By: Peter Abrahams, Practice Leader - Accessibility and Usability, Bloor Research
Published: 6th December 2006
Copyright Bloor Research © 2006
IT-A and IT-D fixed size text
The articles I write get published in various places but especially on IT-Analysis and IT-Director. Yesterday some of my readers pointed out to me that the sites were not accessible because the text on them was fixed size and did not resize at all in Internet Explorer. However IT-A and IT-D are independent sites and I do not have control of the content or the design of them, so I could only pass these comments on to the webmaster.
I was surprised when I saw the problem because:
A few emails flew around yesterday and it became clear that the problem had been caused by a designer with his own style guide. Graphic designers do wonderful work and make sites look great but not all of them understand the accessibility issues and they want their sites to look just as they designed them. There can be a constant tension between the graphic designer and the accessibility specialist. I believe this is a fight that accessibility is slowing winning (especially as we show that there need not be a conflict between accessible and great looking) but many designers have not yet been knobbled and the web developer often does not have the time to cajole them to do what is morally, legally and in the long term financially correct.
The good news is that cascading style sheets mean that this sort of change is not that difficult to implement. The biggest effort is in ensuring completeness and testing the changes against the various different browsers and platforms. The other bit of good news is that my friend the webmaster likes a challenge, and likes to please.
The outcome is that we believe the two sites are now compliant. I have checked them out on IE6, IE7, Firefox and Safari and the text sizing seems to work everywhere. Thank you to my readers for pointing out the issue and a very big thank you to the webmaster for fixing it.
Can my readers check it for themselves and please do not be shy in making further comments. But for my and for our webmaster's sake please be constructive and polite.
Most sites will not be willing or able to respond so quickly, if at all, so what other options does a reader have:
That is all the possibilities that immediately come to mind but readers are encouraged to add their favourites or expand on how they use some of these features.
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By Fi Stephenson :
Peter congrats on fixing the font-size issue across two news portals within just 24 hours. We orchestrated a similar project with our development team and it cost us over 300 man hours spanning some 4 weeks! To see a site react so quickly to reader comment and clearly care about public opinion is fantastic. I hope IT-Analysis.com gets every success it so rightly deserves.
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By Gerry Adams (CTO, KXT Inc.) :
Will have to agree with Fi on this one. I guess the implementation of cascading stylesheets and excellent XHTML markup makes the task easier than most. We too invested thousands of pounds in a similar 'cosmetic' exercise to address font-sizing. The developers said they had to redesign the ground from the site up and it took over six months to complete! Why not share with us the name of your development company as they have clearly done an exemplary job - we could all benefit ... Gerry.
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By anonymous :
On behalf of a major design company I would like to point out that unless you have many computers running all the common OSes and web browsers - this is a very challenging and daunting task. Yes it can cost a lot of money in terms of professional expertise - accessibility is a new and growing field with UK site design and many companies lack the investment needed. A government fund/grant would be good so see the promotion of DRC rulings ... BTW - well done Pete.
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By Tony Osbourne :
Thanks - it makes a huge difference (visually impaired).I am not surprised it took just 24 hours, we had reckoned that ITA only employed a small team! Considered outsourcing to reduce costs?
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By Derek Lamb :
Have you considered offering multiple stylesheets with different contrasts for people who find it hard to read dark blue on blue and grey on grey?
Posted: 6th December 2006 | By Elena Houghton (Accessibility Officer) :
You have some way to go to achieve true web site accessibility ... but if other web sites could address complaints as they are received and act as quickly as Miles & Co did, then I am sure anyone with a disability won't be put-out by the remaining tasks in hand!
Out of curiosity do you, or the IT-A design team, do discounted accessibility consultancy / analysis for qualified readers of IT-A & IT-D?
Posted: 7th December 2006 | By Mike Hunt :
Fantastic - I have put IT-Analysis.com back onto my bookmark list. P.S. I like the way you advertise web accessibility books against your blog - it makes a nice change to see the Amazon web service being implemented sensibly rather than dumping on a site in the hope of some extra revenue!
Posted: 8th December 2006 | By rimsco :
Despite the UK Disability Act and similar EC legislation, very few government/local government sites comply, it is always the IT industry that gets jumped on.
Posted: 8th December 2006 | By anonymous :
Excellent work to all concerned.
Posted: 15th December 2006 | By anonymous :
Any design company worth it's salt should know about accessibility laws and be able to implement them with minimal disruption.
