Re: Web accessability

Subject: Re: Web accessability
From: Jean Weber <jhweber -at- WHITSUNDAY -dot- NET -dot- AU>
Date: Sat, 8 May 1999 11:13:04 +1000

Several people, including Arlen -dot- P -dot- Walker -at- JCI -dot- Com, wrote to explain Bauhaus
to me (thank you!), and Arlen added:
>The reference to a "Bauhaus era of web design" meant that as harried web
>designers tried to fulfill the accessibilty requirements they might take the
>easy way out, and strip their sites of everything but the essentials.
>
>I'm not saying that accessible web pages can't be creative and beautiful.
>... I'm just not sure that we'll see more of
>that approach than of the blandly functional one.

To which I reply:
In my opinion, lots of sites would benefit greatly by being stripped back
to the "blandly functional" essentials. If I'm trying to find information
(especially from a government site, but also on most commercial sites), I
don't want to wait for large or numerous slow-loading graphics files to
download, especially if site navigation is poor or the page is so cluttered
that I can't find -- or recognise -- the link I want.

Much of what passes for "design" these days is a major hindrance to
communication, at least to some (large) segments of the audience. Sure,
there's a place for eye candy and "cool" or "fun" stuff, but not when the
primary purpose of the site is to deliver information, and not when large
segments of the audience don't have the latest browsers, modems, plug-ins,
or fast internet access. I'm not saying the best sites are text-only,
because I appreciate the use of graphics to deliver information to another
large segment of the audience, but my experience suggests that most of the
graphics on the web don't provide information, they get in the way of it.
Good visuals (good=useful here) seem to be the exception.

Tying this discussion into the earlier one on whether technical writers
should get involved in user interface design (and if so, what's the best
way to handle that), I think we _should_ "butt in" -- whether as users of
others' sites (by writing to complain, which I do often) or as writers in a
company producing a site. Perhaps we can help show "harried web designers"
ways to provide attractive _and_ accessible sites (with graphics that have
information value as well as visual appeal), while saving time doing so.
Communcation is supposed to be _our_ primarly skill, after all -- whether
in words or in the judicious use of graphics.

I've tried to follow the accessibility guidelines on my site, and only
recently (and with some trepidation) have started using a simple table
layout on some of the main pages, to provide a bit of visual interest. One
concern I've had is whether the colors I've used (for text and background)
might be a problem for people with impaired color vision, but I haven't
made the time to test this yet. Otherwise it's what I consider a "bare
essentials" site design-wise, yet with a bit of visual appeal. If anyone
wants to comment to me on the presentation, off list is probably best, as
this is probably off-topic for TECHWR-L.

Regards, Jean
Jean Hollis Weber
The Technical Editors' Eyrie http://www.wrevenge.com.au/
mailto:jhweber -at- whitsunday -dot- net -dot- au

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