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Archive: 3 April 2005

Class Presentation

A little while back, I made a joke about presentational class names.  As it happened, there was a second joke hidden within the joke—as is so often the case with me—and I was delighted to see that one of my readers caught it.

But is there a reasonable alternative?  I’ve long been using the class value border to indicate when I want to put a border around a picture.  This is, to me, one of those gray-area situations that’s very hard to resolve.  I can claim that border is not very presentational: it doesn’t say anything about the specific appearance of the border, only that there should be one.  I could also argue that it’s entirely too presentational: from a semantic point of view, what does it matter if the picture is bordered or not?  It doesn’t, so the class name is unacceptable.

And yet, it does matter.  Visually, some images need to have borders, while others need to lack a border.  I can’t invent a new element or attribute to express the difference (not without writing my own DTD, anyway).  Technologically, class values are the only place I can make the distinction.

There are some other sort-of-presentational class names hanging around my site, too.  standalone is used when an image, or set of images, stands on its own, as opposed to illustrative images that are floated.  The intent is presentational, though again, standalone doesn’t say exactly how the images stand alone.  It just says that they do.

I’ve yet to come up with a good semantic way of saying “this image needs to have something that visually separates it from the rest of the page”.  I’ve kicked around ideas for other values, like framed or separated, but these fall into the same gray area… probably because the intent is basically presentational.  I’ve abstracted the presentationalism of the intent, but it’s still there.

So, anyone have a better class name, or even a better approach to drawing the distinction?  And before anyone tells me to quit worrying about this, I’m not worrying—I’m playing.  It’s like doing a crossword, or working on a logic puzzle.  Usually I just do this stuff in my head, but in this case I’m fairly stumped, and could use some help.

April 2005
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