Usable, accessible and normal

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Having moved from London, one of my many highlights since joining the Web Services team in late summer was being able to travel locally to attend an event in Bristol in November to mark World Usability Day.

The afternoon comprised two short workshops organised by a private firm in Bristol. It celebrated how far we had come as web users to expecting certain things from websites we regularly visit. However, what really hit home to me was just how much there’s still to do after over a decade and a half since the popular arrival of websites. If we take the creation of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) in the mid-nineties as our starting point for adopting universal website standards and guidelines we have still a long way to go before users consistently experience audience tailored, accessible, simple to use, high quality and up to date websites as the norm.

Regarding accessibility it reinforced to me the importance of meeting the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0 (WCAG WAI – Web Accessibility Initiative) single ‘A’ minimum requirement. For example, this includes providing a transcript for each scripted video. For double ‘A’ compliance this would involve having these transcripts as well as captioning in the video.

The sessions also highlighted how the Disability Discrimiantion Act (DDA) was subsumed into the Equalities Act from 1 October. It is now a single piece of legislation which merges nine separate ones.  Then there was a sneak insight into the new digital British Standard - BS 8878:2010 Web Accessibility - which was due in early December. Much to read, ponder and apply, where necessary. The digital landscape and our users' needs are ever changing and it pays us to keep pace with it as a driver or be left standing as a spectator.

At the end of the day (or in this case, the year of 2010), there are increasing pressures from all kinds of audiences to have information delivered to them on demand, on time, on the move and just ‘on’. Yes, content is indeed king, but our online audiences, our customers, are the dictators. They are the ultimate decision-makers. We ignore them at our peril. This is the challenge ahead for us in 2011. Onwards and ever upwards.

Happy Christmas and a Happy user-friendly New Year.

Posted in: Archive