Principles of MicroFormats and simplicity

I have been reading a bit about MicroFormats these days. I came across these principles that were published on I like the clarity of the principles and the underlying statement about keeping them simple. Most of us could benefit from a dose of simplicity in our designs. Keeping a good idea simple is really, really hard.

 the microformats principles

  • solve a specific problem
  • start as simple as possible
  • design for humans first, machines second
  • reuse building blocks from widely adopted standards
  • modularity / embeddability
  • enable and encourage decentralized development, content, services

The value of MicroFormats is they contain a standards based way of expressing common and specific data models such as contacts, events, location, reviews, resumes, and feeds. Through expressing the data in XHTML web developers can quickly mash-up external data into their web page and format it with CSS with very little code and XSL transforms. From a developer perspective it is quite simple yet they still can parse the data into an XML dom for more advanced scenarios. We are starting to see browser plug-ins that expose these semantic sources and allow easy conversions into other formats such as vCard and iCal. Finally, by including more meta data in the source HTML search parsers are able to identify information and organize it more appropriately.

I certainly don’t consider myself an expert in this area yet but I’m learning more. Here are some additional links that explain the concepts with more detail and clarity.

 Edited post to include more general descriptions about MicroFormats 1/27/2007, 9:30 AM.

Comments (4)

  1. tzagotta says:

    I guess I just don’t "get it." It seems like they are solving the "hello world" of data modeling – solving really simple problems, and making it more complicated by using "semantic XHTML" instead of XML. XML would have simpler files that would be easier to automatically produce and parse. But maybe I’m missing something.

  2. Clint Covington says:


    I editing the post to include a generic description about microformats. Thanks for the comment. I think the key is specific problems, easy to mashup in HTML, and context for browsers and search engines.

  3. tzagotta says:

    Thanks for the additional context information to help us better understand the objectives.

    I’ll have to admit, I’m not a great fan of "mashups," but I’m not much of a hacker-type.

  4. Clint Covington says:

    Mashup is turning out to be quite the buzz word. I think of MicroFormats, JSON (, ATOM (, and SOAP as the web’s version of link tables.