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Book Recommendation and User Testing Proposal

From: Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>
Date: Tue, 19 Sep 2000 10:25:18 -0700
Message-Id: <>
To: w3c-wai-gl@w3.org
Hi, everyone, if you've read message I posted on the Interest
Group list, then you know where to find a list of the books
I've read lately.  I want to call the working group's attention
to a specific book which I read last week.

The book is GUI Bloopers: Don'ts and Do's for Software Developers
and Web Designers, by Jeff Johnson.

In addition to having great content that many of us could learn
from (although it's likely old hat to pros like Gregg), it also
has an appendix which was very informative:  "How This Book Was
Usability Tested." (pages 535-538)

I believe this is applicable because I feel that this working
group (more than nearly any others in the W3C) _must_ be concerned
with audience and usability by those core audiences.  The bar to
entry in web design is INCREDIBLY low, lower by far than that of
SVG artistry or XSLT programming, and we need to make sure that
our intended audiences will be able to comprehend what we're
trying to say.

Please note one very important point:  _the W3C process does
not include the level of user testing necessary for the success
of this project_.  The W3C process is very good at what it
does -- make technical specs for product engineers -- but it
is not _sufficient_ for the task which this working group has
taken upon itself.  As I maintain that WCAG is fundamentally
different from most other W3C specifications, I suggest that
we will find that we need to extend (not replace) the process
to meet this group's needs.

In short:

      I think we need to semi-formally test our work on
      web designers, at numerous points in the development
      of WCAG 2.0.


* Feedback received is not sufficient.  We can't assume that
   the average web designer knows enough about how the process
   works to understand that her input may actually _change_ a
   W3C specification; nearly all users view problems with
   comprehension as _their problem_ not the spec's.  This means
   that any voluntary feedback we've received is going to be
   very skewed and not reliable.

* A review of the "completed work" is not sufficient.  We
   need to be able to get user responses very early in the
   process and throughout the life of the work.  For example,
   there have been questions on terminology.  We all have our
   own definitions, but that's not sufficient (especially as
   the average _programmer_ is used to "redefining common
   words" for specs, but the average _web designer_ rarely is).
   We should be making lists of terms and emailing them to
   representative users and asking them what they mean to
   _them_.  My opinion on terms (and Charles's, and Gregg's,
   and Marshall's, etc.) is WORTHLESS; what matters is the
   reader's opinion.

* Ignoring results is not sufficient.  We all have various
   agendas to push here, but compromise will be necessary.  If
   I propose a completely workable, elegant solution to our
   needs, and our audience just sits there scratching their
   heads, then we've failed.  We need to listen to what's
   being said _and be ready to give up our favorite cool part
   of WCAG 2.0_ if it doesn't work.

This isn't easy.  However, if you like, I am willing to
take point on actually setting up this type of user testing;
I think Marshall Jansen (as the HWG representative) could
also be of great help on this with the Guild's access to a
HUGE number of web designers.  I think this is very important.

Respectfully submitted,

--Kynn Bartlett
   WCAG Working Group Member
   Edapta, Inc.

PS:  To stave off a possible criticism:  Yes, I realize that some
of you may feel that web designers are _not_ the intended
audience and that a more technical reader can be assumed.  I
feel that such viewpoints are naive and misguided, because:

(a) It's simply _wrong_.  In practice, huge numbers of web
     designers have read the WCAG 1.0 document since it was
     released.  These are not software engineers; these are
     not XML experts.  These are people who are designing
     90% of the web sites out there, and they need the 
     information that WCAG provides.  WCAG _is_ being read
     by non-technical web designers.  They _are_ our audience
     (or part of it).

(b) The assumption is that a document written for a technical
     audience cannot be written in a way that non-technical
     audience can understand it.  I think this shows lack of
     familiarity with good writing practices more than anything
     else; I feel that it should be perfectly possible for
     WCAG 2.0 to have solid technical information while not
     requiring a Computer Science graduate degree to understand.

Kynn Bartlett  <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                    http://kynn.com/
Director of Accessibility, Edapta               http://www.edapta.com/
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain Internet   http://www.idyllmtn.com/
AWARE Center Director                      http://www.awarecenter.org/
Accessibility Roundtable Web Broadcast           http://kynn.com/+on24
What's on my bookshelf?                         http://kynn.com/books/
Received on Tuesday, 19 September 2000 13:38:19 UTC

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