Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’

Things That Just Don’t Work On The Internet

I just need a bit of ranting.

  • Multi-colored capchtas. It’s already a pain in the butt trying to read an ordinary catpcha, with horizontal, same-sized letters, in shades of gray. When you make it multi-colored too (with a colored background and letters in different color), you’re making it harder for the average person. Also, you’re making it practically impossible to read for someone with an eye problem such as color blindness.
  • Close lettered captchas. I could list a million possible problems with captchas, but I’ll go only with the previous one and this one. It’s already hard to know if it’s a ‘zero’ (0) or an O, if the letter is uppercase or lowercase, if it’s a diagonal Z or a diagonal N, and you decide that the letters will be touching each others. Congratulations, now I just want to close the tab and move on to a different site.
  • SnapShot Page Previews. I can maybe perhaps do lots of efforts to try understanding the idea behind providing a preview of sites to your visitors. There are however problems with that. First, not every site in the world has a preview. Second, it is so damn slow. It’s been forever since I last used a slow phone connection, but I still can’t bear to wait for your stupid snapshots to load. When I put my mouse over a link, I’m expecting to see the hand cursor, with maybe a minor hover effect and a simple title, not have to wait for a preview to load. I just really don’t see the point in the end. “It makes visitors trust your site”. No, it doesn’t. It just tells me what the site I’m about to visit might look like, because it once did. In no way does it tell me how very awesome is the owner of the site I’m currently visiting.
  • Keywords power! Some time ago, meta tags were implemented. You could fill them with keywords and a description relating to your site, in an attempt to boost your search engine rank. However, with time, people have learned that search engines, notably Google, barely rely on these at all because of how people loved to boost them with irrelevant keywords to get hit. So what do people do now? They place keywords all over the fucking place. “Dream personal site personal about me Julie Canadian girl female Asperger Syndrome Asperger’s Asperger Autism autistic disease mental illness mental disease ocd obsessive compulsive disorder ocd oc disorder tutorials reviews movie reviews movies game reviews game gaming gamer gamers” would be the new text to display in my title bar. A good link to my site wouldn’t show in the title something like “Dream, Julie’s personal site”, but rather “Dream, Julie personal site” with a million more keywords afterwards. And that just bug me. A lot. We’re back to what I call cheap SEO ways. Why? Because they’re not frank, in my opinion, and worse of all, they are not practical. Usability and practicability are two very fun things I wish people wouldn’t forget about.

My School Is Prettier Than Yours

I went to the cegep—that’s college for you—today (Tuesday).

I had the stupid idea of walking from the metro station to my destination. As I said: stupid idea. The walk was much longer than anticipated and, because I have no familiarity with the place, I ended up going the long way. Long path + feet rather than bus led to my being very much in late, by about 45 minutes. As if it weren’t enough, I was only 5 minutes before closure. Fortunately for me, though, the woman I had to meet did not actually finish in 5 minutes, so I could meet her…Much to my disappointment, I had been “summoned” merely to sign something. Great. Marvelous. About 1 hour and 30 minutes of subway and walk just to sign a bloody paper.

At least, it allowed me to see the area for the first time. Not only is there a bus going right from the metro station to the college, but it passes along a beautiful park. Trees, ladies and gentlemen, trees! I love trees.

The building itself is quite ordinary. Just a building, with windows, doors and that kind of stuff. The park, however, is very beautiful. There are also lots of trees on the actual lot of the college, which is awesome. Even the parking doesn’t look too much like the classic ugly wide parking for well frequented buildings.

Yes, it was my first time going. Actually, up to about 10 minutes before sending in my admission request, I don’t think I had ever heard about it. There are quite a few colleges in Montreal, and most of them offer the program I’m going in—it has some fancy and rather odd name for what it is, but is it basically computer programming.

I will admit it to you, whole world: I chose this particular college because it was the first one on the list whose site I could access. I won’t go studying computer programming in a college that can’t even make a Firefox-compatible website. 😉

Don’t worry too much about the state of accessibility in the province though, it was something like the second on the list.

