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Jim Byrne Accessible Website Design Glasgow for The Third Sector, Voluntary, Charities and Not for Profits

Accessible, Responsive Website Design
Jim Byrne Web Designer

Why do non-profits need to care about web standards and web accessibility?

Published: August 19, 2014

Accessible websites attract more people

Apart from the 10 million Disabled people in the UK and 50 million in America, accessible websites will be easier to use by older people, people with slow connections or older technologies and people with low literacy. Older people are the fastest growing group of new users in many countries. As many older people have multiple impairments, accessible sites are likely to be more attractive to this group.

Lower costs and more traffic

Pages built using web standards tend to be smaller and they tend to load quicker. This leads to the first and most obvious saving – lower bandwidth costs.

What is not so obvious, however, is that faster loading pages can also generate additional traffic and revenue. For example, when Multimap.com redesigned their site using web standards they estimated they saved 40,000 Gb of bandwidth per year – but they also found that their advertising revenues increased. The quicker loading pages encouraged people to spend more time on the site.

Web Standards means shorter development times and re-usable content

Production and maintenance costs are lower when content is packaged in highly structured ways, for example, when standard (X)HTML is used. Separating the structure of content, i.e., headings, lists, images, paragraphs, from the way that content is presented opens up opportunities to create multiple ‘views’ of that content.

As a result, content can be optimized with less effort for delivery on hand-held devices, formatted for printing or delivered to assistive devices such as screen readers.

When the time comes around for a new design, it is easier to substitute a new style sheet than to spend hours changing hundreds of font tags and background colour attributes.

Web standards means you don’t waste time battling with Browser quirks

When using Web standards there is no need to produce multiple versions of pages to cope with the quirks of different browsers. The time and effort previously required to create and maintain ‘browser sniffing’ scripts can now be re-deployed to add value to the site for visitors.

Web standards helps you break free from proprietary technologies

Using Web standards can free organisations from being captives of browsers dependent on proprietary tags and rendering behaviour. For example, IBM’s move to Open Source desktop clients has reportedly been held back due to their web based systems being built on top of the non-standard Internet Explorer web browser.

Less errors in pages means less time dealing with complaints

Without working to standards – it is not possible to check for markup errors; there are no rules to check against. Standards base web pages can be checked against code validators such as the W3C validator – highlighting any errors – and allowing you to get those errors fixed. If you website works for more people on more browsers you won’t have to spend time replying to emails from people complaining your site doesn’t work.

Content is future-proofed and compatible with older browsers. Pages built using web standards will display more consistently across browsers and platforms, including older browsers. Your content will not necessarily look the same in old ‘non-standard compliant’ browser but the bottom line is that the content will still be available.

Greater search engine visibility

Search engines are able to index web pages more accurately if the content on those pages is well structured. For example, when keywords appear in page headings many search engines give extra weight to those words when indexing the page. A web page where headings are improperly marked up is likely to suffer in the search rankings compared with a page with the same content that is marked up correctly. An accessible website will have alternative text for images and multimedia – and this will provide more text be indexed by search engines.

Accessible websites designed using Web Standards leads to real measurable benefits: more visitors, increased income, decreased cost, greater search engine visibility, faster loading and easier to use pages. Sell the benefits to websites commissioners, not the ideology.

This article was written by Jim Byrne, a Web site accessibility specialist since 1996.

Contact us now if you are interested in having your own accessible website built using Web Standards.

Web Site Accessibility and Web Standards – Get More Visitors and Make More Money

Published: August 8, 2014

Most website commissioners are not interested in Web Standards or Web accessibility – that is clear from the results of DRC Research carried out in the UK in 2004. The research highlighted the appalling lack of accessibility of most UK web sites – with 81% labelled by researchers as ‘impossible’ to use by many disabled people.

So if you are a web developers, don’t waste your time trying to get clients excited by your ethical approach. Instead just get on with the job of creating accessible standards based websites — and tell them you use development methods that will help them attract more visitors — and help them make more money.

Use Web Standards — money can be saved and money can be made

Pages built using web standards tend to be smaller and they tend to load quicker. This leads to the first and most obvious saving – lower bandwidth costs.

What is not so obvious, however, is that faster loading pages can also generate additional traffic and revenue. For example, when Multimap.com redesigned their site using web standards they estimated they saved 40,000 Gb of bandwidth per year – but they also found that their advertising revenues increased. The quicker loading pages encouraged people to spend more time on the site – and consequently advertising revenues went up.

Accessible websites make more money

Julie Howell, Digital Policy Development Officer at the RNIB, talking about one of Tesco’s websites — a website designed to provide easier access for blind and visually impaired people,

“Many fully-sighted people find Tescoís simply designed Access site offers them a better user experience than any other supermarket website. Developed for vision-impaired users, it now takes a surprising £13 million a year, and seems to attract a much wider audience than originally intended.”

Accessible websites attract more people

Apart from the 10 million Disabled people in the UK and 50 million in America, accessible websites will be easier to use by older people, people with slow connections or older technologies and people with low literacy. Older people are the fastest growing group of new users in many countries. As many older people have multiple impairments, accessible sites are likely to be more attractive to this group.

Disabled people and older people have money to spend

In the UK Disabled people have £50 billion of disposable income, in the USA they have US$175 billion. Older people currently control over 80% of the wealth of the UK. As was demonstrated by Tesco — making your website even a little more accessible not only brings you good press – it attracts the attention of the community of older people and disabled web surfers – who spend their money on your website rather than your competitors.

Web Standards means shorter development times and re-usable content

Production and maintenance costs are lower when content is package in highly structured ways, for example, when standard (X)HTML is used. Separating the structure of content, i.e., headings, lists, images, paragraphs, from the way that content is presented opens up opportunities to create multiple ‘views’ of that content.

As a result, content can be optimized with less effort for delivery on hand-held devices, formatted for printing or delivered to assistive devices such as screen readers.

When the time comes around for a new design, it is easier to substitute a new style sheet than to spend hours changing hundreds of font tags and background colour attributes.

Web standards means you don’t waste time battling with Browser quirks

When using Web standards there is no need to produce multiple versions of pages to cope with the quirks of different browsers. The time and effort previously required to create and maintain ