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Accessibility and Usability Forum

    
The designers have taken over the asylum
Give me back my internet!
goingincircles




msg:3449537
 2:19 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

The designers have taken over the asylum

I have a theory. If you are learning to play golf, you shouldn't play with a seven iron until you can use your pitching wedge. You shouldn't use your three iron until you can use your seven iron, and you shouldn't use your driver until you can use your three iron.

Apologies if this is meaningless to non-golfers; let me put it in a relevant context.

Don't use images to build a site until you can develop one without them.

Images on a website other than a logo, branding (which includes calls-to-action) and product photos are luxury, not necessity.

CSS has taken us beyond the need for all those spacer.gif's, beyond single-colour bars to separate parts of the page. OK, pretty things up a bit by using an image for your navigation tabs, or some funky icons, but learn how to do it without first.

Then, when you do start using images, learn how to use them properly. Get the alt attribute in, properly. Make it describe the image, not stuffed with keywords. NO! It's not for tool tips!

Get the title attribute working in links - where is it going?

The web is too design-oriented

This is not necessarily a problem - it makes things look pretty, which is great, but it has lead to a large number of designers leaping into the web without learning how it works.

I've seen websites (developed entirely by a designer) with a table for the basic layout, a table inside that to format the content, and then another table inside that for bullet points. How is this of benefit to anyone? Aside from anything else, it must be harder for the designer than just using <ul>...!

I fought the dot-com bust for the likes of you!

So what did it teach us? You can't just have an idea and make a fortune. Were lessons learned about usability, about functionality, about the user experience? Maybe, but not by many.

boo.com - 'nuff said.

I still see many people with Flash intros, with "This website was designed for Internet Explorer and 1024 x 768", with all the other things that we knew were wrong five, ten years ago.

And yet, develop a website that is simple, conforms to standards, looks good and loads fast and it will jump into the SERPS with little trouble, assuming that you do a few other things correctly too! (I'm not saying it guarantees a top spot, but it's a start)

Is it just something that will forever be a problem? Should I just shut up and make money from sorting things out for people? Probably both!

BILL! Don't you care?

Perhaps we can blame the big boys for the usability issues - although they can't stop someone using mystery meat! Why does IE show the alt attribute when mousing-over an image? Why will it render a mis-coded page correctly?

It is no doubt a chicken-and-egg situation. If browsers did everything strictly, would the web have taken off? Undoubtedly, one of the reasons for the internet's success is the phenomenally low barrier-to-entry. Anyone with a computer and an internet connection can be a 'webmaster' - for themselves of for others, and this has clearly helped its phenomenal growth.

So should we be thanking the browser guys for their lax attitude to code, or screaming at them for making everyone lazy? Probably both.

I went to Utah and all I got was this lousy teapot

A picture is worth a thousand words... or a picture wastes a thousand bytes? Sometimes all I want is information. That's what I love about WebmasterWorld - and I'm sure it's been designed specifically to allow users to get the content they need as quickly as possible. We're web people, we're busy, we want information and we want it now.

The world of instant information is being bogged down by over-excited designers. What are you going to do about it?

I'll end with a kiss - keep it simple, stupid

 

benihana




msg:3449571
 2:57 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

The web is too design-oriented

This is not necessarily a problem - it makes things look pretty, which is great

Good design is about making things work well. Look and feel is of course part of that, but unfortunately, this is lost on a lot of 'designers', who focus purely on the aesthetic.

disclaimer: Im a web designer

goingincircles




msg:3449581
 3:03 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

Good design is about making things work well. Look and feel is of course part of that, but unfortunately, this is lost on a lot of 'designers', who focus purely on the aesthetic.

Absolutely. My issue with (some!) designers is that they often link little further than a first impression. There is little consideration to developing a relationship between user and site, to encouraging some sort of action from the user, or to what the user actually wants to do when they arrive at the website.

(the only thing I've heard that was worse was when an SEO firm a client was using before they started using me said the immortal words, "It doesn't matter what happens when the person gets to your website, all that matters is they find you in the search engines"...)

edit -

disclaimer: Im a web designer

Based on your comments, you sound like a true web designer, rather than a designer who has designed websites. There is a big difference, but one that few seem to notice.

Gibble




msg:3449587
 3:11 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

In my mind, a site should be designed with a generic look but a great UI first, THEN made to give the best first impression possible graphically.

