On Saturday, 2009-09-19, the second Standards.Next event took place at City University in London, organised by Henny Swan and Bruce Lawson. This time the subject was ‘Cognition and accessibility’, a much overlooked topic.
There have been several good write ups of the event already, but I’ll add my thoughts as well. The ‘key points’ are what I took from each speaker, not necessarily what they intended to be the most important.
Antonia Hyde – Accessibility beyond code
Antonia has rare access to testing time with users with learning difficulties, people who benefit tremendously from the internet. The work she does is invaluable in teaching us how we, as developers, can help. As you may be able to tell I’m a big fan!
- Describe content and controls literally – ambiguity is a barrier to comprehension
- Combine icons with text to re-enforce messages
- Colour coded blocks of content or sections of a site can enhance structure
Jamie Knight and Lion – Autism, the Internet and Antelopes
Before Standards.Next Jamie was interviewed by Henny about his experience of being a web developer / designer with autism. This was eyeopening and truly astonishing – the idea that stress could affect a person’s ability to talk for the next seven months came as a shock to me.
On the day he added to this with an entertaining talk and further Q&A.
- Fast paced action and speech in video can be hard to follow
- Screen readers can help process content
- Instructions must be in a literal form
David Owens – Lessons Learned Doing Usability Testing
David has recently been involved in user testing, something that few developers are able to do enough of. It is great that he works for a company that sees the value in this, because it is something that even big organisations often skip.
- Users can’t always remember how to do things that they have done before
- Font re-size widgets still have a place, even though they duplicate browser functionality
- Put flash controls before the flash so that users are made aware of them before they give up
Me! – Content and Cognition
It has been very interesting to read what other people took from my talk. In a way I felt that I was giving a summary of many of the points the other speakers had made. It reinforced my opinion that so many of the things we need to do to make our sites usable applies to most of the groups that we, rightly or wrongly, put users in.
The points I was trying to make were:
- Avoid distractions
- Mix content types to reach a wider audience
- Provide feeds or APIs to allow others to transform your content in to new forms
It also kicked off a number of interesting discussions.
- I advised that popup windows should be avoided. Kath Moonan added that lightboxes, which are like in-page popups, also test badly with users. It appears that Alastair Campbell may be planning some research on this matter.
- I advised to not create elastic layouts, because this makes font-resize work like page-zoom rather than these being separate things. This removes choice from users. Some may disagree with me but I think it is a valid argument. Mike Davies has asked me to write more about this for one of his sites, so there will opportunity to flame me at a later time.