What is “semantic value”?

Go ahead and read Our Pointless Pursuit Of Semantic Value by Divya Maninan over at Smashing Magazine. There are some things I agree with, but I’m left with a terrible aftertaste in my mouth by the end.

A lot of the benefit of semantic markup is not seen by the customers, and that’s okay. The customer shouldn’t see all of the crappy hacks we’ve put into our CSS to get it to work in Internet Explorer. They shouldn’t look at the source code to jQuery that we are using to modify the behavior of their browser (I’m looking at you again, IE). So, sure, they don’t need to be pulling up the source of the page either and looking at the seemingly maddening soup of tags that outline the structure of the page they are viewing.

That’s all fine and good.

There are also benefits for computers and other devices to using semantic markup and making things as clear and concise as possible. That’s all fine and dandy.

Sure, it can be a headache to try and keep straight when we are going to be using an article, or an aside, or a section, or a straight div, or … you get the point. That’s a legitimate gripe about the alphabet soup of new tags that have been introduced in HTML5.

However, let’s care a little bit … just a tiny little bit about what we are doing and not look for the easiest way to just push out pages. Let’s care. Let’s care like the original Macintosh team did and not sign the inside of the case even though no one was going to see it, but care enough bout what we are doing to take some time, slow down, and think about what we are actually marking up. Think a little bit. Take a walk maybe and spend some time, yes, maybe 40 minutes, whether the article or aside tag would be the most semantic. Maybe you’ll run into another, more profound thought while you are on that journey.

We spend a lot of time trying to think of the easiest, quickly, dirtiest way to get things done and get them working. Maybe it isn’t so bad to use “semantic value” to help us to slow down and actually think about what we are doing, think about the content a little bit, and do a better job just because it would be just a tiny little bit … better.