Bad Tools, Accessibility, and Playing to Writers’ Strengths

September 12, 2008 § Leave a comment

We could talk all day about why terrible tools are so prevalent. (In my experience, the reason why a terrible tool isn’t replaced is because someone senior paid $500,000 for it and sure as hell isn’t going to admit a mistake and scrap it.)

– From Accessibility in a Suit and Tie by Bruce Lawson, for Vitamin

So much of this article rang true for me in my experience as a university web designer. Although I was at a nonprofit, many of the issues related to getting buy-in from the top were the same.

I particularly appreciated what Bruce says about teaching CMS contributors to write their content in HTML. I think many people overlook the fact that HTML that has been created using web standards should make sense to any good writer — at its base, HTML just gives us a way to label the parts of our work (the main heading, the subheadings, the paragraphs, the figures/images, etc.), which we all learned to do in third grade or so. In my experience, writers don’t get fired for thinking explicitly about the structure and organization of their prose.

Prototyping a Museum Experience

April 23, 2008 § Leave a comment

Hold on to your hats – I’ve got lots more cycling stuff to come! My group for a course called Experience Design is iterating on a prototype for a museum exhibit about what a true bike culture is like, and I thought I’d post one of our early, low-fidelity versions. We’re going to do the final one this weekend life-size, but this one gives a good idea of where we’re going with the project.

The video you will see in the background is used with the permission of David Hembrow, who has also shot lots of other fun first-person videos while cycling around Assen, the Netherlands, where he lives and operates some awesome-looking cycling tours. Thanks, David!

Once again, it’s important to note that this is a low-fidelity, early-version prototype. The goal of creating this one was to make sure it had the feeling we were going for before we spent significant time building something large-scale and fully developed.

Straight to the Source

November 15, 2007 § Leave a comment

For perspective on accessible web code from a blind web developer, check out Aaron Cannon’s recent North Temple post, “The Accessibility Cookbook: A Recipe for Disaster.” After all the talk about alt attribute text, it can still be easy to get wrong, and Aaron highlights the importance of finding a balance between being descriptive when the image adds meaning and knowing when to leave the attribute blank.

He also mentions Web Accessibility: Web Standards and Regulatory Compliance by Andrew Kirkpatrick, et al., which I am slowly working my way through. One thing that I’ve already taken away from the book is that “skip navigation,” which has unfortunately become an industry standard, is not all that helpful to text-only users. In my redesign of the Mizzou Graduate School website, I opted for the recommended 〈a href="#main-content"〉Main content〈/a〉, which more directly tells people where the link will take them.

I removed North Temple from my RSS reader a little while ago because I found that many of the posts were not relevant to me, but luckily Cameron Moll (who works for the LDS church) pointed to Aaron’s post.

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