WDAI Workshop Position Paper

Marshall Jansen
HTML Writers Guild, Inc.
August 4, 2000

Position Paper Summary Topics

The needs of your company/organization in the field of device independent authoring.

The HWG is very interested in the techniques that will be used to enable device independent authoring. The membership of the HTML Writers Guild is completely made up of Web developers, both professional and amateur, and all are interested in the future of any Web-based technologies.

A primary desire of Web developers today is that their code works everywhere, the first time. While visual design issues are important, designers also want their pages to work in text-only browsers, voice browsers, screen readers, and personal digital assistants.

Current procedures often involve writing code that 'sniffs' the User Agent, and then serves up code specifically crafted for that. For pages that do not sniff the UA and serve specifically crafted code, an option for 'text-only' may be given, but neither of these solutions are optimumn.

The optimum solution would be where the author could write well-formed code once, and that code be properly presented across all types of UAs, from the desktop PC to the Palm Pilot to the Screen Reader, where the structure and usability are preserved across all platforms.

Topics that you would like to have addressed in the workshop.

The most pressing topic is how to handle interactive sites when faced with the array of different methods of accessing the Web today. What will be the methods and techniques available to the web author to save them from the requirement of writing different code for every possible platform?

Your general expectations on the outcome of the workshop.

I hope that the workshop will move us forward on how Web languages (be they HTML, XHTML, XML, or CSS) will need to evolve to allow well-written code to display not only as a full-fledged graphic site (for the power user on their broadband desktop PC), but also to retain all usability and functionality on a palm-top device or when converted to text or speech. The ultimate goal is to give developers a tool that, if used properly, erases the need for writing for multiple platforms, as the code will gracefully modify down from the high end graphics and sound of a new desktop, to the tiny 5-line screen of a cellular phone.

Your potential contributions to the discussion, including any specific proposals or suggested solutions.

The HWG is well suited to present the views of the average Web developer. Our membership of professional (both permanent and freelance/contract) Web developers, along with a large number of amateur developers mean that we know what the average developer is willing (or able) to do to create accessible websites. Also, our membership tends to be quite vocal when new technologies come to the fore, giving their opinions on whether or not a new technology is worthwhile, or more often than not a waste of thier time.

Due to this, I feel that the HWG can be used well as a 'sounding board', to tell if the average developer would be willing to support a proposed change, as well as being able to offer ideas on exactly what web developers today are looking for when it comes to writing accessible code for multiple platforms.