W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-validator@w3.org > June 2002

Re: persistent QA problems with the W3C Validator

From: Terje Bless <link@pobox.com>
Date: Fri, 7 Jun 2002 10:34:42 +0200
To: "Gregory J. Rosmaita" <oedipus@hicom.net>
cc: www-validator@w3.org
Message-ID: <r01050300-1015-A1478D0479F311D68AC500039300CF5C@[]>

Gregory J. Rosmaita <oedipus@hicom.net> wrote:

>In september 2001 [...] I requested that the following
>accessibility/useability features be implemented in the
>new W3C validator format
>1) add explicit LABELs to the FORM controls; also replicate the LABEL
>text using the "title" attribute ("alt" for SELECT) for each form
>control -- this will represent an enormous accessibility gain;

To the best of my recollection without actually checking the code in
question, this has been done for every HTML form control. After your
message in September last year, I solicited the help of a few individuals
who have some measure of experience with accessibility issues. Adding
"label" elements and "title" attributes should have been completed during
that period. If there are any remaining form controls without such markup I
will make the necessary repairs this weekend.

May I assume that the Accessibility provisions in the HTML 4.01
Recommendation and the parts dealing specifically with HTML form controls
in the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines are sufficient source material
for that task? If we factor out any mistakes on my part, of course. :-)

>2) add a "Results" link in the "Jump to" bar, that takes one directly to
>the results, so that i, and other speech-output users don't have to
>listen to the form in order to ascertain whether or not the page has any
>errors (especially useful for those of us who put auto-validation links
>on our pages);

The layout of the Validation Results page has changed yet again since your
last comments. During this process, the indication of validity, or lack of
it, was moved to the very beginning of the page. This was specifically to
address your concerns. It was later moved away from there due to feedback
indicating that it represented a usability problem for sighted users and
because the accessibility gains for speech-output users as a result of the
previous change were judged to be not very great.

I acknowledge that it was a mistake to regress on this issue without
consulting directly with you or another speech-output user.

If I could trouble you to review the current output of the Validator as
evidenced on <URL:http://validator.w3.org:8001/>, you could perhaps suggest
a less awkward position for the various main elements?

In particular, the page now consists of the following main elements:

  1. A title "bar", containing the logo graphic and the title.

  2. A navigation menu, containing links to other pages.

  3. The HTML table listing metadata about the page being validated
     and incorporating the form controls for redoing the Validation
     with altered options.

  4. A logical block (a HTML "div" element) containing a warning if
     the user has selected any options that affect the veracity of
     the result.

  5. A HTML sub-heading indicating the selected level of HTML and
     whether or not the page in question was successfully Validated
     as such.

The actual results then follow; intermixed with:

  6. A small navigation bar providing links to various subsections
     of the validation results (the list of error messages, the
     source input, the outline, etc.).

  7. A "Tip of the Day" for webmasters, displaying a random entry
    from QA Activity's list of "Quality Tips For Webmasters" from

By the way, if you can come up with any accessibility tips suitable for the
"Tip of the Day" format (described on the page), I'm sure the QA folks
would be more then happy to include them there (and by extension, in the

If you could suggest some appropriate venues for soliciting help with
improving the Accessibility of the Validator I'd appreciate it. I'm not in
a position to pay anywhere near normal rates for such consultancy -- I'm a
private individual with no access to any coffers the W3C may have for such
eventualities -- but I should be able to give proper credit for such
contributions on the web site, and I may be able to pay some symbolic fee
out of my own pocket.

>3) using an asterisk as hyperlink text is tantamount to using ASCII art
>as a hyperlink - at the VERY least, please add a "title" to the
>following link: <a href="#sp-lim">*</a> suggested title: <a
>href="#sp-lim" title="Caveat">*</a>

This link has been removed outright. The limitations listed are largely
immaterial and listing them so prominently gave the wrong impression about
their importance. There are many other issues with the Validator that
should have more prominent placement that are not even mentioned. This
neatly sidesteps the issue you brought up, but I have made a note of it and
will keep it in mind for the future.

