Hi Kat,

That really depends - without user research it's hard to know what
conclusions about the data are relevant and of interest to people consuming
that data; plus if the purpose is for people to draw their own conclusions
(hence why you're *providing *all that data) then it doesn't make sense to
bias it with pre-formed conclusions.

If you *have* to use tabulated data then that's a challenge, sure, but I
suggest going back over the business case for presenting the data and seeing
if there's some other way the *information* can be presented. Looks at
alternative presentation formats such as filtering - but as I said it
depends because datasets hidden behind a search/filter form can be
frustrating to users who may want to browse the matrix to figure out what
they want if they're unfamiliar with the data model or want to identify
trends and work backwards. Comes down to user goals.

Nathanael Boehm

Freelance web user interaction designer

UX · IxD · UI design · Prototyping · HTML · CSS · JS · Usability ·
Accessibility · Social media

Imagine Innovation · UXnet Canberra · OpenAustralia · BarCampCanberra

www.purecaffeine.com <http://www.purecaffeine.com/about/>

Canberra, Australia

0409 288 464

On Mon, Nov 2, 2009 at 11:34 AM, Kat <k...@t-tec.com.au> wrote:

> Steve Green wrote:
>> I am tempted to say that this is a moot point. In my experience complex
>> data
>> tables are inaccessible to screen reader users because they have great
>> difficulty forming a mental model of them. Marking them up perfectly
>> semantically doesn't help.
>> If you use 'normal' means of navigating, the table cell contents are read
>> sequentially. Each cell is usually understandable but you get no sense of
>> the structure and relationships with the column and row headings.
>> If you use the table navigation commands, the column and/or row headers
>> are
>> read in addition to the cell contents. This provides structural
>> information
>> but the user has to mentally separate the header and cell data before
>> adding
>> them to their mental model. This is difficult enough with simple tables
>> but
>> I don't recall even highly proficient screen reader users successfully
>> navigating complex tables during user testing.
>> What I can't say is whether any other user group derives any benefit from
>> the correct semantic markup of tables. Off the top of my head I can't
>> think
>> of any. I also cannot think of any applications (e.g. search engines, news
>> scrapers etc) that programmatically access websites that would benefit
>> from
>> this either.
> Thanks for that Steve! :)
> Then would the answer, perhaps, be to give a small succinct paragraph about
> the tabular data, with the most important points (if they exist), and
> perhaps a link to contact details if the user wanted to know more? And not
> worry about thead, tfoot, tbody, col, colgroup, etc? Would that be an
> acceptable accessibility alternative?
> Kat
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