Jens Oliver Meiert

Notes on XML, Elements, and Attributes

Post from April 23, 2009 (↻ February 3, 2017), filed under .

This and many other posts are also available as a pretty, well-behaved e-book: On Web Development.

Contrary to what one might expect, I’m not bringing in much XML design experience with my occasional contributions to the HTML 5 specification. However, knowledge of the design of markup languages is something I consider beneficial for my job as a web professional as well. A few notes on XML design, inspired by internal and external documentation:

Update (November 27, 2014)

I found Uche Ogbuji’s article on principles of XML design very useful, too. For example:

About the Author

Jens Oliver Meiert, photo of September 22, 2018.

Jens Oliver Meiert is an author and developer (O’Reilly, W3C, ex-Google). He plays with philosophy, art, and adventure. Here on he shares and generalizes and exaggerates some of his thoughts and experiences.

There’s more Jens in the archives and at Goodreads. If you have any questions or concerns (or recommendations) about what he writes, leave a comment or a message.

Comments (Closed)

  1. On April 23, 2009, 23:15 CEST, Steffen said:

    My thoughts on that considering only the information structure aspects of the document:

    As long as the information is and stays flat, I would prefer an attribute for brevity.

    If information is extensible in nature (concerning cardinality and depth) you should opt for an element, which also contributes to simplification of validation (thinking of xsd or dtd).

    That said, I can’t resist to state that the style attribute must be considered as an anti pattern (I know, you will like that, Jens 😉), looking at sth. like style=”a: 1; b: 2; c: url(y) #3 […];’. It’s ignoring the (x/ht)ml grammar and starts a completely new one instead of using means of XML.

    I wonder, if this would still be the design of choice today with the growing popularity of extensible (in terms of namespaces) documents - neglecting all backward compatibility and nostalgic feelings 😉.

  2. On April 24, 2009, 15:10 CEST, Jens Oliver Meiert said:

    Interesting, thanks Steffen! Would be lovely to hear some thoughts on that from other HTML WG members—and I can follow, but not comment on the history of @style.

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