My website is down : Alternative contact details

Unfortunately, my website (http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/) is down today. There is an issue with my web host… grr.

If you need to contact me, please email me at info@simplicityuserexperiece.co.uk or DM me on Twitter on @simplicityUX. I am offering some unbeatable rates over this festive period, so don't be shy!

Best regards,
Charlie M

Posted byCharlie M at 01:36 0 comments  

Charlie M featured in this weeks 'Show Me Your Dock'

Morning readers,

Just a quick post to say that I am featured in this week's 'Show Me Your Dock' on Grace Smith's superb blog. Check it out!

Also, please let me take this opportunity to let you know that Simplicity is offering up to 75% off our usual rates in the run up to Christmas. Don't hesitate to get in touch for a quote!

Happy browsing!

Posted byCharlie M at 01:42 0 comments  

Is Accessibility becoming more mainstream?

Over the past few months I have seen a change in the accessibility world. Several large companies I’ve been involved with have adopted accessibility regimes, and I‘ve had an much easier job convincing clients that accessibility is an important requirement of web projects. The latter in particular has knocked me for six… it used to be such a struggle! My technophobe mother even understands how important accessible design is now!

So, what has happened to change the mindset of big companies and designers about the importance of accessibility?

One mainstream global, commercial reference to the benefits of accessibility that I can think of was during the release of the Apple iPhone and Snow Leopard operating systems. The accessibility benefits / improvements of these products were clearly documented and advertised alongside the other product features. I have written about the accessibility improvements in both of these products in previous blog posts:

Apple iPhone Accessibility

Snow Leopard Accessibility improvements

To a lesser extent, Microsoft also highlighted the importance of accessibility in there release of the Windows 7 Operating System : http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/products/features/accessibility

Without a shadow of a doubt, social networking, blogging and especially twitter have all had their part to play in the ‘education of accessibility’ too. Accessibility literature seems to be everywhere!

Although the mainstream knowledge of accessibility is a great step forward, there is still a long way to go. In my experience, accessibility features may be implemented more frequently in web design projects, but often with little understanding of the reasons why such features are important. This can create a difficult (dangerous?) position where designers believe that they have fulfilled the accessibility requirements of the project without truly producing accessible, usable products. Sometimes, poorly implemented 'accessibility features' can be more difficult to use than none at all.

Can you think of any other mainstream advertisements / mentions of the importance of accessibility?

Have you also noticed a change in the acceptance of accessible design?

I would be very interested to hear your thoughts and comments.

Also, please don’t forget to contribute to my recent online poll to find the most accessible, and most usable websites…
Online Poll : Examples of websites with good 'accessibility' and good 'usability'

Thanks!

Posted byCharlie M at 00:59 0 comments  

Online Poll : Examples of websites with good 'accessibility' and good 'usability'

On a regular basis, I am asked for examples of websites that provide good accessibility, good usability, or a combination of both. I certainly have a few personal favourites, but I would like to throw this question out to the Internet…

There are two main polls :

1) Which website do you think is an example of good ‘usability’?
2) Which website do you think is an example of good ‘accessibility’?

For each question, please either email me or add a comment to this blog post providing the website URL, and an optional explanation of why you are nominating this particular site. Please note that you do not need to answer both questions.

I will collate the results and report back by the end of the year. The results should be interesting!

Please pass this blog post on to your friends and colleagues… The more examples of ‘usable’ and ‘accessible’ sites we receive, the more conclusive our results will be!

Posted byCharlie M at 05:43 6 comments  

Title text on text links

Following a discussion I had with a colleague on Friday, I have decided to post a few paragraphs on the topic of using 'title text' on textual hyperlinks in HTML.

In one of the corporate websites I am working on, title text (the title attribute of the HTML anchor tag) is everywhere. You can't move your cursor without title text popping up left, right and center. What makes this worse, is that the title text is the same as the hyperlink text- this is unnecessary duplication, and just adds 'noise' to the website.

My colleague said that this "aids accessibility for blind user's", but it clearly doesn't. In fact, screen readers such as JAWS do not read title text as a default setting. This functionality has to be configured manually (through the JAWS verbosity options window).

The basic rule of thumb is : Title text should only be used to provide more information about the link destination. Use with caution, and certainly don't just duplicate the link text in the title attribute.

Title text is misused in many websites… don't let yours be one of them!

Please let me know if you have and thoughts or comments on this topic.

Posted byCharlie M at 03:16 0 comments  

Microsoft Accessibility Roundtable – Sharepoint 2010

Sharepoint 2010 logo

Today I visited the Microsoft offices in London to participate in a meeting concentrating on the accessibility improvements included in the upcoming release of Sharepoint 2010.

