Re[2]: Structure vs. appearance in HTML

I think that if you want to get user support for anything, you're going to find 
that the version which meets the user's needs the best is the one which is going
to get the user's support.  User's needs aren't limited to the capabilities of a
system, though.  User's needs also include ease of understanding, ease of use, 
and a whole lot of other, less tangible qualities.

Your example actually speaks to this issue:

>Case in point.  Try explaining to an end user who knows nothing about
>standards and could really care less that:
  ><a rel=EMBED href=...></a>

>is better than:

  ><embed src=...></embed>

>They will not agree with you, because to them the latter is better!  So,
>in order for us to work users towards wanting the actual
>standards--rather than personal browser standards--we will have to
>convince them that using TrueHTML is the better thing, which means it
>_has to be better_.

If it's easier for the user to understand, remember, and use the <embed> tagging
than it is to remember which of the many versions of the <a> tag to use, then 
the <embed> tag is a better design.

I think that it's time to take a step back and really take a good look at who 
the intended users (target audience) are for HTML.  After all, the needs and 
capabilities of the intended users are the things which should drive all aspects
of the design process for HTML.

My personal preference (especially if we want to gather grass-roots support for 
the standard) is that the primary target-audience should be relative neophytes 
in computing and document markup.  I don't think this group should need to know 
any more about standards than that this standard lets documents work for a 
larger number of systems.  I do also recognize that there may be a need for a 
secondary, more highly-skilled target-audience, but let's face it, there's a lot
more people out there who are less-skilled than there are people who are 


For the sake of this discussion, let's assume that the target audience I've just
defined (and poorly I might add!) is the official target audience for the 
standard.  Now that we've got a target audience defined, we can use that as a 
basis for discussion of the relative value of designs.

I've been designing document and data markup for publishers for several years 
now. One of the most consistent trends I've seen is that it's easier for humans 
(and no harder for machines) to use markup which has meaning in and of itself.  
In other words, users find it easier to mark-up and troubleshoot documents when 
the markup is easier for them to read.  A good example where HTML fails in this 
regard is the anchor tag.  Rather that use a tag like <ANCHOR> which has more 
obvious meaning and which is much easier to connect with documentation, HTML 
saves a few bytes and uses the much more cryptic <A> tag.  This trades a lot of 
usability in order to save a couple of bytes of space, or a couple of keystrokes
typing. I really don't think it's a good trade.

Well, I don't intend to fill this message with all my personal criticisms of 
HTML -- they'll come later!  This is just one example to help illustrate the 
need to carefully define and prioritize the target audiences for HTML.  I think 
it also illustrates the need to those audiences and their capabilities and needs
firmly in mind throughout the process of designing and developing the HTML 

Once more from the soap-box.

Anthony Lung

Received on Friday, 22 September 1995 16:20:38 UTC