Web Trends: Explaining acronyms

I’ve noticed a new “web trend” recently. People have discovered the <ABBR> HTML tag. It allows you to explain acronyms (as I did with HTML in the previous sentence; if you have Internet Explorer it won’t show up but it does in Firefox and other browsers. Hover your mouse pointer over it to see).

I was thinking today, on one of my friends’ blogs, it has the following text:

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URI

Great. If you don’t know what “RSS” or “URI” means, you’ll be able to find out just by hovering your mouse over it. But surely, if someone didn’t know what “RSS” meant, finding out that it meant “Really Simple Syndication” wouldn’t help AT ALL? The same with URI. “Uniform Resource Identifier”? What on earth is that?!

Now, there are times when the <ABBR> tag will be handy. For example, when I’m writing an article sometimes I define an acronym at the top and use it throughout the article. Someone reading it might forget what I’d defined the acronym to be — I could use the tag so people didn’t have to scroll up to the top to find out what it meant. But using it for acronyms which don’t have an intuitive meaning in the context in which they are viewed isn’t helpful at all.

So, my plea to web developers everywhere is — please don’t use gimmicks like <ABBR> when it’s not necessary! I know that I’ve been guilty of doing it in the past, mainly because I think it’s cool 😉 But don’t use it when it’s unnecessary, because it doesn’t add any value to your pages whatsoever…


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