 
fast), or because they in fact want to deceive the unwary ("our payday 
loans have approx 500% APR equivalent interest"). As such, the language 
definition should reflect this intended use of de-emphasising. 
Otherwise, it seems unbalanced that visual users will have it visually 
de-emphasised while, say, screenreader users may not.

Will readers/users want to actually place importance on content marked 
as <small> ? Certainly, but the same way that visual users will have to 
pay attention to something that's visually smaller than the rest ("read 
the small print"), the same way non-visual users will have to explicitly 
go over something that's been nominally marked as "oh that? that's 
really nothing too important, move along".

Or, put another way: the ethics of using small print / <small> to 
actually mark up important stuff is a completely separate issue ... one 
which simply changing the definition in the spec won't solve, IMHO.

Patrick H. Lauke
re·dux (adj.): brought back; returned. used postpositively
[latin : re-, re- + dux, leader; see duke.]

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Received on Tuesday, 21 May 2013 12:57:51 UTC

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