Divya Manian’s article about the pursuit of semantic value has sparked quite a debate. Good ol’ Boag replied stating he agreed with Keith’s response on the matter further adding that investing time in semantics is an investment in the future.
At it’s heart, Manian’s original article wishes to address that an unhealthy obsession marking up your website can lead to large volumes of time being consumed debating the correctness and appropriateness of a chosen tag.
Boag warned that even though an obsession with semantics is unhealthy, there are consequences to its ignorance:
for me what is more important is the potential it has for the future
Semantic markup can take time to implement and you can loose a few hours on research, however I feel this is time well spent. The next time you come to implement either the same functionality or a specific tag – you are better informed. For what is a one-time investment, you get a great return on your time.
I’m a simple creature. I feel there is a ‘right way’ and a ‘wrong way’ of doing many things in web development. I admit, the first time I read Manian’s post, I completely disagreed with her. As there are a few grey areas when it comes to semantics, I understand the point Manian is trying to make but I believe in order to decide if the time is worth spending you must add some context.
I do believe a case can be made against semantics in some situations. When rapidly prototyping a concept to pitch to an investor or quickly mocking a website to gain feedback from a client, time invested into semantics can be better spent in other areas. Care must be taken however that this code never enters a production environment. Clearly, trying to gain value through semantics in these scenarios is pointless.
We have all had to work with really poor markup. Jeremy Keith explained there are practical difference between elements but there are also times where it may be appropriate to “just use a div”. When it comes to the grey areas, the right decision is an informed decision but before you can make that – you must put in the time! If we don’t invest the time to understand these grey areas, how else will the spec for HTML move forward?