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Re: Decorators with keyboards

From: Mike Brown <mike@signify.co.nz>
Date: Fri, 18 Jul 2003 10:13:16 +1200
Message-ID: <639146900.20030718101316@signify.co.nz>
To: w3c-wai-ig@w3.org

Jonathan> http://www.guardian.co.uk/online/story/0,3605,999218,00.html
Jonathan> by Jack Schofield

<rant class="work avoidance mode">
It's not that I diagree with a lot of what Schofield says, but it's
the way he says it. And the narrow view he takes is a good
example of why "accessibility" is often equated with "boring" and

A quote:
"Unfortunately, we have hired a generation of web designers who don't
know anything about computing, or the principles on which the web is
based, or the reasons for its success. In fact, most of them are not
web designers at all: they are graphic designers, or print designers,
who have strayed into an area they don't understand. They are just
painters and decorators with keyboards."

We work a lot with a design firm whose tag line is "Not just pretty
pictures". They chose because after being in a client meeting with a
web developer who introduced them (somewhat dismissively) to the client
as "the people who make the pretty pictures". It's an ironic tagline!

Yes, in a sense these graphic designers have strayed into an area they
don't understand. Equally, in developing websites that need to
communicate, that need to sell things and do things, and that are for
(and paid for) by clients, we're straying into an area we don't
understand. It's an area that design agencies (and communications
companies etc) have been working successfully in for a long time.
Calling each other names, or dismissing the skills and experience that
both parties bring to the equation doesn't advance things very well.

Another quote:
"The worst web designers of all are the trendies who think things should
be "cool" rather than functional. However, almost no one will go to a
website - or go twice - because it looks "cool", while millions will be
driven away by lack of functionality. None of the web's most successful
sites looks cool and that includes Amazon, eBay, Google, Hotmail and

Aside from the fact that surely no one uses "cool" to describe a
website now (do they?), why, why, why is there a belief that a site
can't be accessible, and functional, and cool at the same time? Why
equate accessibly with ugly-looing sites? Looks do matter! A whole
history of communication and advertising tell us that. We should
be striving for the message that a site can look fantastic, and be

A final quote:
"Designing sites for accessibility and usability has many advantages.
Pages will be smaller and easier to write, easier and cheaper to
maintain and serve, they will download faster, and reach a wider market
- including the growing number of people with wireless personal digital
assistants and phones."

Yes, I completely agree with this. But, again, it's a narrow view, and
doesn't take account of all the other factors involved in developing a
website. Say you're developing a website for a corporate. You don't even
get to talking about page size, and maintaining the site, and how fast
things download until they're convinced that their brand will be
carried through, that their message will be consistent with "off-line"
messages, that the right people in the marketing department have been
involved ... etc

Until we're aware of these factors, or work with people who are
(designers and communicators for example), we're not going to get far
with a message that says:

- looks don't matter
- successful sites are ugly
- designers just do pretty pictures

I think it just serves to push the accessiblity message to the
sidelines. We should be convincing people (end-clients, designers)
that it's possible to have it all!

And i know it's *just* a column by a columnist in an online newspaper
(albeit the Guardian!), but it seems to have pushed a few buttons this
morning :)


Mike Brown
SIGNIFY :: the logic behind

web: http://www.signify.co.nz
ph: +64 4 803-3211  |  fax: +64 4 803-3241
mob: +64 0274 885-992
PO Box 24-068, Manners St, Wellington
Level 8, CMC Building, 89 Courtenay Pl, Wellington
Received on Thursday, 17 July 2003 18:11:09 UTC

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