You can't jam a good UI into a design that didn't take that into consideration in the first place.

goingincircles




msg:3449592
 3:17 pm on Sep 13, 2007 (gmt 0)

In my mind, a site should be designed with a generic look but a great UI first, THEN made to give the best first impression possible graphically.

You can't jam a good UI into a design that didn't take that into consideration in the first place.

Spending some time at www.csszengarden.com shows this perfectly.

g1smd




msg:3453709
 12:17 pm on Sep 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something that almost NO site EVER does is a "URL Format" audit.

I'm not thinking about "checking dead links using Xenu" when I say that.

I am thinking about the process of documenting all of the possible URL Formats(*) that could used to reach your content, documenting which ones are used by the site, which ones need a login (and therefore should be "noindex") and then looking for Duplicate Content issues and for ways that competitors could take out your site.

Almost no-one does this, not even the people producing most popular forum, blog, cart and other CMS systems. I have searched in vain for a complete list of formats for certain packages and drawn a blank. I have had to compile my own list before I could even start work to fix the problems with a site.

(*) - and that does mean ALL formats, all canonical and non-canonical formats, all "folder backdoors" on virtual hosting, and alternative URLs with ports, query strings and other stuff that the site may not actually need to "process". Even for a simple site the list is usually several dozen items. For a complex dynamic site it can run to thousands of formats, only a few dozen of which you would ever want to present to search engines for spidering.

borntobeweb




msg:3454181
 7:15 pm on Sep 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

g1smd, that sounds more like an SEO issue, can you explain how that fits into usability and accessibility? There are discussions out there about URL usability, i.e. using something like example.com/article/title instead of example.com/?article=123, and there's some benefit to that, but i think as far as usability it's more benefitial to have an intuitive navigation system + good page titles that are easily bookmarked and identifiable in tabs.

Anyway, as far as graphics i disagree somewhat with the OP. A good website not only presents the information but also sets the right mood, and a good design goes a long way into doing that. Yes you can go overboard with cute flash navigation systems, but there's nothing wrong with sprucing up your pages with graphical buttons, gradients, and colors (as long as they have good contrast). I do agree about the alt and title attributes etc.

I've seen websites (developed entirely by a designer) with a table for the basic layout, a table inside that to format the content, and then another table inside that for bullet points.

At one point we all used to implement websites like that, for lack of better technology. They can be just as usable as a CSS-based site, but not as accessible... Maybe it's an older site or the implementor is using an older authoring tool. I'm guessing a lot of not so accessible websites come from subpar authoring tools.

In the end, it all depends on the website... A blog or forum site works well with little graphics because it's there to exchange information, but a musician's website is more of a fan site and should contain lots of graphics, non-conventional colors, flash, videos, etc.

Personally, i use Opera with styling and images off by default, i.e. i ignore all graphics, colors, fonts etc, and i imagine people with certain handicaps are aware of and use similar browsers and settings. With these settings, most websites work well, including table-driven sites, occasionally i need to turn on images because of lack of alt attributes... But still, i regularly switch styling on to see what else the author wants to tell me through their graphics and colors.

So should we be thanking the browser guys for their lax attitude to code, or screaming at them for making everyone lazy? Probably both.

No matter, it still won't stop people from setting all alt attributes to "image" or from setting their search page's title to "Help:" (wink).

The world of instant information is being bogged down by over-excited designers. What are you going to do about it?

If you see a website that bugs you, drop the author an email. Just state what bugs you and let them figure out how to fix it, don't rant on how they missed the boat on CSS, or they don't test on FF or ignore Macs etc. Just say something like "hey, i'd like to see what you have to say, but i can't get to any of your pages, all i get is a blank screen. FYI i use xyz browser on abc OS, no Flash, no Javascript." If the author gets enough of these emails, they'll eventually get a clue.

g1smd




msg:3454331
 9:58 pm on Sep 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

>> g1smd, that sounds more like an SEO issue <<

Oops. Didn't notice which forum this was in. Not sure what link I followed to get this thread.

goingincircles




msg:3457927
 11:48 am on Sep 22, 2007 (gmt 0)

Something that almost NO site EVER does is a "URL Format" audit.

That's an excellent point. I have a feeling I fall in between "no site ever does" and "that does mean ALL formats". So I'm good, but not perfect ;-)

Anyway, as far as graphics i disagree somewhat with the OP. A good website not only presents the information but also sets the right mood, and a good design goes a long way into doing that. Yes you can go overboard with cute flash navigation systems, but there's nothing wrong with sprucing up your pages with graphical buttons, gradients, and colors (as long as they have good contrast).

