[whatwg] Menus, fallback, and backwards compatibility: ideas wanted

Sander Tekelenburg tekelenb at euronet.nl
Sun Jan 1 07:24:51 PST 2006

At 01:21 +0000 UTC, on 2005/12/20, Ian Hickson wrote:

> On Thu, 15 Dec 2005, Sander Tekelenburg wrote:



> I'm not convinced the problem you describe is real. For example, you say
> "Ask any WWW newbie; ask any experienced Web surfer; ask any Web site
> developer "what are the biggest problems with Web sites?" and chances are
> "navigation" will rank in their top 3." but have you actually tried this?

In a non-scientific manner, yes. I constantly see friends, family, clients,
strangers, colleagues struggle to figure out how to navigate through sites
they don't know yet.

> In my experience navigation is one of the few aspects of the Web that
> newbies actually understand easily.

I'm extremely surprised to hear that. In the 6 years of that article's life
span this is the first time I hear this.

Newbies indeed quickly understand that "blue-underlined" text can be clicked
to go to another page, if that's what you mean. But only knowing how to
follow hyperlinks leads to random travel. "Navigation" implies *structured*
travel - figuring out how to quickly get from A to B.

>> For the moment I think I like your proposed HTML/CSS of:
>> <nav style="display:meta">
>> 	<menu type="commands" label="Navigation">
>> 		<a rel="home" href="index.html">Home</a>
>> 		<a rel="contents" href="toc.html">TOC</a>
>> 		<a rel="help" href="help.html">Help</a>
>> 		<a rel="search" href="search.html">Search</a>
>> 		<a rel="address" href="address">Contact</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="support.html">Support</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="downloads.html">Downloads</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="drivers.html">Drivers</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="updates.html">Updates</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="forms.html">Forms</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="archive.html">Archive</a>
>> 		<a rel="section" href="feedback.html">Feedback</a>
>> 	</menu>
>> </nav>
> This could be interesting if (and it's a big if!) you could convince
> browsers to implement it.

I imagine it would be a logical step for Opera and Safari to take, given
their activity in the hand-held/small screen market where something like this
would probably be very useful. It would make it possible to allow the user to
bring up 'any' site's navigation menu full screen with the touch of 1 button.
I bet Anina[*] would like that :) A browser could present that as a list, or
draw it as a map, or whatever the browser developer's creativity allows him
to think of. It could offer "shortcuts" (key combo's) to standard LINKs like
next, previous, help, search, home. Etc.

Anyway, most browsers are represented on this list. Those developers can say
what they like or dislike about this idea. I for one am very interested in
hearing their comments, even if they'd explain why this wouldn't work.

> I tried to get <link> reliably and widely implemented for around five
> years. I failed. I don't see why we would be more successful with
> display:meta.

I understand your point about time, but I think you're forgetting a related
and essential factor: "situation". In the past 5 years the Web/browsers have
matured somewhat. Standards-support is valued much more today. (Not that the
situation is great, but it has definitely improved.) On 'all' platforms
people now have a choice between at least 2 reasonably standards-compliant
browsers. A second strong factor is momentum of handheld/small screen
browsers. And then there is the factor of the fast-growing use of automated
Web publishing systems.

In other words, the current situation is different from that of 5 years ago.
Something like display:meta wouldn't have stood a chance back then, but it
might today.

(As to us "failing": 5 years ago only lynx and iCab offered LINK support.
Today Opera and Mozilla do so too, even WinIE can, through a third-party
tool, and last but not least some automated Web publishing systems generate
LINKs. If I'd had to choose between labelling that as "failure" or "success",
I'd have to pick "succes". The only thing we failed at is getting WinIE to
support it natively - and I don't see how we could not have failed at that.)

[*] <http://www.pbs.org/cringely/nerdtv/shows/>

Sander Tekelenburg, <http://www.euronet.nl/~tekelenb/>

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