I don’t care about accessibility
I don’t care about accessibility.
Not an issue.
Hardly ever comes up.
Here’s my big secret for you today. When you design for the Web – that is, when you design exclusively and specifically for this medium – when you do that natively, so many of the things we consider problems just start to fall away.
John just gave us an amazing glimpse at the heights of creativity that are attainable despite what most would consider overwhelming constraint. Same goes for our craft. Having come from Wired Magazine, I’ve worked with print designers who literally scoff at the crude and primitive tools with which we work. Some examples:
- We have to let go of typography -- you get a half dozen faces and guess what, they also come in both bold or italic! Though you can't guarantee they'll actually work. Oh yeah, and users can change the font size. So don't count on that.
- 72dpi lossy compressed images. No gamma control. Just got alpha channels, but don't count on them. Some folks might not see these images -- or bother waiting for them -- so you should write a little description for each one. That's cool right? The pictures aren't really that important, are they?
- Now, draw a square 800 pixels across and 600 tall. That's your page. Maybe. Might be bigger. Might be smaller. Hard to say. If you make stuff too big, people might scroll to see it. But they might not.
And so on and so on and so on…
Like I said, most designers approaching our medium from another are simply astounded. But I don’t care. Because I don’t work with them anymore.
Now, granted, I live in a sort of Web design fantasy world, and I fully admit that. I’ve had the unique privilege to work with some of the most talented Web designers in the industry. These are designers that are at the cutting edge not just of design, but of the craft of designing for the Web.
These days, my work generally goes as far as interaction flows and schematics. Then I hook up with a visual designer to massage the experience into a browser. And here are the things I hear from those designers:
“Uh, yeah, we won’t be able to get that menu to float over there considering the semantics of this list.”
“I’m gunna need clear descriptions for all these form groups that capture their relationships. I’ll also need them for each column in this table. Can you write those, or shall I?”
See, these designers are approaching Web design as a craft. They are looking to squeeze every available ounce of Web into their designs. In fact, it actually reminds me of those folks at Wired who would do test after test of hideous fluorescent inks and glossy stock to ensure the dot gain was exactly right.
And through this experience, I’ve seen that the designers I’m working with have little trouble with the so-called constraints of today’s Web.
- They take for granted that their pages must perform quickly in a wide variety of bandwidth situations.
- They know and expect how their pages will work across operating systems and on different hardware platforms.
- Their designs are explicitly intended to work in what we call the _spectrum of degradability -- that is, consider the current Mozilla in the middle, with less advanced and broken browsers like Blazer, Netscape 4 and IE6 on one end, and more advanced browsers like OmniWeb, screen readers, and other accessibility devices on the other.
So when we run QA tests like validating the markup, running accessibility checkers – stuff like that – when we do that, we find a few mistakes here and there. Oops, forgot a title on that link. But not a complete mismatch of strategy to compliance. Just a few tweaks to get things work right, because it was designed and built right in the first place.
So I end up delivering solutions to my clients that are far less complex to implement, are much easier to maintain, cost exponentially less to serve, work on multiple browsers and devices, do way better in the search engine lottery, and – of course – are accessible to everyone … _everyone … using the Web today. And try to argue with the business value of that.
And that’s why I don’t care about accessibility. Because when Web design is practiced as a craft, and not a consolation, accessibility comes for free.