Sharepoint 2007 was plagued with issues and as a result, producing accessible web content was and still is very difficult. Consequently, HiSoftware have produced an ‘Accessibility Kit for Sharepoint’ that aims to repair some of these accessibility shortcomings.

In the following post, I will summarize my key takeaways from the meeting. The write-up is based on my experience and scribbles taken throughout the session. If you believe that I have misinterpreted events, please let me know and I will amend accordingly.

WCAG 2 & ARIA Overview

Nick Wilson (Managing Director of HiSoftware EMEA) introduced Thomas Logan (HiSoftware VP of Prodect Management) who started the proceedings with a quick overview of WCAG and also WAI-ARIA. This set the scene nicely for the subsequent presentations as Sharepoint 2010 (when used in conjunction with the HiSoftware’s Accessibility Kit for Sharepoint(AKS)?) aims to be WCAG 2.0 as well as WAI-ARIA (Accessible Rich Internet Applications) ‘compliant’ straight ‘out of the box’.

SharePoint 2010

Next up was Tara Hellier (SharePoint Partner Technology Advisor) from Microsoft, UK who presented an ‘Introduction to Sharepoint 2010’, and particularly the improvements the updated software will bring.

Tara admitted that Microsoft is fully aware that Sharepoint 2007 had several severe accessibility shortfalls. Therefore, Sharepoint 2010 has a key focus on meeting accessibility standards such as WCAG 2. 0 (to AA standard), Section 508 and also VPAT’s- Voluntary Product Accessibility Template. (If anyone has any further information on VPAT’s I would be most interested).

In addition, Sharepoint 2010 has been developed to incorporate best practises in the modern webdesign. As Tara stated “Usability + Standards = Accessibility”.

Tara discussed some of the key updates in Sharepoint 2010 in terms of functionality, some of which I will list below:

- Use of Cascading Style Sheets to format pages rather than tables (as was the case in Sharepoint 2007)
- Ability to include shortcut keys for keyboard access
- Incorporation of skip links
- Incorporation of WAI-ARIA into UI elements
- XHTML 1.0 definition compliant code to a ‘well formed’ standard.
- The ‘More Accessible Mode’ in Sharepoint 2007 is still to be available in 2010. The reasoning behind this is that even though the generated code and UI should be accessible to Assistive Technologies, Microsoft want to ensure that they have a product which is future proof… who knows what is round the corner in the accessibility world? I think this is commendable foresight by Microsoft.

Tara demonstrated some of the new accessible functionality in Sharepoint 2010, during which there was a comment from the audience. The audience member enquired whether Jaw’s was available on the presenters PC to test the functionality… as screenshots are not a very accessible presentation method! Perhaps not surprisingly, the answer was no, but the audience member was encouraged to test out the BETA version of Sharepoint 2010 (due for release soon), and Nick Wilson suggested that there may be an opportunity to test the software within the Microsoft labs at a later date. Looking back, this was really an unfair and inappropriate question- today’s meeting was never meant to be a testing session.

‘Compliance Sheriff’

After a quick coffee and networking break the session recommenced with a further presentation from Thomas, this time about the ‘Compliance Sheriff’ in Sharepoint 2010. I found this an interesting concept, and one which I think is often overlooked in CMS tools. How can you ‘ensure’ that the content uploaded to the Internet/Intranets is compliant to both internal (to the organisation) and external web standards (WCAG, Section508, etc)? The ‘Compliance Sheriff’ aims to ‘vet’ uploads by allowing scans on predetermined ‘checkpoints’. The ‘Sheriff’ can run checks at a set interval, and also has the ability to create new checkpoints.

Out of the box, the compliance sheriff has 233 checkpoints, many of which are based on WCAG 2.0 guidelines. Thomas demonstrated how to create and test custom checkpoints. This process was more complicated than I would have expected, and involved setting various test parameters (in the format of an If-Else statement) and using Firebug to find classnames from within the webpage code. Surely there must be an easier way?

Q and A session

The session was rounded off with a Q and A session which both Tara Hellier, Thomas Logan participated in alongside Robin Christopherson (Abilitynet), Nikki Ashington (Trinity Systems) and Peter Abraham.

There were several questions that raised some interesting points:

Migration of Sharepoint 2007 to Sharepoint 2010

Tara stated that there were 2 ways to achieve this:

- Migrate intact which would update the system to 2010, but would keep the 2007 look and feel.
- Migrate to 2010 look and feel.

Tara said that their partners are investigating the migration process further. This makes me a little nervous… If anyone has any further information about the Migration process between Sharepoint 2007 and 2010, please contact me!

Will the ‘Compliance Sheriff’ be able to scan content such as graphics (for example logos)?

