[whatwg] request for clarification: aside, figure

Ian Hickson ian at hixie.ch
Wed Jul 1 22:28:22 PDT 2009

On Tue, 9 Jun 2009, Bruce Lawson wrote:
> On Tue, 09 Jun 2009 01:57:15 +0100, Ian Hickson <ian at hixie.ch> wrote:
> > On Sun, 10 May 2009, Bruce Lawson wrote:
> > > 
> > > I don't think the spec is clear enough defining these two elements 
> > > from an author's perspective. [...]
> > > What is the difference between a <figure> that has no caption and an
> > > <aside>? Both seem to be connected in some way with the main content
> > > around it, but can be considered separate/ may be moved. [...]
> > > So If I have a magazine-style pullquote, is that a figure or an aside
> > > (or neither)?
> > 
> > I have attempted to address this, but actually it turns out HTML5 
> > already has examples of how to do pull quotes in the <aside> section.
> I didn't express myself clearly enough. This isn't a problem per se - 
> it's the symptom of a problem. I note that there is an example of how to 
> do pullquotes, but I can't deduce the logic that makes it obvious why 
> one should use an <aside> rather than <figure>; the definition of each 
> seems to allow either to be used thus.

<aside> is defined as follows:

# The aside element represents a section of a page that consists of 
# content that is tangentially related to the content around the aside 
# element, and which could be considered separate from that content. Such 
# sections are often represented as sidebars in printed typography.
# The element can also be used for typographical effects like pull quotes.

<figure> is defined as follows:

# The figure element represents some flow content, optionally with a 
# caption, that is self-contained and is typically referenced as a single 
# unit from the main flow of the document.
# The element can thus be used to annotate illustrations, diagrams, 
# photos, code listings, etc, that are referred to from the main content 
# of the document, but that could, without affecting the flow of the 
# document, be moved away from that primary content, e.g. to the side of 
# the page, to dedicated pages, or to an appendix.

I don't really know how to make it clearer.

At the end of the day it doesn't really matter if <figure> is used for 
pull quotes (it's not really that inappropriate, and if it were the only 
thing <aside> were to be used for, I'd have suggested dropping <aside> and 
leaving pull quotes to <figure> anyway). Pull quotes are kind of a middle 
ground which (notwithstanding the explicit statement in the spec saying 
that <aside> is more appropriate for pull quotes) could probably be argued 
either way.

> > > For example, in the middle of a fictional interview about markup, I 
> > > might want to pull out a quote and citation: Do I write
> > > 
> > > <aside>
> > > <blockquote>After a sip of sweet sherry, I turn into Mr Last
> > > Week</blockquote>
> > > <cite>Ian Hickson</cite>
> > > </aside>
> > > 
> > > Or
> > > 
> > > <figure>
> > > <blockquote>After a sip of sweet sherry, I turn into Mr Last
> > > Week</blockquote>
> > > <legend>Ian Hickson</legend>
> > > </figure>
> > 
> > The former shows correct usage of <aside> vs <figure>, though the 
> > <cite> element usage is incorrect; the name should not be marked up.
> Again, I see no spec-derived reason why it should be <aside> rather than 
> <figure>, other than it happens to be given an example of one rather 
> than the other.

Well it says "The element can also be used for typographical effects like 
pull quotes", which is the main reason. :-)

However, at the end of the day, the second markup snippet there isn't 
especially wrong either, it's just not the preferred way (which was more 
or less arbitrarily chosen in this case).

> (Given that marking up a name as a citation is common practice, and 
> validator cannot distinguish between a name and a title of a work, 
> should we widen the definition of <cite> to match the "English language" 
> defintion "1. to quote or refer to (a passage, book, or author)" ? A 
> different discussion, apologies)

<cite> in HTML5 is defined to mean "title of work" based on current usage, 
rather than having anything to do with actual citations.

Ian Hickson               U+1047E                )\._.,--....,'``.    fL
http://ln.hixie.ch/       U+263A                /,   _.. \   _\  ;`._ ,.
Things that are impossible just take longer.   `._.-(,_..'--(,_..'`-.;.'

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