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Re: AlertBox: The death of single-design pages?

From: Charles McCathieNevile <charles@w3.org>
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 1999 13:59:31 -0400 (EDT)
To: Al Gilman <asgilman@iamdigex.net>
cc: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <Pine.LNX.4.10.9906141325410.14809-100000@tux.w3.org>
just some thoughts...

I suspect that the single-design page will be with us for some time to come.
The value of it is that it is cheaper to only do the job once. But what we do
in that single design page will change somewhat.

I think it is true that different users have different needs. At the moment
there is some very crude technology for tryng to cater to them. At the best
practise level, users can decide what types of content (html, gif, png,
movies, etc) they wish to use. They can also decide on which languages, in
order of preference, they want.

This is fairly coarse grained.

At the other end of the scale, there are people sniffing for different
browsers, and attempting to serve content which is appropriate to those
browsers. Unfortunately there are now a large number of browsers in use, and
most sites decide to support one or two, and exclude everyone else. Also,
making assumptions about what a user can do based on the browser they are
using often leads to inaccurate assumptions.

The use of websites which are generated by a database, where various types of
equivalent content can be kept together, enables the generation of pages
based on user requests, with a low design overhead. (Low in comparison to the
overhead for careful design of a completely manually generated site. Design
of a large website requires careful thought if it is to be done well.) 

Hopefully emergent technologies such as CC/PP will further improve the
picture, providing a reliable means of knowing what type of content suits the
user. The needs for this are similar in the areas of mobile access and in

Another helpful approach is the use of metadata. This is already possible -
PICS has been used for several years to provide information about a site's
content. The primary use of it has been to identify the cultural
appropriateness of a site according to some very "mainstream" values, but it
can also be used to find out about the accessibility of a site, or the
educational value, or even the reading level required to access a site.

So I think the change will be that website design, and webpage layout, will
no longer be seen as the same thing. The careful design of a website, making
use of the full possibilities of the web, and ensuring continued support of
such mundane and useful features as handy textual equivalents for images,
will lead to better accessibility for more people.


Charles McCN
Received on Monday, 14 June 1999 13:59:33 UTC

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