Thomas stated that although this is not possible now, HiSoftware are looking into OCR technologies for graphics processing.
To me, this sounds like it could be a huge step forward to automated testing.

Are a lot of people holding back on implementing Sharepoint because of the compliance issues?

Nikki said that compliance is one of the biggest requests for the new version of Sharepoint, however, ‘compliance’ cannot be guaranteed. Even when using the new version user testing and re-engineering will be the key.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Sharepoint 2010 looks like a promising product with a key focus on producing ‘accessible’ and ‘well-coded’ web content. However, I think it is important to wait until we are able to test the BETA product ourselves before we reach any conclusions.

One comment that I would like to stress is that even if Sharepoint 2010 content does meet web standards, and comes out well in automated testing, this ‘rating’ should not be an alternative to user testing. User testing with as many different users as possible is the key to usable, accessible content.

If you have any comments about Sharepoint or this post, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Posted byCharlie M at 06:54 0 comments  

Web Accessibility discussed on 'Click On' show (BBC Radio 4)

Here is an interesting radio article about the importance of Web Accessibility & the new Web Accessibility standard "BS 8878 British Standard For Accessible Websites".

The show is hosted by Simon Cox and is joined by LĂ©onie Watson (Nomensa) and Bim Egan (RNIB).


The show can heard by clicking here : http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00ndzw4


This is the show writeup from the BBC website:

"While ramps and lifts are now an everyday sight, enabling disabled access to public buildings, the vast majority of websites aren’t anything like as disabled friendly. Simon speaks to those behind a new British standard (BS 8878) for web accessibility hoping that with the right advice and encouragement websites will finally make themselves accessible to all. Or should we see the same use of the disability discrimination legislation to compel websites to comply?"

Enjoy!

Posted byCharlie M at 14:04 0 comments  

Jaws 11 - what's new?

So, Jaws 11 has now been released bringing additional exciting and innovative functionality for screenreader users. The full new version is now shipping to coincide with the release of Windows 7 : Jaws 11 Download link (http://www.freedomscientific.com/downloads/jaws/JAWS-whats-new.asp#download)

Jaws 11- Man using jaws screenreader

The new features are thoroughly documented at : http://www.freedomscientific.com/downloads/jaws/JAWS-whats-new.asp

You can also download the 'What’s New in JAWS 11 DAISY book' from http://www.freedomscientific.com/downloads/training/training-downloads.asp

The FSCast podcast (FSCast Episode 33, August 2009) which discusses the new features of Jaws 11 can be found here : http://www.freedomscientific.com/FSCast/episodes/fscast033-august2009.asp
The September FSCast podcast (Episode 34, September 2009) presents a demonstration of the new "Research It" : http://www.freedomscientific.com/FSCast/episodes/fscast034-september2009.asp

I have yet to try out the new functionality within Jaws 11 thoroughly for myself, so would be very interested to hear what everyone thinks of the new version. Does it live up to expectations? Please leave me a blog comment or email me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/contact.html

Posted byCharlie M at 14:49 0 comments  

Google Accessibility

This week Google have launched "Google Accessibility"- a new website which will be a central resource for all their existing accessibility documentation & information. "Google Accessibility" enables us to follow all their updates from one place (RSS feed is available), and perhaps most importantly will allow us provide our feedback on all their services.

This is a another great step forward for the exposure of accessibility to the masses & reiterates the importance of creating accessible products and services.

See for yourselves : http://www.google.com/accessibility/

Here is some additional information about "Google Accessibility" : http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2009/10/new-home-for-accessibility-at-google.html

Posted byCharlie M at 02:05 0 comments  

Accessibility 2.0

Here is a link to a great write up of the Accessibility 2.0 event (written by Liz at Pancentric Blogs : http://blogs.pancentric.com/2009/10/05/accessibility-2-0/).

I particularly like the concluding paragraph :

"The conclusion I’ve drawn from this conference is that the responsibility of ensuring our sites can be used by everybody needs to be taken away from the developers and laid down at the door of the information architects and designers. If we can build it into the very structure, navigation and design, then surely the developers’ task of building the accessible code will be made that much easier. And the first challenge is to educate our clients that AX is as important when designing a website as it is when designing anything else."

I couldn't put it better myself ;)

Posted byCharlie M at 03:24 0 comments  

List-based navigation menu generator

I have just stumbled across a generator to create custom list-based navigation menus. It allows you to modify the content, layout and presentation, and works really well!
Give it a go!

List-O-Matic : http://accessify.com/tools-and-wizards/developer-tools/list-o-matic/

Posted byCharlie M at 06:28 0 comments  

Web Accessibility / Web User Experience for Old Users

Web Accessibility for Old Users is something which is often overlooked. Unfortunately, when we get older we often begin to loose some of our senses and mobility... vision declines, hearing becomes more difficult, movement can be reduced and cognition is often negatively effected. Therefore, Web Accessibility is likely to be important for most of us at some point! I will be writing about this topic at length in the near future.

