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An HTML5 challenge (which lead me to think – Why bother with HTML5 sectioning elements?)

David asked for suggestions on how to markup a list of albums using HTML5. Each album includes the following information:

  • album name
  • artist name
  • cover image

As with all things HTML5, there are several ways to approach this problem (you may think of some more):

Using article

I had a vague idea that each album entry could be syndicated as it passed the would it make sense in an RSS feed test.

But David specified a list, so I discounted this approach.

Using dl

David suggested using a description list, which would appear to fit the bill perfectly as the data consists of a collection of names (album titles) and bits of information (or values) grouped under these names (artist and cover image).

The HTML5 spec is quite flexible as the dt doesn’t have to be a term.

I argued against this on the grounds that titles are better rendered as headings and I wasn’t sure that it’s ‘valid’ to place images within dd tags. (Although I’m no longer convinced that this is the case.)

And the list is ordered, which suggests:

Using ol

This makes sense in that we can suggest an order to our list. As a bonus, HTML5 allows us to place block level elements within inline elements (with some caveats. It’s never simple).

I think this is probably the best approach (although you may feel differently).

Now, this is all fun, but it does make me think what do these new elements actually bring us apart from more to think about?

After all, we could add some microdata or some such to our markup in order to make it more visible to Google. We could style a microformat to make it more visually meaningful.

I can think of no real world value in using article over, say, <div class="hentry"> when the use of article just generates (admittedly interesting) discussions about semantics.

More seriously, HTML5 makes it difficult to structure documents properly, and, of course, Internet Explorer (pre–version 9) needs a javascript injection to get it playing nicely.

A sensible approach to HTML5

I’ve been using HTML5 for a long time now. I like using article to mark up articles and dividing articles into headers, content areas and footers.

However there’s no practical reason for using HTML5 sectioning elements at the moment, and there are a few reasons for not using them.

I’m thinking about taking the following approach:

  • Use the doctype and shortened meta tags
  • Take advantage of the looser validation rules (so go ahead and place block level elements in inline elements)
  • Use the refactored, previously unfashionable tags such as i and hr
  • Replace article, header, aside et al with div
  • Make use of microformats, micordata and RDFa

Make sense?