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Re: Separation of semantics and styling

From: Irene Vatton <Irene.Vatton@inrialpes.fr>
Date: Mon, 13 Feb 2006 17:13:20 +0100
To: "Chris Beall" <Chris_Beall@prodigy.net>
Cc: "Amaya users" <www-amaya@w3.org>
Message-Id: <200602131713.20817.vatton@inrialpes.fr>

On Saturday 11 February 2006 00:35, Chris Beall wrote:
> 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 icons no longer represent what will happen when I apply the 'E' icon to a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.]

You can also change the rendering of lists with CSS.
The goal is to represent the default HTML semantic even if it's alterated by 
CSS rules.
> Suggested change:
> 1. Remove all styling from these three icons.  Let the tooltips resolve any
> ambiguity.

> 2. Change the tooltip for the "C" icon from "Fixed font" to "Code".

I agree with this.

> 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

Irène Vatton                     INRIA Rhône-Alpes
INRIA                               ZIRST
e-mail: Irene.Vatton@inria.fr       655 avenue de l'Europe
Tel.: +33 4 76 61 53 61             Montbonnot
Fax:  +33 4 76 61 52 07             38334 Saint Ismier Cedex - France
Received on Monday, 13 February 2006 16:15:03 UTC

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