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Re: The benefits of footnotes in webpages

From: Jesper Tverskov <jesper@tverskov.dk>
Date: Tue, 29 Aug 2006 10:08:37 +0200
To: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <000701c6cb42$54d01180$1743d458@bravo>

David Woolley is telling us:

"... quite a lot of thought has gone into footnotes in Wikipedia ... so some
one actively researching this should look at the techniques used there."

I have studied the way Wikipedia has implemented footnotes, and it is mostly
extremely wrong.

Take a look at two Wikipedia articles:
Footnote, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Footnotes
OpenDocument, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenDocument

1) For the footnote reference they use the sup element, include the brackets
in the link text, and a smaller font-size is used. Nice, that is exactly
what I am also doing.

2) The use of the sub element has not been fine tuned. In IE6, IE7, Firefox
and Opera, there is added ugly extra space to the line above the footnote
index number.

3) The ids of the footnotes are named for machines only not in a way that
could also be useful for humans. That is for footnote 1 the id is "0" not
"1", etc. Also the ids use technical "underscores" instead of hyphens. The
full id for footnote 1 looks like this: "_note-0". This is much better:
"footnote-1". And the full id for the footnote 1 reference looks like this:
"_ref-0". This is much better: "footnote-1-referrer".

4) The footnote reference and in the footnote section the links make use of
meaningless title attributes: title="".

5) The footnote section has a misleading h2 header: "References". It is
better to call it: "Footnotes".

6) The footnote section is made as an ordered list. This is bad since we can
not use the index numbers to link back to the referring footnote. Is is
better to use a definition list as I do.

7) In the footnote section all the links have the same stupid link text:

8) In the second Wikipedia article I mention above two footnote systems are
used in the same page. Superscript for footnotes at the end of the page and
"[3]" (the text mode way) together with an arrow symbol for external links.
The last type of footnotes takes you to another page and at the same time we
also have an "external links" section at the end of the document. Using
"external" footnotes just being ordinary external links is in my opinion so
far out that it is all bad. Too use "[3]" notation for such external
"footnotes" I find extremely confusing.

9) The footnote references also differ from instance to instance in where
the footnote reference is placed. Sometimes right after a word, a sentence
or paragraph, sometimes we have a space in between. It is not done in a
logical or consistent way.

10) In the "footnote" article of Wikipedia, I also find it incredible that
year and date even for a resource in a footnote, link to articles about the
year and date. Not what most users would expect. 

Best regards,

Jesper Tverskov
Received on Tuesday, 29 August 2006 08:09:13 UTC

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