Over the past few weeks I have been working with some older users, and have viewed them making use of the world wide web. I thought it would be interesting to share some very basic observations of how they interacted with popular websites. The observations are certainly not scientific, but I think they are useful to add weight to some of the important usability / accessibility / user experience guidelines that I promote.

---

Generally, I saw once again that simplicity really made the whole user experience more usable and understandable. The websites that were cluttered and poorly arranged caused issues almost immediately. Hence the name of my business! I really see no reason or excuse for cluttered, untidy and unfriendly websites.

Unlike the younger generation, the older users i observed were reluctant to 'click to see what it does'. If the destination of the hyperlink or button was not apparent, they would be hesitant to click. It is very rare that a user who has grown up with computers and the Internet would get stuck and unable to continue on an website... however, I saw that the older generation would actually give up within seconds if the website was not sufficiently obvious to operate.

The older users were very concerned about hackers and malicious behavior on the internet. They have read about internet fraud and crime, and are very cautious as a result. Over cautious in my opinion!

In a similar vein, the credibility of each website was scrutinized. When we were looking for local services (plumbers, etc) the unprofessional websites were discarded very quickly, particularly if they did not provide full and easy to find contact details.

Pop-up windows and dialogue boxes caused a lot of issues. Surprisingly, the Firefox download dialogue box caused frustration and confusion. When are pop ups really essential?

Some websites use very small fonts for their body text. The users did not know that they could zoom or increase text size, so they simply left the website. Silly design decisions such as very small fonts will turn visitors away as quickly as they came!

--

Anyway readers, I hope this quick post has been of interest. If you have had any similar experiences of working with the older generation I would be interested in hearing from you.

Posted byCharlie M at 04:43 0 comments  

Snow Leopard- Accessibility Improvements

I have been trying to decide whether to update my Mac to Snow Leopard. To be honest, there does not seem to be many major improvements which I will benefit from, and I am a little concerned about losing my settings and preferences... can anyone reassure me?

While researching the new Snow Leopard features I have seen several accessibility improvements, particularly for those with Physical Disabilities.

Here is a very quick rundown:

- Trackpad Commander
Enables new trackpad gestures.

"you can hear what’s on screen by touching the corresponding part of the trackpad; touch the upper left corner of the trackpad, and VoiceOver will tell what’s in the upper left of the screen. Drag your finger, and VoiceOver will tell you what's in the frontmost window your finger touches"

- Quick Nav
Allows screen navigation and clicks using keyboard arrow keys.

- VoiceOver
Improvements make VoiceOver more configurable than before.

- Mono audio for hearing impaired
Users who hear better through one ear rather than in 'in stereo' can set the audio to play in Mono.

For more detailed information, please see : http://www.macworld.com/article/142456/2009/08/snowleopardaccessibility.html

It is great to see that Accessibility is getting more focus in new software and operating systems... may the current trend continue!

If you have any thoughts or comments about accessibility, Snow Leopard or this post, please let me know!

Posted byCharlie M at 09:04 1 comments  

Promotional Offer

For a limited time, 'Simplicity User Experience' are offering upto 75% off selected services including:

- Accessibility Consultancy - expert advice, full website reviews, optimisation and testing.
- Full website 'User Experience' review and optimisation.
- Usability Consultancy - expert advice, full site reviews and usability optimisation.

We are also offering FREE accessibility optimisation services for selected non-profit organisations.

If you would like any further information, please contact us at info@simplicityuserexperience.co.uk or via the Simplicity User Experience website.

We look forward to working with you.

Posted byCharlie M at 05:40 0 comments  

HTML headings for Accessibility

One thing which is often overlooked in accessible webpage design is the correct use of HTML headings. The headings (coded as H1-H6 tags) are important for users who navigate webpages using screen readers, keyboard input, refreshable braille displays, voice commands and other assistive technologies. Headings basically enable users to navigate / scan a webpage more easily and quickly, by indicating the beginning of sections / sub-sections.

A screenreader survey by webaim suggests that 76% of screenreader users navigate using headings 'often' or 'all the time'. This just shows the importance of correct use of headings for accessibility design.

Graph showing use of headings from webaim survey

(image source : http://webaim.org/projects/screenreadersurvey/#headings)

There are several 'HTML heading' rules that I follow in my webdesign:

1) Only use one H1. This should be the main page heading. Opinion is divided whether this is required for accessibility, but in my experience, having more than one H1 causes usability issues for blind users.
2) Headings should not be skipped, i.e. H2 should follow H1, H3 should follow H2 etc.
3) Headings should be used to break up long articles.
4) Headings should be informative about the subject matter, yet short and scannable.
5) Headings should be used to structure the webpage, not to format textual elements.

