Weekly lessons

Week 4

Burying The Title Attribute

What was that marvellous little thing that allowed us to give additional information about a portion of content or to explain an action in a web page?

Let’s admit: the “title” attribute was really handy and simple. It had that tricky way to assure us that we were taking care of our users by guiding them in their actions.

Yes, the title attribute has been wrongly used. Authors have been misusing it by adding useless information, almost mechanically, to each and every piece of content or link — sometimes even duplicating the link label. It is not surprising that most AT users just turned it off.

Our nice little tooltip turned out to be useless after all, didn’t it? The title attribute won’t help screen-reader users as we thought it would and, of course, it won’t help touch-screen or keyboard users — too often forgotten – because it never did, as a matter of fact.

Exactly! Only those comfortably seated, regular mouse users can really see those tooltips poping-up. That means that if we want other users to understand a piece of information we’re hiding behind our title attribute, we'll have to cross our fingers.

The worst thing about all that is that we don’t have a replacement for the title attribute. Today, how can we explain — for all users, of course – the action of an icon button by means of a tooltip? Will we have to use Javascript? Well, I believe a good little standard attribute would be nice. Oh, wait....