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Re: "tool tip" - alternate use of ALT

From: Al Gilman <asgilman@access.digex.net>
Date: Sun, 19 Oct 1997 13:32:51 -0400 (EDT)
Message-Id: <199710191732.NAA21335@access2.digex.net>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
to follow up on what jaap van lelieveld said:

[Concerning GUI browsers using ALT text in tool tips.]

> - The argument ALT text can so serve to targets does not work 
>   since designers will ONLY serve and follow their main group of
>   potential users and use local guidelines for the contents
>   of the text in the ALT-attribute.
> What is your opinion on this as far as both HTML 3.2 and HTML 4.0 are
> concerned?

I think that what the GUI users would expect to read in a tool
tip is something we don't know.  We should understand it better
before we assume it is different from the information we need;
Or assume it is the same, for that matter.

There are a variety of ways that the HTML can provide text
content for a tool tip: ALT on images, TITLE on anchors,
onmouseover scripts on almost anything.

We should not assume that the demands for information from the
GUI-using browsing public will be different from the demands of
the eyes-free browsing public.  We should first try to do some
market research on the visual-presentation information fields
like this tool tip.  Find out what the browsing person that is
looking at a GUI screen would want in that space.  If it fits our
need, we should use that information in the eyes-free context,

We should not ask for fields dedicated to eyes-free consumers
unless we have exhausted our possibilities for sharing
information with the majority.

I am hopeful that the information the eyes-free browsing
individual needs is information that the eyes-first browsing
individual will want at certain times.  This is content that is
presented to the eyes-free customer all the time and to the
eyes-first customer part of the time.  If we can express our
needs in terms of information topics that the GUI user wants, at
least sometimes, and associate HTML text spaces (elements and
attributes) with those topics, we have maximized our "universal
design" quality rating.  And we will get the information the
eyes-free need in more HTML pages than if we define the
categories or topics to be filled in in some other way.

There is an unresolved area that the markup guidelines and
browser guidelines working groups need to team up on.  This has
to do with what goes in ALT as we have richer options in terms of
other attributes with related uses.  We need a migration plan by
which we can get from

A: the situation now when information demands are fighting over
the space in the ALT string because that is all that gets
consistently displayed by browsers, to

B: a better future situation where the breadth of attributes
including not only ALT on images but also TITLE on links etc. are
displayed enough by browsers so that authors use them in
discriminating ways and the eyes-free browse presentation has the
information it needs in a syntactic place it can count on.

We aren't at B yet.  It takes sending compatible messages to the
browsers writers and page writers to get there.  I think that
with 4.0, including the attribute additions that the HC team
recommends, HTML gives us enough information buckets to fill.

We still need a better story as to what information goes in what
buckets so that browsers can pull the right information at the
right times.  There is time to publish this story in the Markup
Guidelines and Browser Guidelines.  We don't have to have the
answer all worked out by Wednesday.  But we do need to recognize
that there is work remaining to be done to get our story

-- Al Gilman
Received on Sunday, 19 October 1997 13:33:09 UTC

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