Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’

Width, Size, and Accessibility

Monday, August 10th, 2009

If you took a close look at this page, you’ll find that it allows you your default text size, and that you can open the page as wide or shrink the page as thin as you might want.

This is accessibility. You can view this page on a tiny cellphone screen, a smallish old CRT monitor, or the newest 50″ 1080p plasma TV.
(Admittedly, I should give the page a maximum width, but that’s another matter.)

Most pages today, especially if they’re well designed, are fit to a permanent 960-pixel grid. The more over-designed of those also set your text-size for you, in case it was only by accident that you’ve made the text appear larger on your monitor.

When you visit those sites on a screen smaller than 960 pixels wide—plus browser window, plus scrollbar, which makes the total width more like 984px—our good friend Horizontal Scrollbar comes out. Except that he’s not a good friend, and we all hate him.

With newer browsers, you can at least zoom out to shrink the 960px width to a more-manageable 600px. If they’ve set the text to 12px, though, you just can’t zoom out without having the entire page’s text turn into an ill-defined mass of faded grey squiggles.

There are lessons to be learned in all of this: While a great number of people use a screen greater than 960px in width, a fair number have screens of much smaller size. This includes cellphones, iPhones, iPod Touches, very old computers, browsers with side-panels, and extremely large monitors divided into sections.
While many can’t fit 960 pixels on their screens, every one of them can fit 100 percents. Therefore, try to make fluid 100% grids instead of fixed-width 960px grids, and always, always let your users set their font size.

Visited Links

Friday, July 17th, 2009

I visited to check out my monthly wireless bill, but I took a bit to find the link. The ‘visited’ style, you see, was faded out. I’m not sure what frame of mind I was in, but for some reason I was taking them at face value, and considered the faded links to be unimportant. When I came out of my tired daze and scanned the list item by item, I found the link I was looking at before.

Links, then come in two varieties.

When you have a table of contents before (and/or at the beginning of each chapter of) a large page of text, or if you’ve got a series of items; for example, in a gallery, the links are items you’re ticking off, one by one. These links say, “You’ve already been here.”
The links at grey out when you click on them, as if to tell me that I’ve seen them, and they’re now unimportant. A user’s eyes easily skip over the grey text, so that they can more quickly scan through the list to find things they haven’t seen, yet.
These links might be called ‘search’ links, because you’re looking for different things, and rarely want to see the same link twice.

When you have a link to an application, on the other hand, or perhaps to a real-time info page, the links take you somewhere you’ll return to again and again. The links say, “Welcome back!”
These links are important, because you’re skipping past all the regular links to find them. Because of that, these ones need to stand out from the others. They don’t need to be more emphasized than the other links, but they do need to be different enough to be seen easily by the user as they scan. A different colour of the same luminosity could work.
These might be called ‘recurring’ links, because you go back to them time and again, and need to easily find it later.

I wonder if there are other types of links?

Morse Twitter

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2009

I’ve had an idea!
Imagine setting up something like a bluetooth headset, except it’s an armband (or whatever) and taps out Morse code, instead.
Your phone can keep a cue of the latest tweets, convert them to Morse code, and then tell the device to tap out each onto whatever body surface you attach it to.

There’s a hitch, of course: few people know Morse code. Still, goes to show that it’s still a feasible communication medium, even today!

Imagine sitting there, staring into space. Your friend asks, “Were you even listening to me?” And you’ll say, “Oh, sorry, no. I was reading my tweets.”

I’m sure some sort of device with a belt could be loosely attached to the finger, and with a signal could run the belt around and cause bumps to appear in certain places, which might give the illusion of reading braille. I’m not sure if that might be faster/more pleasant, as I’m sure more people read braille.
I’m sure there are electronic braille devices around, but I’ve never heard of anything portable.

You know what? Braille is just a different alphabet. I’m sure it would be easy to learn. I’ve got to find a tutorial somewhere.