- Jun 6, 2003
Visual Elements and Structure
"Web standards" abide not only in the technologies we use, but also in the way we use them. Writing markup in XHTML and using CSS to handle some or all layout chores doesn't necessarily make a site any more accessible or portable or any less of a bandwidth burster. XHTML and CSS can be misused or abused as easily as earlier web technologies were. Verbose XHTML markup wastes every bit as much of the user's time as verbose HTML ever did. Long-winded, overwrought CSS is not an adequate replacement for presentational HTML; it's simply one bad thing taking the place of another.
The guidelines in the earlier "Structural Healing" section can help avoid overly complex, semantically meaningless interior structures (body copy and so on). But what do we do about branded visual elements, such as site-wide navigation bars, which typically include a logo? Can these elements be structural? And must they be?
The answer to the first question is yesvisual elements including navigation bars can indeed be structural. For example, CSS can make an ordered or unordered list display as a full-fledged navigation bar, complete with push buttons and rollover effects.
The answer to the second question is that visual elements like navigation bars need not be made structural in hybrid, transitional layouts. If those layouts avoid verbosity and use good structure in their primary content areas, if their XHTML and CSS validate, and if every effort has been made to provide accessibility, then you will have achieved transitional standards compliance and will have nothing to be ashamed of. (Well, you might have something to be ashamed of, but it won't be the way your website was built.)