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RE: checkpoint 3.1 RE: rationalize presentation

From: Geoff Deering <gdeering@acslink.net.au>
Date: Wed, 23 Jan 2002 22:18:16 +1100
To: "Kynn Bartlett" <kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com>, "Charles McCathieNevile" <charles@w3.org>
Cc: "WAI GL" <w3c-wai-gl@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBBBJPNFCLNLAADCLFJBEEKLDEAA.gdeering@acslink.net.au>
I actually feel the guidelines show incredible insight into the nature of
the problem, and I feel they are well categorised to address them.  I also
feel the WCAG2 are showing a further maturity, as now it much more addresses
usability issues as well (as accessibility is a component of Usability, as
Mark Pearrow points out in his book "Web Site Usability").

There are many usability studies showing the rise of subjective cognitive
blocking (subconsciously blocking distractive elements in your environment)
with the amount of information processed by users these days. For instance,
Neilsen's report on the Poynter Institute Eye Tracking Study
(http://useit.com/alertbox/20000514.html - Main finding: "Text Attracts
Attention Before Graphics" ).

I have found users like librarians, who spend a lot of time doing online
searches, even those on high-speed networks, turn images off, because of the
combined cognitive overload of scanning information all day.  Why is online
advertising is failing with it's use of animated gifs and flash, yet the
boxed text ads on sites like Google, show a much higher percentage of click
thrus than image based ads?  I believe this phenomena of improved click
thrus has also happened on other sites such as Yahoo and Internet.com, as
well as many others.

Graham Oliver pointed out at OZEWAI 2001 that 30% of Internet users in rural
areas browse with images turned off.  Not only do you suffer slow download
times in rural areas, but frequent server time outs.  These users visual
interface to web sites is with graphics turned off.  That is their design
experience of bit mapped driven designs.  It's a good experience to switch
graphics off for days on end just to experience this other side of graphic
focused designs.  Designers who uses text/HTML/CSS do not suffer this,
instead they assist these users with faster downloads, while maintaining
their initial design.

David Walker, in his article
(http://shorewalker.com/printpages/redesign_recipe-1.html) states;
Design for maintainability. New graphics on the site every week costing you
a packet? Try replacing them with text-only displays in a new design, and
monitor the results. (Swapping text for graphics has been an accepted
strategy ever since IBM slashed graphics and download time and simplified
navigation in its 1999 redesign - a project which allegedly helped boost
sales 400 per cent.) Where you cannot give up GIFs and Flash files, consider
a design, which lets you automate their creation, using a database tool like
Macromedia's Generator. In most cases, your redesign should allow just about
every piece of site content to be generated from a well-designed database
structure, even if it's generated merely as static HTML.

I would argue that if an experienced and knowledgeable consultant or
developer, in 2002, is still using images where text/HTML/CSS are now a
valid alternative, they are adding costs to the design and running of their
client or employer's site, as well as the additional cost of maintenance.
It obviously costs more to design using bit mapped graphics where
text/HTML/CSS could be used.  It also costs both the client more to deliver
the site and the user to consume it in what they pay for the extra
bandwidth.  Why is the type of horizontal navigation bar that is on the W3C
home page second rate to bit mapped bar?  You could even enhance it with
box/border bevels, hide the vertical bars without breaking accessibility
issues, etc.

I feel online newspapers and those that have been in the publishing
industry, by and large, get this type of design right.  Just as an example,
turn graphics off and read the front page (or any) of the Melbourne
newspaper The Age - http://www.theage.com.au/.  Very little is lost, infact
you could almost say it was enhanced.  The same for its competitor,
http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/.  Their use of bit mapped images as text
is minimal.  These large sites do not seem to see the lack of bitmapped text
as a penalty, but I would argue, they have the intelligence to see the
benefits of using text as text and marked up according to navigation,
headings, intros, etc.

A lot of the movement that produced image rollovers broke fundamental GUI
design behaviours.  How many web designers have read "The Windows Interface
Guidelines for Software Design", or the Mac or Sun equivalents.  If they had
some idea of GUI development we should not have gotten this dumb phenomena
on the web were now the standard mouse over is button press.  That's wrong!
Onclick is "Display Button Press".  It's providing incorrect feedback, but
now this is standard on the web!!  There is just as much history in GUI
design about the problems caused by straying from the standards.  And why
use images for the function of buttons?  A button when clicked should show a
depressed action, which is what happens if you use markup, but not if you
use an image, and with markup (CSS) you can still control the font, color,
background, bevel and border colors.

Exactly the same thing happens when developing GUI applications; if you
bitmap your text labels you loose the control of the application's
association with the system resources and their access to the accessibility
features of the operating system (see Chapter 14 of the above book).  You
have to compile text into the applications resource, for it to be scalable.
This helps you get more screen real estate, without loosing control of font
size, which is what should also happen on the web.

Not only this, but when you mix both the bit mapped graphics navigation with
text based, you are mixing an extra cognitive distinction, it takes more
cognitive energy to discern the features of your site.  The model lacks pure
directness and simplicity.

If you use images to represent text;
* They do not scale (re: Jim Ley's comments 17th Jan)
* They only look good at certain resolutions, try looking at graphic
navigation text designed for 800 x 600 in 17-21 inch monitors at upwards of
1280-1024 and it start to become ugly and unusable.
* Don't print as well as text (as mentioned by Bruce Bailey)

A lot of web development is now focused on optimising web presence and
redesign, as the David Walker article points out.  It often requires
constant retraining and realigning approach.

I feel, if web designers who embrace the spirit of WAI and can embraces the
full spirit of 3.1-4 and WCAG2 2.1, 2.2, 2.3., and move forward to REALLY
embrace this spirit in it's fullest, it has the possibility to show other
designers that elegant and function designs are achievable through following
the full spirit of the guidelines, and believe that there are far more costs
/ benefits by doing so.  It needs web designers to  become excellent CSS
designers, moving as much of the display into CSS/XSL markup and the content
in HTML/XML.  It probably was not possible in the past, but I don't see why
it's not possible now.  The browser support is good enough that the
economics and aesthetics of design are better supported now.

Geoff Deering

-----Original Message-----
From: Kynn Bartlett [mailto:kynn-edapta@idyllmtn.com]
Sent: Tuesday, 22 January 2002 5:07 AM
To: gdeering@acslink.net.au; Charles McCathieNevile
Subject: RE: checkpoint 3.1 RE: rationalize presentation

At 6:03 PM +1100 1/21/02, Geoff Deering wrote:
>I think there is a whole new design approach once you move out of the WCAG1
>Priority 1 Guidelines into the Priority 2.  In Priority 1 you can use many
>different techniques; images for text, tables for layout, etc, but the
>Priority 2 Checkpoints mean a whole new design strategy (in my opinion);

I consider this a flaw in WCAG 1 -- I believe it went overboard in
proscribing "this is the one and only way to do things" and lost track
of what we're actually trying to accomplish.  Whenever you have that
kind of regimented "only one way" kind of thinking you shut out
other solutions -- such as the bizarre and highly inappropriate
designation of audience-adapted UIs as as "last resort".


Kynn Bartlett <kynn@idyllmtn.com>                 http://kynn.com
Chief Technologist, Idyll Mountain            http://idyllmtn.com
Web Accessibility Expert-for-hire          http://kynn.com/resume
January Web Accessibility eCourse           http://kynn.com/+d201
Forthcoming: Teach Yourself CSS in 24 Hours
Received on Wednesday, 23 January 2002 06:18:35 UTC

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