If you have any general rules that you use in your everyday webdesign, I would be interested to hear from you.

Here is a video from youtube about the 'Importance of HTML Headings for Accessibility'. This is a really informative video, and well worth a watch:



(If you can't access the embedded video, please navigate directly to youtube by clicking the link here: Importance of HTML Headings for Accessibility

I hope this post has been informative, if you would like any additional information, please contact me directly via : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 01:34 0 comments  

Colour Contrast / Color Contrast for Accessibility


So, Colour Contrast.
Some users with cognitive or visual impairments can have difficulty distinguishing and making sense of foreground text against certain background colours.

I'm sure we have all been on websites where there is a terribly bold background pattern that prevents you from being able to read the text in the foreground. Many MySpace, Bebo and WYSIWYG personal webpages pages have this problem!

Displaying text which is legible is useful for everyone, but especially for those with special requirements.

The most important thing to ensure is that the contrast between the foreground and the background colour is sufficient to enable easy reading. The most extreme examples are black text on white background, or white text on a black background. There are algorithms to ensure that the contrast is sufficient, but I won't go into those just now (feel free to get in contact if you would like an explanation!). The general rule I like to follow as an initial test is to imagine if your page was presented on a black and white screen- would the text and imagery be suitably clear?

Another consideration should be your users with colour blindness. Colour blindness is basically the difficulty distinguishing between different colours. e.g. red and green may appear virtually the same to a colour blind users. Therefore, it is important that colour is not used as the sole differentiator for areas of your webpage. For example a statement such as "click on the red button to stop, and green to start", could be problematic for some.

Here is a useful accessibility tool that I have used in previous accessibility projects. It is called the Accessibility Color Wheel. Move your mouse over the 'wheel' to see different coloured text presented against a background colour of your choice. If it meets the recommended WCAG 2 contrast ratio, the tool displays 'OK!'. The tool can also be used to test for Colour brightness / difference. Give it a go!

Hope this brief description of colour contrast was useful. If you have any further questions, please don't hesitate to contact me directly at : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation.

Posted byCharlie M at 09:18 0 comments  

ALT and TITLE attributes for Accessibility & Web Design

I have been asked several questions about the use of ALT and TITLE attributes in webpage design recently, so thought I would write a brief summary here.

'ALT text' or 'ALT attributes' (nb. not ALT 'tags' as many people call them) should be included on all non textual elements of your webpage, such as images. The ALT attribute should be provided as an alternative textual description for all relevant images. ALT attributes are coded like this:

ALT = "textual description of image".

If the image in question is purely decorative, the best practice is to use an 'empty alt attribute', i.e. with no textual description:

ALT = "".

ALT text should be used to improve the accessibility of your page particularly for those using assistance technology such as screen readers. They also enable search engine crawlers to "see" your non-textual page content- potentially improving your search engine ranking.

The ALT attribute is required.

--------------------------------------------------------


The 'TITLE attribute', in contrast, should be used to provide additional information about the page element. Most modern browsers show the title attribute as well as the image (or other page element). The title description is shown in a yellow box when the user hovers over the element with their mouse. It is coded using:

title = "title text".

I like to use title text in three main situations:
1) When additional information about a image is required, such as source information or the photographer's name when using a photograph.
2) If a field in a form requires explanation this information can be given via a title attribute. I would also include this information in plain text above the field for completeness.
3) To explain more about a hyperlink- such as a warning if a link opens in a new window.

The ALT attribute is optional.

This is a very basic overview of ALT and TITLE attributes- if you have any questions or queries, please don't hesitate to contact me at via : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 05:29 1 comments  

Relative font sizes for accessibility

I wanted to do a really quick post on the accessibility benefits of using relative font sizes in web design. It is something which is usually easy to implement, yet is still often overlooked by designers.

When presenting text on a webpage, there are various ways to specify the font size. Some argue it is best to leave the font size to the default size as specified by the browser, but for most web users this is likely to be too large.

Although widely supported by browsers, pixel sizes (px) are not accessible. They fix the size of the text. Points (pt) are another font size option, however, they are displayed inconsistently across different screen resolutions.

So, on to Percentages and Ems. These are relative measures rather than absolute. They are configured by the users font size, and can be adjusted using most browsers to suit the users needs. This basically means that if a visually impaired user needs to increase the size of the text in your website to read it comfortably... they can.

