Archive for September, 2007
Where has the time gone? It feels (and has been) ages since I posted last. Mainly because of all the interesting projects that seem to be happening right now at Optiem. In-between all the exciting client work we’ve managed to find some time to expand on an idea presented by Vince who is part of our Media Department.
The Social Media Newsroom is something we’ve been talking about internally for some time – a resource to offer our clients that can adapt to existing sites and grow with future builds.
Looking at it now it it does seem like one of those “why didn’t I think of that” things. We had already started talking to clients about making this part of upcoming builds we were planning when we found GM Europe had launched their own version, so it definitely is an idea who’s time has come.
We noticed that theirs was missing a few elements that we consider important so that’s why we decided to make our proof-of-concept public. Here is a run down of some of the features we’re including:
- Focus Clouds – Instead of just relying on a normal tag cloud we decided to employ Aaron Bassett’s Focus Cloud concept which gives a more relevant slant to the tags shown.
- Microformats – I personally considered these essential from the outset if this was going to stand the test of time. By using microformats on everything from the PR contact information to the listed events we ensure that the next generation of browsers can make use of the information presented and gives greater meaning to the content.
- AJAX – If it’s Web2.0 it’s gotta be AJAX. Though it’s not shown in our HTML proof-of-concept there will be quite a few bits of functionality that will utilize this, but won’t effect the usability or accessibility of the page.
- Social Networks – By using employees existing social profiles and online services such as ma.gnolia, del.icio.us, upcoming.org etc. we’ll look to grow the companies online footprint. Mix in any Facebook, MySpace, ClaimID profiles and you’re onto a winner.
Also making abundant use of RSS and a solid CSS design to accommodate both PC and mobile users has really got both us and our clients really excited about the possibilities for our social media newsroom.
If you’re interested in this feel free to chat with me or contact anyone at Optiem and we’ll be happy to talk about the possibilities.
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When Optiem was engaged to build the new website for Cuyahoga County Public Library, I was lucky enough to meet Will Reed. He works for Cleveland Public Library at the Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped and helped facilitate testing of our proof-of-concepts with a blind user.
He recently took time out from his work at the Library and ASCLA to answer 5 questions (by email) concerning accessibility on the web.
Do you feel the increase of CSS based layouts and interest (by developers) in adhering to the W3C standards have made web pages better for users with accessibility issues?
The increase of CSS based layouts and the efforts of conscientious web developers have probably helped make web pages more accessible. However, a CSS based layout is not the only way a web author can produce accessible web pages conforming to the World Wide Web Consortium’s (W3C) Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) or Section 508 guidelines. Therefore, I believe it comes down to the awareness, realization, and thoughtfulness by developers and those hiring developers to include and ensure accessibility and usability for people with disabilities.
Do you think the rumor of AJAX support in JAWS will put to rest some of the problems with this technology (AJAX)?
Honestly, I feel that AJAX or any JAVA scripting for that matter was never really designed with screen reader users or anyone who cannot use a point and click device such as a mouse, in mind. Sure, web developers can use AJAX and JAVA, and screen readers will support it, but the underlying problem is usability. Web developers adhering to the standards and guidelines of W3C and Section 508, and those developers who truly take the time to really learn how screen readers work with web pages will recognize the challenges that AJAX poses to screen reader accessibility, and conclude that there maybe other more accessible and perhaps visually pleasing approaches.
Can well-meaning developers be overzealous and over-use/misuse attributes like title and alt – can there be too much accessibility?
If developers are correctly following the guidelines and standards set forth by W3C and Section 508, then no, there can never be too much accessibility. In fact, W3C web content accessibility techniques often describe and discuss how attributes or any design element should be appropriately and effectively used. Section 508 has a FAQ, which also deals with the appropriate use of attributes as well.
What is one thing that developers always miss that, you think, should be included in every site and one thing that could always be left off?
Honestly, I think the one thing that developers always miss that should be included in every web site is simply the premise that everyone should be able to access all the content on a web page. Universal design and accessible web pages can offer developers a rather challenging task, but it’s by no means impossible.
What sites or books would you recommend designers or developers reading?
I’d like to thank Will for sharing his thoughts. Personally I think that some accessibility problems for people who use assistive technology, like screen readers, can be avoided ahead of time by developers taking a little more time thinking about their implementation and educating themselves and their clients on the benefits of implementing the standards and resources already available to them.
Blogged with Flock
The GigaOm show has a great interview with the execs from Quantcast and Hitwise and bring up a lot of the questions that you may have been asking like why different firms use the same terms for different metrics?
It’s always been one of the hardest decisions to make as to what kind of web analytics people should use. I’m using Google Analytics on this blog but I’m a big fan of using programs such as Sawmill to look through your server logs.
I believe you should sit down as part of the web building process and look at what you (or the client) are expecting from the data and what are you going to be using it for. Then make a decision as to which ones you should use.
As Om mentions, it’s definitely time for the WAA to start enforcing some uniformity in this part of the web.
Blogged with Flock