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Lucy Spinach (really!) :
I see the accessibility work continues. Your public forms have recently been revised to remove those horrible and impractical layout tables - much better. I also like the improved Blog navigation and good riddance to those horrible, poor to read, italicised section headers (now readable text).
Only comment is that the captcha code system doesn't work and can be bypassed by entering gobble-de-gook :-( I am sure you will soon find out ...
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Peter Abrahams :
You are quite correct, the captcha system is temporarily broken.
You must applaud the IT-Analysis.com webteam for their energy and enthusiasm for accessibility issues although they do lack key technical skills such as testing ...
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Web Master :
Peter, as you know we do our best to test the websites in as many browsers, and on as many platforms, as possible. It is unfortunate that occasionally one slips past our scrutiny .. We are looking at the CAPTCHA system and hope to publish a revised system as soon as possible. Yes, the accessibility work is enjoyable, especially with the knowledge that it is helping our readers use the website. Merry Xmas & Best Wishes for 2007!
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Jeremy Lloyd :
We find it incredulous that any web development team / company would publish their work without total and rigorous testing. This is just shoddy workmanship. If you were a builder or other tradesman you would be exposed and riddiculed, probably even struck off!
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Gerry :
Jeremy you have raised a valid point, there are too many rogue web builders out there ... just wait for BBC's watchdog program to get in on the act! Yes more care and attention does need to be exercised on all websites. However I sympathise with the webteam as there is a huge diversity of clients and platforms now available for the Internet. It is a real minefield and sends most webmasters to an early grave!
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Peter Abrahams :
We know you work hard ... just exercise a bit more constraint and focus on the real objectives. The image verification system should really be dropped altogether and replaced with a good comment moderation system.
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Brian Smithson :
A good comment moderation system *is* in place (we have human moderators), but we cannot hope to win against the rising tide of spam comments that get posted without some sort of filtering system in place.
We have a very finite resource to monitor comments, new postings (both articles and Blogs), news releases, Events postings etc, etc.
Miles, as Webmaster, is walking a tightrope trying to get the site as accessible as possible without limiting its usefulness; develop new ideas to keep it fresh; and all the while keeping up with patching all of the functionality this site has with updates to the code base.
Posted: 20th December 2006 | By Web Master :
It has been brought to our attention that the author, Peter Abrahams, did not post the previous two comments and that someone was playing silly buggers. We would like to extend our apologies to Peter for any embarassment caused by this incident.
These hoaxes further highlight the need for both a CAPTCHA system and a moderation queue. We have established a new process for author comments and will immediately reject any future hoaxes.
We recognise there are some outstanding issues with the audible captcha system and will be addressing these as soon as possible.
Have a great Xmas everyone!
Posted: 2nd March 2007 | By Admirer :
Wow - I have just noticed that with Firefox and MSIE7, you can add the IT-Analysis.com search engine into the browser using the dropdown list next to the search dialog (rop right of screen). Fantastic!
Posted: 22nd March 2007 | By Gerard Manieu :
Peter, I like the clean look and feel of the beta site (/betaskin/). The code is much cleaner and easier to read. When will you be implementing it? I think it will make a big difference to the site and its readers.
Posted: 24th May 2007 | By Gerard Manieu :
Is there any progress with this betaskin?
Posted: 26th May 2007 | By Gina Bell :
Wow, massive improvement Peter. The pages are loading in seconds; I can see the which links I have clicked on; the pages are bright and airy; the text resizes easily and I see you are beginning to introduce alternate stylesheets for the visually impaired ... big step forwards.
Posted: 29th May 2007 | By Joseph Byres :
Gina, I have to agree. I opened my newsletter this morning, click on a link and wham the page was loaded before I could make a cup of tea! On a more serious note, the site is much faster and much easier to read. I am glad that you have decided to opt for a wider screen size - something that other sites need to take into consideration (like the BBC). I would be interested to know if this makes any difference to SEO and page ranking... Jo
Posted: 29th May 2007 | By Peter Abrahams (Author):
Gina and Joseph
Thanks for the accolades I have passed them on to our webmaster and editor who are the people who really deserve them.
Any suggestions for further improvements are always welcome.
Re Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) there is general agreement that accessible sites are good news (think of the crawlers as blind users). I do not think that wide screen in itself will make a difference. (see my article on Accessible business case /business/compliance/content.php?cid=9258 )
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