It is sometimes difficult however, to know exactly what percentage (%) font size to use to match up to a wireframe design, or pixel value (if you are converting directly). Therefore, this useful table below may help take out the guess work:

pixel
size (px) - percent (%)
10 - 77
11 - 85
12 - 93
13 - 100
14 - 108
15 - 116
16 - 123.1
17 - 131
18 - 138.5
19 - 146.5
20 - 153.9
21 - 161.6
22 - 167
23 - 174
24 - 182
25 - 189
26 - 197
(reproduced from diagram on Yahoo! Developer Network)

In a similar vein, I'm going to make a bold statement. Where possible for accessible design, use plain text rather than text included in imagery. This seems simple, and obvious, but it is still often overlooked... even by superb designers. If 'zooming' in on a page is necessary, then image's often become pixelated, often beyond recognition. I have worked with visually impaired Internet users who have needed to 'zoom in' to a webpage so much that only one or two letters are visible on their monitors- in this case the presentation of the characters is generally much clearer if its is a textual character written as plain text, rather than embedded in an image.

Please comment or drop me a line if you have any questions or thoughts on the topic.
In addition, if you need any help with the accessibility or user experience of your webpage, please get in contact with me directly via : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation.

Posted byCharlie M at 02:55 2 comments  

What is your favourite Web Accessibility toolbar?

Accessibility toolbars / browser add-ons are great. Without fail, I use these tools everyday for both my web design and user experience & accessibility testing. They are always easily accessible from my browser- just where I need them. They're free too!

So... which are the best ones to use?

My personal favourites are the Firefox Accessibility Extension (1.5.53.0) which can be downloaded from : https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5809, and also the Web Developer toolbar (1.1.8) available from https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/60.
The ever popular Firebug is also a great tool for my web design and CSS validation needs.

These toolbars just make life easier- easy resizing, links to code validators, easy view of ALT text, quick disabling of JS, quick outline viewer... etc.

What tools do YOU use for your user experience / accessibility testing and web design? Let me know!

Visit me at : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 05:05 2 comments  

Website Accessibility and the Law - Joe Clark

I just had to post this link to the HTML version of a chapter about "Accessibility and the Law" from the book Building Accessible Websites by Joe Clark, 2002. This webpage provides easy to understand information about both the 'Americans with Disabilities Act' and the 'U.S. Section 508' requirements.

http://joeclark.org/book/sashay/serialization/AppendixA.html

Joe Clark really knows his stuff when it comes to accessibility and I have learnt a lot from his publications & articles. I hope you find the link interesting.

The whole book is also available for online reading here : http://joeclark.org/book/sashay/serialization/

If you have any questions about accessibility and the law, don't hesitate to contact me.

Visit me at : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 09:19 0 comments  

Accessible Twitter

Did you know that there is an accessible version of twitter?

It had long been known that twitter.com has some accessibility issues... No keyboard access to favorite/reply/delete, few headings, inflexible layout width...
However, Denis Lembree has created a site to fix these issues:


http://www.accessibletwitter.com/


The project is currently in Beta, but first impressions are good!

Here are the Accessibility Features offered :

* All links are keyboard accessible.
* DM, Favorite, Reply, Re-tweet, and Delete links are all visible by default.
* Simple, consistent layout and navigation (and signed-in username always displayed).
* Headings and page titles are implemented for optimal accessibility. This includes an H3 heading (for author screen name) added to tweets to assist with screen reader users.
* Works great with or without JavaScript.
* Ajax actions are concluded with an alert that notifies the user of the result of the action.
* Large default text size and high color contrast. Layout/text resizes without breaking.
* When entering tweets, audio cues indicate when the character limit is almost reached (in addition to character counter).
* Forms and data tables are marked up for optimal accessibility.
* Code is semantic, light, and adheres to best practices in Web Standards.
* If a tweet is in response to another (and marked as such in the data), a clearer link is provided to the that tweet (not hidden). There's also a more obvious link to the "permanent page" for the tweet.
* A clearer link is provided for the "permanent" link for a tweet; the page containing only a single tweet.
* Tested on all major browsers: IE6, IE7, IE8, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and Chrome.

Visit me at : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 05:58 0 comments  

Apple (and iPhone) Accessibility

Here are a few links to the Apple site that documents their commitment to Accessibility.

http://www.apple.com/accessibility/

Like many other User Experience specialists, I am a big Apple fan. I'm always impressed by their sleak design, and intuitive software. Since I spend so much time at my computer, it might as well be as enjoyable as possible!

One thing that I didn't realise was that Apple have introduced screen reader to the iPhone- VoiceOver..."It’s the world’s first gesture-based screen reader, enabling you to enjoy the fun and simplicity of iPhone even if you can’t see the screen."

http://www.apple.com/accessibility/iphone/vision.html

iPhone VoiceOver image

Keep up the good work Apple!