>although these 3 requests were placed on the validator's "immediate
>to-do list", to date, absolutely NO action has been taken

That is not altogether accurate. All three have been acted on. Whether they
have been acted on to your satisfaction (or mine, for that matter) is a
different question. For whatever it is worth, I have kept all three issues
"open" and none of them will be considered done until I have feedback that
reasonably assures me that they have been dealt with to satisfaction.

>it is incumbent upon the W3C Validator, therefore, to comply to (at
>the very, VERY least) to level double-A of the Web Content
>Accessibility Guidelines [...], although i would prefer if W3C shot
>for the highest level of compliance, Triple-A [...].

I have said before that I would like to make the Validator not only
Accessible, but to actually improve it to such a point that it can serve as
an example of how one should build Accessible web sites. I do not think I
can ever achieve that goal, and I do not believe I will even approximate it
any time soon, but I do intent to try.

In particular, I have scheduled an Accessibility review to take place
before the next public release of the Validator. I will go through all the
pages comprising the Validator service and perform the trivial but time
consuming bits such as adding "title" attributes to links and attempting to
make sure link text makes sense in and out of context, add appropriate
markup for acronyms and abbreviations, and so forth. I will then solicit
feedback to ensure no glaring accessibility problems remain.

However, the situation is in effect the same as when last we spoke. There
is still much groundwork to be done before we have the infrastructure in
place to make real progress feasible. We are much closer then we were last
year, but there is still a ways to go.

>the failure of the validator team to address these issues is [...]

Let me just clarify one thing here. There is no "validator team" as such.
The W3C has no personell resources allocated to the Validator right now.
Gerald Oskoboiny, who developed the validator originally, has apparently
been reallocated to other projects (presumably because these were more
critical to the W3C then the Validator overall is).

Several other individuals at W3C contribute periodically; among them Martin
Dürst who is largely responsible for the Internationalization of the
Validator, Hugo Haas who maintained the Link checker, Karl Dubost the W3C
Conformance Manager from the W3C QA Team, ISHIKAWA Masayasu who answers
questions on this list (and whose patience has been angelic when I've been
too dense to understand him ;D), Olivier Thereaux, Daniel Dardailler, Dan
Connolly, Janet Daly, etc.

But all of them only as and when their normal duties intersect with the
Validator in some way. For instance, Martin Dürst works on
Internationalization at the W3C and so improving the Internationalization
of the Validator is periodically a part of his duties. The QA Team came up
with Quality Tips as one method for helping the web community with QA and
so allocated some resources to that task. Similar situations exist for the
others who contribute to the Validator.

The only one doing any development on the Validator as such -- on the
Validator for the Validator's own sake, you might say -- is me[0], and I
have no affiliation with the W3C. I can't influence them one way or
another, I can't speak for them, and I can't make decisions on their
behalf. In fact, I usually make a point of including an diclaimer to that
effect at the drop of a pin. :-)

[0] - Though let me say that that goes to responsibility, not credit.
      There are in fact several people who have contributed patches
      with various frequency and scope.

I do not administrate the Validator as you see it on
http://validator.w3.org/. Since the Validator is Open Source, I work on the
code in my spare time as best I can, and, periodically, when my accumulated
patches are considered to be of some interest to the goals the W3C has for
the Validator, they may be applied to the public Validator service provided
by the W3C.

>the failure of the validator team to address these issues is, therefore,
>not only inexplicable, but an insult to the work of the WAI and the W3C
>on accessibility issues, not to mention a slap in the face to users of
>the validator...

I quite agree, and I take full responsibility for not addressing these
concerns better or sooner. Mea Culpa!

However, if I am to avoid taking humbleness into arrogance, I would be
remiss if I did not here acknowledge the many contributions from Sean
Palmer, Nick Kew, Aaron Swartz, and Ville Skyttä, in producing what
Usability and Accessability the Validator has -- in addition to their many
other contributions -- and for helping alleviate my rather limited
understanding of those issues. Many thanks are due them all! What little
accessibility I've achieved is to their credit, not mine.

My mom is a professional botanist, or, as her spousal equivalent described
it, they'll be out hiking in the woods, she'll see a plant off by the side
of the trail, run up to it, bend down, and start talking Latin at it.
                                                      -- Steve VanDevender
Received on Friday, 7 June 2002 04:50:45 UTC

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