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Accessibility and Usability Forum

    
If you can read this...
You're too darn close!
pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 10:18 am on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Imagine going through life viewing everything at this size. Many website designers appear to do this. At first, its just fine. You can read this without any strain. Then, as time passes, this becomes a little blurry.

Now you need this. But, believe it or not, this isn't really big enough either.

How's this? Better?

Or how about this? Yes? I kind of like this size. I can sit back in my chair and read comfortably without losing focus on text.

And then I can get all crazy and put everything at this size which is fine by me too.

Which brings me to my final point made recently by encyclo in his 26 Steps to a more accessible website topic...

[webmasterworld.com...]

R. Relative text size

Browsers such as IE6 can't properly resize text with fixed pixel sizes. So use CSS to specify relative text sizes, such as ems or percentages.

[6]S. Bigger font sizes![/6]

This problem is even more common that color-blindness. Many users over a certain age cannot read small text without great difficulty. You may be comfortable with sub-10 pixel body text, but your users will abandon your site in droves, even if you have implemented relative font sizes as suggested above. Make your body text bigger, and use larger fonts such as Verdana rather than Arial to improve legibility.

I'm in the process of redesigning multiple sites. In that process I've learned how to blend both fixed and relative font sizing to achieve what I feel is a very usable platform without the user breaking my pixel perfect design.

{font:normal 100%/140% tahoma,verdana,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;}

I am now a convert. No longer am I going to force anything smaller than 12px on the user. And even then, that is going to be footer text.

If you are reading this paragraph, you're too damn close to your display. You may not realize it now, but the damage you are causing to your eyes is something you can address now by not forcing the user to read 9/10/11px type.

I say LARGE, LARGER and [6]LARGEST[/6] are the way to move forward. I'm convinced now.

 

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 1:17 pm on Jan 19, 2008 (gmt 0)

Don't forget font contrast.

A lot of the "Web 2.0" "look" is pastel, gradients and low-contrast text and backgrounds. #666666 text over #cccccc backgrounds seem to be a favorite.

Yuck.

Also, people insist on removing underlines from links, and making link colors much more like the normal text colors. Sometimes, they make the links look exactly like the text, or color the main text the same as links.

NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY. VERY NAUGHTY.

I always leave links underlined and a fairly noticeable blue color. I do control link color (something that they often tell you is an accessibility no-no), but I use blue with red rollovers. I will usually make the blue a bit darker than normal and the red a bit darker than normal. I make the underline disappear on rollover.

My rule is: "If it moves on rollover, you can click it. If you can click it, it will move on rollover." I don't rely on color change that much, because color blindness and badly-calibrated monitors can be a problem. I also use CSS to control rollovers, not JavaScript. Image rollovers use CSS background-image properties.

Another thing that annoys me is visited link colors. They are sort of useful, but a heck of a lot less useful these days than they were. Good page layout, clear navigation, fast-loading pages and descriptive names will help people determine where they want to go a heck of a lot more than a darker link. My own anecdotal experience is that people get confused by visited link colors. This may be in part because they have been "trained" to think of links as either normal or active.

If your typographic/graphic design is so delicate that it can't accept basic accommodations for usability and accessibility, then it's a bad design. The Web is a really rotten place for carefully controlled appearances. Your meticulously laid-out Web page is gonna get bent, folded, spindled and mutilated. It is going to get viewed on badly-calibrated monitors, or old cheap pieces of crud that can only display 16 colors. People are going to turn the contrast up until everything looks black and white.

And you will still need to work for them.

One thing that many designers don't seem to get is that Web design is not graphic design. It's industrial design. It's much more like designing an instrument panel than a concert poster. It involves interaction, which most graphic design does not. Graphic design tends to be a one-way medium.

Another important thing is text-block width and justification. Don't make your text blocks too wide. Columnar text layout is hundreds of years old for a reason.

Justified text is great for paperbacks and newspapers, but not always so good for computer screens. I'm not saying don't use it, but use it wisely.

The most important thing that you can do is have people OTHER THAN THE USUAL SUSPECTS use your site, then, now, this is important: LISTEN TO THEM, EVEN IF THEY SAY STUFF YOU DON'T LIKE.

</rant>

borntobeweb

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 5:57 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Hmm, i'd like to disagree a bit with you two. IMO, one big part of CSS is to separate style from content and let graphic designers do their thing without interfering with the use of the website. For instance, i can read these forums comfortably no matter what font size is specified in the CSS, because with Opera i turn off CSS with the click of a button and i get to read the text not only at my preferred size (all of p1r's text appear the same size to me), but also in my preferred font which is not one of the standard ones. But if i go to an artist's website, i turn CSS on because there, the design is more important than the text.

I say LARGE, LARGER and LARGEST are the way to move forward. I'm convinced now.

Once you style a web page, there's no way to keep everyone happy. Style the page for the majority of the users and let the rest read the page with styling off. Easy.

One thing that many designers don't seem to get is that Web design is not graphic design.

There are TWO parts to "Web design": graphic design and content / intraction. CSS is ALL about graphic design. HTML is the part that does the content and interaction. If you're bundling both together, you may want to rethink your approach.