It's not so much that I don't think they should be used, but that they should be understood before they are used. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone - learn how to work without something makes you appreciate its power much more when you then start using it again. I developed one website using nothing but text and CSS, and immediately found it much easier to develop my next website using images to a much greater effect than I had ever done before.

My concern is that too many graphic designers are having the first and last say on the web, which is having negative effects from a usability point of view.


I've seen websites (developed entirely by a designer) with a table for the basic layout, a table inside that to format the content, and then another table inside that for bullet points.

At one point we all used to implement websites like that, for lack of better technology. They can be just as usable as a CSS-based site, but not as accessible... Maybe it's an older site or the implementor is using an older authoring tool. I'm guessing a lot of not so accessible websites come from subpar authoring tools.

Absolutely - I'm not suggesting that they never should have been done, but that they are still being churned out. I think one of the issues is with the perceived low barrier to entry to becoming a "web designer". Someone posted a link to a Yahoo! article a short while back of "jobs you can do from home", which I think included things like stuffing envelopes and web design.

As with usability testing, I think things fall down to budgeting (as with many other things!). The 'average' business (thinks they) can't afford to do design, testing, compliance etc., so the basics get done and the less obvious stuff (that the client doesn't perhaps see or understand) gets left out.

Personally, I've been working for the last couple of years on a big project for a client, that has taken up most of my time shortly after this post [webmasterworld.com]. Again, I've been frustrated that budgets and client demands have prevented certain aspects from being done correctly, but I've finally had the 'big idea', and I can start developing a site where the only limitations are my time, not someone else's budget.

I can't wait!

Beagle




msg:3459841
 2:35 am on Sep 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I think one of the issues is with the perceived low barrier to entry to becoming a "web designer". Someone posted a link to a Yahoo! article a short while back of "jobs you can do from home", which I think included things like stuffing envelopes and web design.

I'm not a web designer - heck, I'm here under false pretenses because I don't even really consider myself a webmaster! I'm someone who has a few websites, which are mostly straight content (that I write myself) so pretty simple to put together and to keep going. As I gradually learn more, they gradually get a little more complex.

But there's no way I'd create a website for someone else and charge them for it! What blows me away are the people I run into on other forums (not so often here) who know a heckuva lot less than I do and consider themselves professional web designers and even have a stable of clients. I'd not only feel dishonest doing that, I'd be scared to death that I'd be found out! Some of the questions they ask are so elementary I can't believe it, and the ones they don't know to ask are even worse (The site looks different when you see it on someone else's computer? Is it possible they're using a different screen resolution? Oh, you didn't know about that...?). There are a couple of these forums where I'm considered an expert - which is scary!

I'm glad the web itself has a low barrier to involvement, or my little content sites couldn't exist. But for people as clueless as I am (or even moreso) to set themselves up as professionals is (IMVHO) crazy! I only hope the clients get savvy enough to find their way to people who know what they're doing.

vincevincevince




msg:3459869
 3:15 am on Sep 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

I am a firm believer that there needs to be a reinforced concrete wall between the designer and the website. Great designers aren't great at writing HTML, and even if they are technically brilliant they will hold back their design due to coding concerns and their coding due to design concerns.

Designers need to design their sites and their user interfaces and deliver them in nothing more digital than a set of PNG files. It is then for someone who is an expert in HTML and CSS to turn those designs into a lean, mean and optimised conversions machine.

I know many people run web development as a one-person business. Same person is the web designer and the programmer. Tools like dreamweaver try to jam these roles into one. That's fine for "mom and pop" sites but it must be recognised that this is flying in the face of good practice. I guess it's the WYSIWYG web editors which have blurred the line.

After all, you'd not pay your builders to design your house, and you'd not trust your architect to do bricklaying.

goingincircles




msg:3460115
 9:48 am on Sep 25, 2007 (gmt 0)

vince3 (sorry, does that annoy you?) - you're almost spot on, except...

Designers need to design their sites and their user interfaces

If it was a reasonably large project I would argue against this. Good designers are not necessarily good interface designers. They can make something look fantastic, and I am constantly jealous of the ability to make something look simply fantastic, but they are also the worst culprits for insisting on mystery meat, dropdown menus, images instead of text (e.g. for descriptions!), inline scrolling and various other irritating (to me at least) usability issues.

I am not sure about the best order for the process, but I would suggest you need to do Designer > UI development > Designer (for final tweaks) > HTML / CSS developer. I wouldn't have any two of the three in the same room at the same time, otherwise sparks may fly ;-)

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