Reframing Accessibility for the Web

If you’ve been treating “people with disabilities” as an edge case for your websites, consider this a reckoning. Web accessibility means that everyone can use the web. The job of a web designer isn’t to question the configurations, devices, and tools that users bring to the table; it’s to rise to the challenge of making a site work for anyone who wishes to use it. Anne Gibson makes the case for site testing, inclusivity, and a better way of thinking about people online.

Accessibility: The Missing Ingredient

If economics is “the dismal science,” accessibility has long been the least loved branch of web design and development—and the least specified client requirement. Type and grids (especially the flexible variety) have fans aplenty. CSS, Sass, and frameworks draw huge, passionate crowds. But even die-hard front-enders and dedicated followers of best practices seem to wilt in the face of today’s greatly improved accessibility techniques. As a result, while most of us have kept up with the emerging methods, technologies, and challenges of multi-device design and development, essential and well supported specs like WAI-ARIA remain woefully under-implemented. Even the best of us seem to consider accessibility something to be done at the end of the job. Andrew Hoffman explains the advantages and necessity of an “accessibility first” approach.

Does Our Industry Have a Drinking Problem?

The social events surrounding conferences are an integral part of the experience—and they mostly involve getting together over drinks. But as the industry becomes more inclusive, we gain more people for whom drinking isn’t a good option. It’s time to add more ways to party and meet up that give us a chance to network with all of our peers—and maybe even leave us feeling up for that second-day morning workshop.

Flat UI and Forms

Though some decry flat user interfaces as pure fashion, or as the obvious response to skeuomorphic trends, many designers have embraced the flat approach because the reduction in visual styling (such as gradients, drop shadows, and borders) creates interfaces that feel simpler and cleaner. Trouble is, most flat UIs are built with a focus on the provision of content, with transactional components (i.e., forms) receiving very little attention. So what happens when flat UIs and forms collide? User experiences can, and often do, suffer. Keep your flat forms from failing by using controlled redundancy to communicate difference.

You at the IA Summit—on Us

The IA Summit is one of the longest-running and most welcoming web conferences out there, and it’s one of our favorites for user experience professionals and information architects. This year’s event takes place April 5-7 in Baltimore, Maryland. If you happen to be in the area or can travel there, we’re even giving away a free pass—just for commenting on this post.

Translation is UX

We—the people who make websites—now study almost every aspect of our trade, from content and usability to art direction and typography. Our attention to detail has never been greater as we strive to provide the best possible experience. Yet many users still experience products that lack personality or are difficult to understand. They are users of a translated version. While good localization boosts conversion rates, bad or partial translation may ruin a user experience, giving people an uneasy feeling about the whole company. If we care equally about all our users, it’s time we start thinking of translation as something slightly more complex than a word-to-word job. Antoine Lefeuvre shares why translation matters, and what it takes to get it right.

Uncle Sam Wants You (to Optimize Your Content for Mobile)

Thirty-one percent of Americans who access the internet from a mobile device say that’s the way they always or mostly go online. For this group, if your content doesn’t exist on mobile, it doesn’t exist at all. The U.S. government has responded with a broad initiative to make federal website content mobile-friendly. Karen McGrane explains why this matters—and what you can learn from it.

The Accessibility of WAI-ARIA

Web developers interested in accessibility issues often look to WAI-ARIA to bridge the accessibility gap created by ubiquitous scripting and make web applications more accessible to blind and visually impaired users. But can we recommend WAI-ARIA without reservation? Are there times when appropriate semantic HTML elements are preferable to custom widgets?

ARIA and Progressive Enhancement

For seven years, progressive enhancement has been how we build sustainable, interoperable, and accessible web solutions. Now that the release of ARIA is approaching, let’s see how ARIA fits within progressive enhancement strategy. Can we use ARIA in a way that respects progressive enhancement? Can we use ARIA in ways that ensure we have a working solution at every level?

Contrast is King

Being colorblind doesn’t mean not seeing color. It means seeing it differently. If colorblindness challenges the colorblind, it also challenges designers. Some of us think designing sites that are colorblind-friendly means sticking with black and white, or close to it. But the opposite is true. Using contrast effectively not only differentiates our site’s design from others, it’s the essential ingredient that can make our content accessible to every viewer, including the colorblind. By understanding contrast, we can create websites that unabashedly revel in color.