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RE: portals

From: Geoff Deering <gdeering@acslink.net.au>
Date: Thu, 9 Oct 2003 23:26:46 +1000
To: "Charles McCathieNevile" <charles@sidar.org>, "FOX, Jake" <FOXJ@NORWICH-UNION.CO.UK>
Cc: <w3c-wai-ig@w3.org>
Message-ID: <NBBBJPNFCLNLAADCLFJBIEINFAAA.gdeering@acslink.net.au>
The difficult area for portals or CMSs to address web standards and WAI is
the methods used for users to add content.  Taken that the web developers
have produced templates that conform to a W3C grammar, and it has no major
inaccessibility issues, it is at the stage when users add, modify or edit
the content that it becomes very difficult to manage and keep markup
consistent with any formal grammar/dtd.

In most CMS systems this is done via a textarea, which is the place where
users insert their content in the document.  Many CMS have something like
htmlarea as a toolbar that will allow the user to markup the document.
Mostly it is HTML soup.  Some CMS do this and then have a Tidy plugin to
clean up the markup.  There are also other plugins in various CMSs that can
find ABBRs and wrap that tag around them and add a title attribute with
meaning of the ABBR.  There are many similar plugins to help quality control
user content, but it is very difficult to do this and maintain documents
with correct and proper structure.

Anything beyond basic paragraphs with bold and italics and URLs, such as
lists and tables are very difficult for users to build without coding HTML.
As far as I know there is no one quite addressing this issue (maybe BitFlux,
but I haven’t tried it).  I don’t know what Plone does to address this issue
(Tom)?  Apache/Cocoon/Lenya I think is probably the best framework for
delivering content in a dynamic way, but Lenya is not yet ready for prime
time, and its not a trivial system, it’s an advanced publishing framework.
There are a lot of other products that do a pretty good job, but I don’t
think there is anything out there that one can say is really mature
addressing these concerns?

Geoff

-----Original Message-----
From: Charles McCathieNevile



Well, nothing needs to be done differently from producing accessible stuff
in general, but there are a few things to keep especially in mind...

You are essentially trying to provide access to a lot of information. Some
relevant checkpoints from WCAG 1.0 and some (personal, of course) thoughts
on applying them:

Tables:
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>5.1 <?/color> For data tables, identify row
and column headers.

 Tables are a good way to organise information, but you need to make them
right. As well as th elements in appropriate places, think about how the
table will read...

<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>5.2 <?/color> For data tables that have two
or more logical levels of row or column headers, use markup to associate
data cells and header cells.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>11.2 <?/color> Avoid deprecated features of
W3C technologies.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>5.5 <?/color> Provide summaries for tables.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>5.6 <?/color> Provide abbreviations for
header labels.

Or maybe a flatter structure:
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>3.5 <?/color> Use header elements to convey
document structure and use them according to specification.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>3.6 <?/color> Mark up lists and list items
properly.

The following really should be obvious...
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.5 <?/color> Provide navigation bars to
highlight and give access to the navigation mechanism.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.6 <?/color> Group related links, identify
the group (for user agents), and, until user agents do so, provide a way to
bypass the group.

Especially for Portals:
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.7 <?/color> If search functions are
provided, enable different types of searches for different skill levels and
preferences.

Essentially a portal IS a search function. One trick is to allow for broad
searching and for deep searching - different people find different
approaches more successful. There is research by Inmaculada Fajardo that you
could quote here:  http://www.ugr.es/~ergocogn/articulos/towards.pdf as a
semi-random starting point...

This is the sort of thing that people use semantic web techniques for -
having something as simple as Dublin Core metadata about the things you are
pointing to means you can build portals that provide multiple paths to the
same information - optionally giving people the choice to switch between
different restricted sets. See also <?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.9
<?/color> Provide information about document collections (i.e., documents
comprising multiple pages.) and <?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCB>13.2
<?/color> Provide metadata to add semantic information to pages and sites.

Doing this is also helpful because you can export your information directly
to other systems - allowing people to build the functionality of your portal
into things they already use. One approach to this is the work done in Amaya
derived from the Annotea project, which is essentially about bookmarks (or
personal portals if you prefer to think of them that way). A somewhat
technical explanation is at http://www.w3.org/2003/07/Annotea/BookmarkSchema

Writing style is important - enough information and not too much is a hard
thing to measure, but important.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.8 <?/color> Place distinguishing
information at the beginning of headings, paragraphs, lists, etc.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>12.3 <?/color> Divide large blocks of
information into more manageable groups where natural and appropriate.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>13.1 <?/color> Clearly identify the target of
each link.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>14.1 <?/color> Use the clearest and simplest
language appropriate for a site's content.
<?color><?param 0000,0000,CCCC>14.2 <?/color> Supplement text with graphic
or auditory presentations where they will facilitate comprehension of the
page.
Icons that can be understood on their own are notoriously hard to make, but
can be helpful if used with other cues. For an extreme example (designed for
people who have minimal reading skills) see http://www.peepo.com

And when you've got this right, done the obvious things (valid code, text
alternatives, not relied on javascripts or Flash or something) then you just
go through the checklist - http://www.w3.org/TR/WCAG10/full-checklist.html -
for things you may have missed.

It seems daunting the first time, but you get used to it pretty quickly.
Then the trap is thinking you know what you're doing and forgetting to check
(at least that's a problem I find is hard to avoid, which is why I still
check everything. Even if I know I haven't one everything I often find
simple stuff I can do quickly to make things better).

Oh, talking to users is helpful. There are lots of different users of
course, so you need to be sure that you aren't just listening to a couple of
sides of a complex story, but adding a couple of random insights to what you
already knew isn't necessarily a bad thing...

cheers

Chaals

On Wednesday, Oct 8, 2003, at 09:33 US/Pacific, FOX, Jake wrote:

Hi guys,

does anyone know if there are any specific accessibility issues to keep in
mind when producing a web portal?
Does anything need to be done any differently?

All feedback is very much appreciated.

Many thanks,

-Jake.

--------------------------------
Jake Fox
Web Analyst
Group Web Solutions

Norwich Union
Floor 3 - East Wing
Sentinel House
37 Surrey Street
Norwich
Norfolk
NR1 2UZ

Tel: +44 (0)1603 686333
Fax: +44 (0)1603 840618

email: foxj@norwich-union.co.uk
website: http://www.norwichunion.com
intranet: http://websolutions.intra.norwich-union.com




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--
Charles McCathieNevile Fundación Sidar
charles@sidar.org http://www.sidar.org
Received on Thursday, 9 October 2003 09:27:58 GMT

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