In a book on Web standards, it was inevitable that the focus would eventually fall upon accessibility for the Web. Zeldman presents figures and support for why accessibility is important. However, in all of the books I have read so far that talk about this subject, I think in every case it is the easiest sells. Besides complying with the law, designing with standards for accessibility is a good way to promote good will amongst customers and not alienate a base of users who are disabled in some way.
I think that one of the main points of why people do avoid adhering to accessibility standards was neglected by Zeldman: Simply, the average person may assume that someone who is blind, hard of hearing, or impaired in some other way will not use the Internet and thus there is little need to accommodate the few who might try. On the contrary, tools such as screen readers and alternate CSS coding can allow someone who is hard of hearing, blind, or color blind enjoy almost the same user experience as others.
This chapter served as a reminder that these audiences should not be neglected. Zeldman outlines several ways that they can be accommodated without designing an alternative version of the site. Chapter 14 for more detailed references.
I thought Zeldman provided an interesting history of tags for Quicktime and Flash in chapter 13. It also serves as an example on how when people refuse to accept standards that are created for the good of the Web, the standards must evolve before they become the problem. The W3C wanted the <object> tag to become the standard for adding images and video type objects into Web sites. This would allow of course for one tag to encompass most situations. However, those still clinging to old HTML went with <image> instead of <object>. When the video formats emerged for Web sites, since the <image> tag would not encompass these videos and allow them to function properly, the <embed> tag has been created and implemented.
We can see the <embed> tag as popular in networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, and other popular HTML sites. Even to those with little programming knowledge, it is common knowledge that looking for the <embed> code and adding it to an appropriate section of a page will place the video. The result of the popularity of these tags was that some browsers had trouble recognizing the <object> tag at all. Despite W3C’s attempts to block the alternative tags by excluding them from the lists of tags published, they still held their ground.
What W3C ultimately did to react to the situation impressed me. Seeing that their standard, while it would arguably have eased the placement of video files and images on Web pages, was causing trouble due to lack of acceptance, they added the <embed> and <image> tags as options within standards. I imagine that the committee is still pressing and hoping that <object> will one day be accepted as the norm, but in bending to fit a temporarily unwinnable situation, they retain their credibility as the go-to source for Web standards. Can you imagine what it would have done to their credibility if they continued to stubbornly stick by a standard for such common code that didn’t work?
Zeldman further elaborates on work-arounds by not damning them, but acknowledging them as necessary since all browsers and all Web sites are not created perfectly.
I wanted to make quick post so that my readers (likely only Dr. Kalmbach) know I have been moving steadily through Zeldman. However, the nature of the book as far as tagging goes and design standards does not seem largely debatable, so posting content is scarce. I will say that Zeldman made a compelling argument for the use of XML over HTML. In a lot of ways it made me think of the standards I use for editing publications at work for print. There are a lot of ways they could be edited, but having one established style allows for greater consistency. Likewise one of the perks of the style is the tagging, whether to close them, open them, or specify document type before beginning a document.
I may revisit the sections on CSS once I begin my design of my own Web site. I have increased confidence in O’Reilly though as Zeldman also acknowledges him in his book as one of the best sources for CSS design and strategy. I will wrap up the book and proceed to the article recommended during our last session. Hopefully I will be able to post some other thoughts on Zeldman before the conclusion of the book.
So far Zeldman makes a strong argument for accessibility. I am referring to accessibility to those who do not have the latest computer and those who are considered disabled. He had a good example on pages 53-55 of how a Web page might read to someone with limited capabilities viewing the page in HTML. Each example for a varied standards situation presents text muddled with tags and coding. Where Zeldman advocates that the <h1> tag should be an indicator of an important headline, many use it to encode a particular typeface, size, or style. This in turn has negative consequences on the text.
It would seem in fact that the best way to create a Web page would be to focus on the three elements: structure, presentation, and behavior, and to use specific programming languages for the various aspects. For example CSS1 and CSS2 is ideal for presentation because it is easily altered as visual design while the actual structure of page elements might be best represented with HTML, XHTML, or XML.
Despite strides people like Zeldman have made in implementing Web standards, design programs and assistance in operating becoming readily available to the consumer inhibits design standards from being observed in smaller sites. This stems from the lack of user/consumer friendly language for the standards themselves.
Fortunately for us, the major companies such as IE, Mozilla, and Microsoft have adopted the WaSP standards of=ver the past few years and this allows most Web sites to still operate. In fact, I have to think consciously to remember the days when particular pages would work only in specific browsers. However, with the constant evolution of design progarms and language, perhaps another mini era could emerge again when browsers must play catch-up on the standards that need to be implemented to create a smooth experience for users.
- Crossing the Digital Divide
- Mouse pad rhetoric
- Sarah Palin rhetoric
- Chapter 9 Postmodernism, Indie Media, and Popular Culture
- Convergence Culture
- Digitizing Race and the Matrix
- Modules in video games
- Weather channel
- Figure/ground, framing, and grids
- Grids, layers, hierarchy, transparency, modularity, patterns
- Readings on disability
- Rhetoric of Walls