Separation of semantics and styling

Amaya 8.8.4, Windows 98 SE

It is my understanding that one of the basic philosophical beliefs of W3C is
that HTML should represent the semantics of a document, with CSS
representing presentational characteristics overlayed on those semantics.  I
believe this is intended to maximize the accessibility of the HTML document,
regardless of presentation device.

Most of Amaya seems to honor this separation, BUT

On the toolbar of the Formatted view are three icons, each represented by a
single letter:
E - which will insert <em> tags around the selection.
S - which will insert <strong> tags around the selection.  The HTML spec
defines this as meaning 'stronger emphasis'.
C - which will insert <code> tags around the selection.  The HTML spec
defines this as meaning "a fragment of computer code".

So far, so good.  These are all semantic constructs.

But the icons for these three functions are STYLED, thus:
E - Italic
S - Boldfaced
C - Monospaced (though it's hard to be sure with only one character...)
    Moreover, the tooltip that appears when you hover over the "C" says
"Fixed font", clearly a styling characteristic.

These are, indeed, the default stylings provided by many browsers.

Using these stylings, however, encourages the user to link them in his or
her mind to the semantics, just the opposite of the stated W3C philosophy.

My preferred styling for <em> is (usually) text-decoration: underline, and
with no italics.  As soon as I've placed that into my style sheet, the icons
no longer represent what will happen when I apply the 'E' icon to a string.
[Yes, I verified that the icon does NOT change (no surprise) when such a
style sheet is loaded.]

Suggested change:

1. Remove all styling from these three icons.  Let the tooltips resolve any
2. Change the tooltip for the "C" icon from "Fixed font" to "Code".

I'm REALLY reluctant to bring up such a seemingly insignificant point, but I
have spent hours trying to explain to new (and some not-so-new) web site
developers that the semantic / styling distinction exists and why.  A tool
produced under W3C auspices that skirts that distinction will make this all
the harder.

P.S. I do not include the Hn icons in this discussion, though perhaps I
should.  I'm less concerned about them because:
  - They show in full the tags that will be inserted.
  - They gradually reduce in size, which could be inferred as a semantic
reduction in importance rather than simply a stylistic rule.

Chris Beall

Received on Friday, 10 February 2006 23:38:23 UTC