WWW-RANT: Biting the hand that gave us birth-- sorry TBL

Rohit Khare (khare@pest.w3.org)
Fri, 2 Feb 96 16:14:03 -0500

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Date: Fri, 2 Feb 1996 22:03:36 +0100
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Subject: WWW-RANT: Biting the hand that gave us birth-- sorry TBL
From: Hakon Lie <howcome@w3.org>
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>From: jorn@MCS.COM (Jorn Barger)
Newsgroups: comp.text.sgml
Subject: WWW-RANT: Biting the hand that gave us birth-- sorry TBL
Date: 2 Feb 1996 09:02:25 -0600
Organization: The Responsible Party

[I think my first attempt to post this had munged Cc's. Sorry if you
get multiples.]

[The point of this post is that there's much to be learned about
hypertext design *via the WWWeb*. It doesn't matter at all that the
technology is simple.]

I've been reluctant to critique Tim Berners-Lee's WWWeb style guide at
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/>, because Tim invented
the WWWeb, and for that alone he should bask in glory, all his days...

But, all the same, his guide is seriously flawed, both in the design
strategies it recommends, and the ones it embodies. So here's a
brief list of what I see as its errors.

Far too often, Tim fails to take his own advice:

- Site not checked with lynx, navigation buttons lack ALT text thruout
- Multiple audiences mixed-- beginner and technical-- tech terms undefined
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Introduction.html> &c
- Spellcheck needed thruout
- Broken HTML
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Testing.html> "client list"

- Links not carefully tested
- Back button skips one file
- Next button skips several files
- File revised and relocated, but many links not updated!?!
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Etiquette.html> old
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Etiquette.html> new

- Inconsistent navigation buttons (so prevalent it seems intentional?)
- A rare case of all buttons correctly in place
- Button missing from all pages but one
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/TITLE.html> "markup"
- [Prior] button at bottom not top of page-- thruout
- No [Prior] button
- No [Next] button ('stairmaster fallacy')
- Orphan page (no up-link)
- Foster-orphan (uplink skips levels)

- Misleading links
- Disguised up-links
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Etiquette.html> "This Guide"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/WithinDocument.html>"style guide"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/IntoContext.html> &c "Part of"
- Unsignalled/confusing violations of tree-structure
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Introduction.html> miniToC at end
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Etiquette.html> "Signing""status"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/DeviceIndependent.html> "testing"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Testing.html> "make it clear"
- Unclear whether link is #-link or separate doc
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/> all subheads in ToC
- 'Junk links' to sites used as definitions of terms
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/> "WWW"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/People/Berners-Lee/> many examples
- Anchor text doesn't clearly explain contents of target page
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Etiquette.html> "rule file"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/DocSize.html> "next"
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/ReferOrCopy.html> hotlist at end
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/ReadableText.html> "I'm" (#-link)
- Anchor text trimmed excessively (the more self-explanatory the better)
"WWW" could be "WWW product documentation"
"single page" could be "single page version of the whole thing"
"HTML overview" could be "the W3C HTML overview"
- Live demo-links distracting
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/Printable.html> "device ind."

- Wasted pages
- Sub-ToCs waste reader's time
- Too-short pages waste readers' time
- Undescriptive table of contents should *summarize* each 'chapter'
<URL:<http://www.w3.org/pub/WWW/Provider/Style/> [better than average]

The advice Tim offers is often topnotch, but occasionally very doubtful:

'One page per idea' is a bad idea with non-local latencies

'Footnotes a page each' is unworkable for the same reason. Keep footnotes
on the same page.

'Use <h?> headers in strict order' is too limiting. Eg, subpages at least
ought to be allowed to start with <h2>.

FTP and other non-HTTP links should be labelled so, in general.

Sharing the same pages between expert and novice views is not usually a
real advantage.


. hypertext theory : artificial intelligence : finnegans wake . _+m"m+_"+_
lynx <http://www.mcs.net/~jorn/ ! Jp Jp qh qh
<ftp://ftp.mcs.net/mcsnet.users/jorn/ O O O O
<news:alt.music.category-freak Yb Yb dY dY
...do you ever feel your mind has started to erode? "Y_ "Y5m2Y" " no.