Another important thing is text-block width and justification. Don't make your text blocks too wide. Columnar text layout is hundreds of years old for a reason.

Yeah, except it's too bad there's no straightforward way to specify in CSS that "this page has 3 columns, put element foo in column 1, element bar in column 2, ..." Instead we have to conjure a mess of divs, floats, margins and widths to create "columns", that may or may not work in your particular browser. Funny how people miss the basic shortcomings of CSS for all the badly implemented websites out there.

If your typographic/graphic design is so delicate that it can't accept basic accommodations for usability and accessibility, then it's a bad design.

Usability maybe, but typographic/graphic design has nothing to do with accessibility. If someone can't use a website with the author's styling, they should simply turn it off.

This is all you need to do: develop your page without CSS and with images off. Congrats, you now have an accessible website. Now add CSS, go crazy, who cares if it's not totally accessible, just make sure it's still usable. Done.

If you still want your styled website to be accessible, use standard class names and publish these on your website so that users can override the parts they don't like through their local CSS file.

jdMorgan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member jdmorgan us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 6:24 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

> so that users can override the parts they don't like through their local CSS file.

Your users must be more sophisticated than most. The people for whom accessibility is a concern are often the same people who have trouble changing *any* browser setting... like my 85-year-old father.

I can't tell you how many times I have surprised people by clicking the little AA browser icon to change the font size while "borrowing" their computer for a few minutes... "Oh, I didn't know you could do that!"

For me, a lesson learned.

Jim

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 7:16 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I always get a chuckle when I read some...stuff about how your graphic designer is going to deliver CSS all set to paint over your XHTML framework. You'll snap your fingers, and voila. You have a Web site.

I've worked with some of the top designers (both graphic and interaction) in the world, and not one single one of them has EVER even SUGGESTED that they deliver CSS. Their deliverables inevitably consist of Photoshop, PNG or Illustrator files, with detailed instructions for "making it look like this."

CSS work, in my experience, is the toughest part of developing sites, and I develop some real heavy-duty sites that use cutting-edge tech (like XSLT). I always end up spending half the time tweaking the CSS.

When I give a site a face-lift, I have NEVER ONCE just slapped on new CSS. It ALWAYS involves at least a bit of XHTML tweaking. If I do a good job of design, then it isn't too difficult.

I would never leave CSS design to a graphic designer. It is intimately involved in interaction, usability and accessibility for me. I deliberately eschew JavaScript for CSS to control as much interaction as possible. CSS is designed to support interaction. Someone corrupted the purity a while ago. It will get better/worse in 3.0.

That works for me. I find books often have great fairy tales that always end in "and they lived happily ever after." However, real life has always refused to pay attention to pundits. That's how we ended up with the dreaded tabular page layout in the first place.

I design sites that can save people's lives, and that need to cater to actual, real-life disabled (and poor) folks (as opposed to these ideal strawmen in the books). I'd rather not make mistakes.

borntobeweb

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 9:00 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Your users must be more sophisticated than most.

Most users know enough to apply a theme. If we used standard CSS class names, then developers can create CSS files for various themes: large text, small text, sychidelic colors, ... and publish them so users can install them on their browsers (something like Firefox plugins). I'm guessing your 85 year old father gets help once in a while with is computer. That person can download and add the large text theme to his browser.

I design sites that can save people's lives, and that need to cater to actual, real-life disabled (and poor) folks (as opposed to these ideal strawmen in the books). I'd rather not make mistakes.

cmarshall, wow i don't even know where to begin. CSS involved in accessibility? Give me a break. And where did i say graphic designers are expected to deliver CSS? I'm not even going to attempt to respond to your posts anymore.

cmarshall

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 9:23 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

I'm not even going to attempt to respond to your posts anymore.

Thanks. I'll enjoy the peace and quiet. I appreciate that.

You thought I was responding to your posts? Didn't you notice that what I wrote didn't exactly dovetail with what you wrote?

I don't think this will make you feel any better, but I wasn't actually responding to you directly. I'm really not up for a fight. If you want to fight, there are better places. WebmasterWorld isn't a mosh pit like most online communities.

It was just a monologue. What you wrote gave me an idea, and I was basically continuing my rant. If you had checked my history here, you would have seen it's nothing new.

pageoneresults

WebmasterWorld Senior Member pageoneresults us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 9:45 pm on Jan 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

Most users know enough to apply a theme.

Hehehe, imagine that? Some users don't know where to type the darn web address let alone apply a theme. Heck, many IE users don't even know they have a text sizing feature. ;)

DrDoc

WebmasterWorld Senior Member drdoc us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 5:39 am on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

There's nothing worse than text so small that you can't read it. Too big is bad too, but better. At least people can read it. And, for those who don't like that particular size, but are not techy enough to use the browser's built-in resizing capabilities or your nifty text resizing toolbox on-page ... at least they prefer "too big" over "too small".

Clark

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3552406 posted 11:59 pm on Mar 15, 2008 (gmt 0)

Yeah, the most users line was funny. No offense, but who do you hang out with?

I also have a father in his 80s. It took quite a bit of time, a Mac, tweaking some buttons to create a magnify on/off switch, and a great monitor to get him to a point where surfing the web is manageable...

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