Visit me at : Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Posted byCharlie M at 05:23 0 comments  

New accessibility features in Firefox 3.5

A very quick link post discussing the 'New accessibility features in Firefox 3.5':

http://www.marcozehe.de/2009/06/26/new-accessibility-features-in-firefox-3-5/
http://www.accessfirefox.org/Firefox_3_Accessibility_Features.php

Out of interest, what browser do you use for accessibility testing / browsing / web design?

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 13:11 0 comments  

Free Accessibility PDF from Jakob Nielsen : "Beyond ALT Text: Making the Web Easy to Use for Users With Disabilities"

Jakob Nielsen (the web usability GURU) offered a free accessibility report as a new years gift in 2008. I missed the boat (for some reason...) so have only just got round to reading it. Make sure you read it too!

Here is a summary from the Nielsen Norman Group website:

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The report contains:

  • Results of usability tests of 19 websites with users with several different types of disabilities who are using a range of assistive technology:
    • blind users using screen readers
    • blind users using Braille readers
    • low-vision users using screen magnifiers
    • motor-impaired users
  • Test data collected mainly in the United States, with some additional studies in Japan to ensure the international applicability of the recommendations
    • A total of 104 users participated in the usability studies:
    • 84 users with disabilities
    • 20 non-disabled users who served as a control group
  • 75 detailed design guidelines
The report is richly illustrated with 46 screenshots of designs that worked well or that caused difficulties for users with disabilities in the usability tests as well as 23 photos of assistive technology devices. The examples and guidelines are directly based on empirical observation of actual user behavior.

This report addresses the usability of websites and intranets. The report should be used together with the standards for technical accessibility of web pages. Obviously, technical accessibility is a pre-condition for usability: if users cannot get at the content of the web pages, they also cannot use the website. Technical accessibility is necessary, but not sufficient for usability of a design. Even if a site is theoretically accessible because it follows the technical accessibility standards to the letter, it can still be very hard to use for people with disabilities.

The fact that technical accessibility is insufficient to guarantee great usability, ease of learning, and high user performance should come as no surprise. After all, countless usability studies of websites and intranets have documented severe usability problems, low success rates, and sub-optimal user performance, even when testing users with no disabilities. Being able to see everything on a webpage certainly doesn't guarantee that you will know what to do on the page or the optimal way to perform your task. This observation holds equally true for users with disabilities: just because a site is technically accessible doesn't mean that it will be easy or fast to perform tasks on the site.

This report addresses the second level in improving the user experience of websites and intranets for people with disabilities. Yes, you must ensure technical accessibility but you should also ensure good usability, ease of use, and high productivity for employees and customers with disabilities.

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Here is the link:
http://www.nngroup.com/reports/accessibility/beyond_ALT_text.pdf

Posted byCharlie M at 03:01 0 comments  

Discounted introductory rates - Simplicity User Experience Optimisation

Although it this is something I don’t really like to do… here is a little plug for my new business – ‘Simplicity User Experience Optimisation’ based in Brighton, UK : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/


To establish a healthy client base, we are offering heavily discounted introductory rates to our new clients…. So why not contact us for a quote : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/contact.html

Remember no job is too small!

We look forward to working with you.

Posted byCharlie M at 05:39 0 comments  

Web Accessibility Statements- are they required?

Web accessibility statements are common place in websites these days. However, are they really required? Shouldn't the accessibility of the page speak for itself? I would certainly be interested to hear what people think about this topic.

Nomensa, (http://www.nomensa.com) state that there are two basic functions of the Accessibility Statement :

"Firstly, it presents clear information about the target level of web accessibility for the website and the methods used to achieve those targets. It also enables the website owner to acknowledge any areas of the website where accessibility targets have not been met and to outline the proposed plan for resolving any such problem.

Secondly, an accessibility statement is a powerful declaration of commitment. People visiting the website, particularly those with disabilities, will appreciate the open acknowledgement that accessibility is a key driver for the website. A word of caution however, an accessibility statement that makes rash or false claims will only damage the reputation of the website, not enhance it!"

In my experience, Accessibility Statements are often technically complex, and are jam packed with technical jargon- which makes it difficult for average users to understand. This can exclude their use (or purpose?) for average users. Perhaps we need to understand who actually reads the statements, and focus the content accordingly? Are they written with the users or developers in mind? Or both?

Another common question is what we should include in our accessibility statements? Well, in essence there are no hard and set rules. However, Juicy Studio and Nomensa have both written great articles about what makes a good accessibility statement. Please find the hyperlinks to these articles below.

http://juicystudio.com/article/writing-a-good-accessibility-statement.php
http://www.nomensa.com/web-accessibility/create-your-own-accessibility-statement.html

To me, the most important uses of Accessibility Statements are to a) show your personal or corporate commitment to accessibility and b) to provide contact details for feedback. Is it really necessary to include the technical techniques and methods used to achieve accessibility goals?

