Semantics Standards

Up, down, charm, strange, top, bottom

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

The markup folks are going to be the weblogging death of me yet. It’s a variation on the classic differences between the back-end or server-side developer and the front-end designer/developer.

All front-end folks know that we back-end folks are slobs when it comes to proper markup, clean web pages, and so on. And all back-end folks know that the front-end people are anal (in the nicest possible way of course). And for a client, this is the perfect combination – the back-end folks should focus on their area of expertise – back-end development – and leave the front-end to the experts.

Of course, when a back-end developer has a weblog, then all you see is sloppy markup, improper use of tags, and so on. I know. Bad Me.

(Still, I know of a front-end person or two who has needed my help for back-end issues, but we won’t quibble over that, will we?)

I know I’m a markup slob, a hopeless case if there was one. However, in recent discussions, I’m left unsure if what I’m doing is “wrong” from a technical viewpoint, or only “wrong” from an esthetic viewpoint. In particular, I’ve been reading Dorothea’s and Jonathon’s weblogs about CSS style sheets, markup, use of bold for hypertext links and so on.

Am I wrong in my use of markup? Or is this a case of pure esthetic differences? Am I a slob? Or is Jonathon, as an example, being an effete snob (saying this in the nicest possible way, of course)?

For instance, there’s the sweeping statement that underline for hypertext links is ugly. Well, ugly or not, the underline has been used to designate hypertext links since the dawn of web time. And underline is still used, by default, to mark links.

In some of my web sites, I use bold to mark hypertext links; in others, such as this weblog, I use underline within the content, bold in the sidebars. I will admit the bold un-underlined hypertext links within the content is elegant and tasteful. However, though ugly, there’s no accessibility issue or problem with using underlines within the posting, is there?

(Side question: what’s with the blue/gray in all the weblogs lately? Is this a civil war thing?)

Today, another issue arose about emphasis and the strong, em, b, and i elements. Jonathon asked the question of Dorothea about the proper use of the <strong>, <em>, <b>, <i> tags. In response, Dorothea provided a very, very nice discussion of the history, purpose, use of these particular tags.

From Dorothea’s response, I believe I am using the strong element correctly. I use it when I want to bold something – when I want to make it more noticeable, to stand out, to strongly emphasis a point, a line, a statement. I tend to use the em element to emphasis something that I don’t want to stand out if a person does a quick sweep of the eye down the page.

However, I use the strong element specifically because it is bold, and the em element because it does result in italic text. I never use <b> or <i>. Though the result is correct, is my underlying behavior incorrect? What happens in this mix when a blind person reads the page?

Sigh. At this point, I am faced with two choices: I can spend all my time fretting on these issues; or I can work on ThreadNeedle, accept the fact that I’m a hopeless web page slob who will never have an elegant weblog page, and hope that folks like Dorothea and Jonathon will specifically let me know when I’m doing something that makes my material inaccessible, or makes it break within a browser.

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