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On Our Radar: Each Button, a Special Snowflake

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Oh, government websites. Bless their confusing little hearts. Every time I log in to make a federal payment (favorite UI copy: “REMINDER! PAY ALL TAX BILLS WHEN DUE!”), or to file paperwork for the Social Security Administration (which gave me this oh-so-helpful warning), I’m greeted by inconsistent and incomprehensible design.

Screenshot showing a wide range of button designs and styles from government websites.
Button designs across multiple government websites. Source: 18F

But teams at the U.S. Digital Service and civic consultancy 18F are changing that—and sharing their work as they go. Earlier this week, they released the U.S. Web Design Standards, containing patterns and principles to guide designers across agencies. It’s a great complement to resources like 18F’s growing set of Guides (I, of course, am partial to the content guide). Not only am I excited for better-functioning government websites, but I also love seeing organizations working out loud and sharing their tools—because we could all stand to steal these ideas. —Sara Wachter-Boettcher, editor-in-chief

Your weekend reading

  1. Visual clutter, ambiguous icons, and hijacked scrolling are some of the accessibility issues that are hurting our users, according to Marcy Sutton. Marcy is committed to making web accessibility better, and we should all join her. Check out her slides from Responsive Field Day, watch one of her recorded talks, or visit her Accessibility Wins blog. —Yesenia Perez-Cruz, acquisitions scout
  2. October 1 is an important day for US universities: the deadline for publication of Clery Act campus crime statistics—reports invariably published as PDFs. With the inevitable tightening of accessibility regulations, Clery reports are a good candidate for regulatory scrutiny under ADA. As always, semantic markup is the key to getting it right. Here’s an hour-long walkthrough of PDF accessibility basics that covers requirements and best practices. For more resources, there’s also the WCAG 2.0 PDF techniques document, as well as a new PDF accessibility checker being developed by the European Internet Inclusion Initiative (there’s an HTML checker, too)! —Rose Weisburd, columns editor
  3. Comments—they once held such promise, but too often they turn into a horrorscape of hatred, trolling, and -isms. Thankfully, the team at Civil has a novel plan for restoring civility to the web. Visit the site, watch the video, sign up, and help them test their new platform. —Caren Litherland, editor
  4. Last month I got to practice some great facilitation techniques at Kevin Hoffman’s Better Meetings by Design workshop as part of Confab Intensive. If you run meetings or want to get more out of them, check out his articles “Kick Ass Kickoff Meetings” and “Facilitating Great Design.” —Aaron Parkening, project manager
  5. I attended a workshop on responsive web typography with Clearleft’s Richard Rutter last week. Among other useful resources, he shared this nifty tool he’s built, which shows OpenType features for different typefaces and even lets you copy the CSS. His next workshop will be in November in Brighton, UK, at the 2015 Ampersand Conference; early bird tickets are still on sale. —Michelle Kondou, developer

Your must-see Tweet thread

Overheard in ALA Slack

OMG I love trash pandas so much.

Your Thursday gif

Animated GIF of a robot shooting lasers at a reptile monster.

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