I would be interested to hear your thoughts!

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 05:06 0 comments  

The In-accessibility of CAPTCHA

Don't you just hate CAPTCHA... "Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart"? The user experience of using CAPTCHA is terrible, and always a pain. I often get them wrong, and they slow down the browsing experience.

They are also in-accessible.

Recently, I have seen an increase in audio CAPTCHA which is a positive step (at least accessibility is being considered), but an alternative would be better. ..

Here is a detailed spec writing by W3c discussing the possible alternatives to CAPTCHA:
http://www.w3.org/TR/turingtest/

In addition, here is an article from WebAIM discussing the alternatives to 'spam free accessible forms': http://webaim.org/blog/spam_free_accessible_forms/

These articles certainly leave food for thought.

In a future post, I will discuss SAPTCHA (Semi Automatic Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) which is a proposed solution to the accessibility problems of CAPTCHA.

Let me know if you have any thoughts / comments regarding SAPTCHA, CAPTCHA and it's various alternatives.

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 04:58 1 comments  

Web accessibility law in other countries

I recently posted a link to an informative article which discusses in basic terms what is required to make a US web site legal against the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) from a web accessibility viewpoint.

Here is an another 'beginners guide style ' article which covers accessibility law in other countries...

http://www.practicalecommerce.com/articles/1167-Web-Accessibility-and-the-Law

In addition, please find the extremely informative article about UK accessibility laws from the RNIB. Essential reading:
http://www.rnib.org.uk/xpedio/groups/public/documents/publicwebsite/public_legalcase.hcsp


Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 09:34 0 comments  

Accessibility for children - CBBC Accessible Newsreader

This is a great article from the BBC about their new CBBC Accessible Newsreader -

http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/bbcinternet/2009/05/introducing_the_cbbc_newsreade.html

The focus is accessibility for children using switch technology- particularly for those users with complex physical disabilities, including near total loss of motor control, who are not able to use a keyboard or mouse.

Keep up the good work BBC!

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 09:23 0 comments  

Accessibility testing resources in Brighton & Hove, UK

I found this URL which lists some useful resources for contacting visually impaired people in the Brighton and Hove, UK, for accessibility testing:

http://blindsecondlife.blogspot.com/2007/11/local-services-brighton-uk.html

In my experience, finding suitable candidates for accessibility testing can be very difficult, so these resources could be a good place for fellow Brighton'ers to start. In recent years I have had to drive all the way across the UK to find the suitable users for testing sessions!

If you need any advice or help with accessibility / usability / user experience testing sessions, please don't hesitate to get in-touch. I'm always keen to get involved.

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 05:25 0 comments  

Accessibility generator for skip navigation links

This is a great tool for those creating "skip navigation links" to improve accessibility for keyboard-only users. This generator creates skiplinks, CSS, JS, etc. Should save lots of your precious time! I'm looking forward to giving it a go myself.

http://accessify.com/tools-and-wizards/accessibility-tools/skipnav-builder/

There is also a video tutorial here: http://accessify.com/screencasts/skipnav-builder/

Enjoy!

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 02:17 0 comments  

An interesting article about whether your website is legal...

Here is a short and simple article from the "e-commerce resource unit" about whether or not your website is legal. The article discusses the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 (DDA) in basic terms : http://www.ecru.co.uk/articles/legal.html

Visit me at : hhttp://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 05:25 0 comments  

How do you teach a blind person HTML?

Interesting post on accessify... how do you teach a blind person HTML...?

http://accessify.com/news/2009/04/teaching-a-blind-person-html/

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 03:53 0 comments  

http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Do you have your own website? Are you working on a web project and need some advice? Are you thinking of building a website but don't know where to start? Would you like to improve your users web experience?

Come and see my new website... Simplicity User Experience Optimisation:

http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/


If you would like to use any of my services, please don't hesitate to get in touch (the best way is via email... http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/contact.html). You are sure to be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the service I offer AND my rates!

Remember, no job is too small!

Posted byCharlie M at 03:55 0 comments  

How to establish a web accessibility business case

Many people ask me about how to establish a web accessibility business case for your own business or website. Although, I certainly have my own take on this subject, a nice overview can be found on the w3 web accessibility initiative's (WAI) website.

This article covers social, technical, financial, and legal and policy factors in the business case for Web accessibility:

"Developing a Web Accessibility Business Case for Your Organization: Overview" :
http://www.w3.org/WAI/bcase/Overview

Visit me at : http://www.simplicityuserexperience.co.uk/

Posted byCharlie M at 06:13 0 comments