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RE: Rethinking the necessities of ARIA landmark role "main" and HTML5 <main> element

From: Michael Gower <michael.gower@ca.ibm.com>
Date: Thu, 4 Apr 2013 09:42:29 -0700
To: "Ian Sharpe" <themanxsharpy@gmail.com>
Cc: "'Ian Hickson'" <ian@hixie.ch>, "'John Foliot'" <john@foliot.ca>, "'Steve Green'" <steve.green@testpartners.co.uk>, "'Léonie Watson'" <tink@tink.co.uk>, w3c-wai-ig@w3.org
Message-ID: <OF75780B0E.A52F117D-ON88257B43.0058C9D8-88257B43.005BC859@ca.ibm.com>
"In short, I currently can't see how any existing techniques or technology
can be applied to provide what I believe is a perfectly reasonable user
experience for somebody using a screen reader to read a blog post with or
without a "main" element."

Ian, could you please provide a sample blog that we could refer to? Rather 
than commenting on an abstract blog, it would be much easier to have a 
real example around which we can create discussion.

That said, I have a few comments about this thread. I think there is an 
unfortunate link made between "interesting" content and content designated 
as "main". The two things are not synonymous. One is a meta designator of 
the role of content, the other is a comment on the merit of the actual 
content. I can think an article is boring or of little value, but still 
agree it is the main content on a given page.

While it can be risky to try to apply past knowledge to a new medium, I 
think a lot can be learned by thinking of web content from the context of 
an analog source, such as a newspaper. On the front page of a newspaper, 
there is a great deal of information. Every bit of it has a role (and 
historically designated name), be it a cutline, byline, banner, callout, 
slug, etc. These terms serve a useful purpose for anyone working on the 
paper, to help them discuss meta content (e.g., what will be the lead 
story?) Even if readers don't know the names of these pieces of 
information, each person has consumed newspapers enough to have a 
conscious or subconscious understanding of their purposes, and each person 
will have their own 'tactics' for consuming the newspaper, whether it is 
scanning the headlines, looking at the table of contents, or skipping to 
the editorial on page 4.

Likewise, proper consistent designation of content on a web page allows 
users to interact with that content in a manner that is more beneficial 
for them. That is why I think that the main and other elements are going 
to become increasingly crucial to content creators. They allow for a level 
of content abstraction which allows for malleable presentation (on 
different devices) and manipulation by the end user.

As accessibility matures, and becomes a consideration for designers and 
information architects as much as for developers, the means to abstract 
content with appropriate element designations is going to become more 
valuable and better adopted. In fact, even if they offered no other 
advantage (and I think they offer many)  the generic landmark terms from 
ARIA (and their HTML 5 equivalents) offer a shared vocabulary which can be 
easily understood by anyone involved in web development. "Main" content in 
this context is an easy concept for people to understand, just as lead 
story is an easy concept in the newspaper world.

Michael Gower
i b m  i n t e r a c t i v e

Received on Thursday, 4 April 2013 16:43:04 UTC

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