Backwards Compatibility vs. Upgrading

The increased interest for accessibility among the bloggers community has brought on several debates on individual parts of the “problem”. One of these debates concerns backwards compatibility. You will meet people who strongly condone backwards compatibility, so as to cater to the needs of visitors with older computers and browsers. You will also, however, meet people who claim that it’s people’s job to upgrade their programs when new versions are available.

Where do I stand in this debate? I must say that, to a certain extent, I agree with both sides.

What Is Backwards Compatibility?

Backwards compatibility is, in this case, when a website owner makes sure that his/her website is accessible to people with older systems (older browsers, older operating systems, etc.), and not only to the latest versions. This means that, while you can still use “new methods”, you must always provide methods for these users to be able to access the entirety of your content.

Why Insure Backwards Compatibility?

On one hand, let’s take a look at backwards compatibility. Around the world, there are millions of internet users and they all are in a nearly unique situation. Their connection speed, their browser itself, the version of said browsers, the plug-ins they use, the context in which they browse, all of these will vary from one user to another. I personally am among the lucky ones. While my computer is not at the top of current technology, it is a rather good computer. I have the latest version of Firefox and it runs without crashing.

Not everyone, however, is that lucky. If I were in school or working for some corporation, I would not necessarily be allowed to install the programs of my choice. I might even have to use an older version of Internet Explorer, for example 6, rather than 7. No matter the amount of website owners who would tell me “Too bad for you if you can’t see my site, you just have to upgrade!”, I couldn’t.

I could also be browsing on a very old computer that would explode if I were to install any new program. I could be on an extremely slow connection and running out of bandwidth at the end of the month, so I couldn’t update my browser.

I could also be someone who knows practically nothing of computers and doesn’t quite get what this upgrading thing is all about.

You can’t just assume that your visitors are going to own high-quality computers.

Why Upgrade?

On the other hand, however, upgrading is, I believe, a very good habit to take, above all if you are a common internet user. Older browsers tend to have unfixed security issues and bugs which the developers no longer care about after a new version has been released. If you don’t upgrade, you are opening your computers to issues that could easily be fixed by clicking a few links and/or buttons.

The same goes for scripts used on your website. You might think it’s going to be too long to do to justify doing it, but, trust me, it is truly worth it in the end. Spending a couple of minutes upgrading is much more fun than spending hours re-uploading your entire website because you have lost months of data.

So, Must I Insure Backwards Compatibility or Let Users Upgrade?

In brief, what can you do as a website owner? I believe the best is to come to a compromise and, for that, statistics can be helpful. In the past couple of years, the amount of people who use an 800×600 resolution has decreased considerably, but there are still over 10% of web users who have this resolution.1 It is a rather large amount of people and it cannot be neglected! You will however notice that users with a resolution of 640×480 are now practically inexistent (they were already only at 2% in October 2002!). It is important that you make sure your website is visible in 800×600. It does not have to be perfect, but people should at least be able to read and navigate. As for 640×480, you can forget it.

As for browser statistics, the same page gives nearly identical percentages for IE6 (36.9%) and Mozilla Firefox (34.5%) in July 2007, and both are superior to IE7 (20.1%)! It is therefore ridiculous for you to ignore IE6 users if you are a strong advocate of Firefox!

I consider that the average personal website (I include any form of personal project, such as fansites or message boards in that category) should be visible in resolutions from 800×600 and above and should be accessible to IE5 and above (or at least IE6) and Mozilla Firefox. In terms of operating systems, Mac, Windows XP/Vista/2000 and Linux users should be able to view it. Note however that the result of a certain website in an operating system is largely influenced by its browser, so testing in multiple browsers is an important key to success.

1 W3 Schools: Browsers Display statistics. Data from January 2007. It may not be applicable to your website, but it gives a relatively good reflection of resolution usage across the web.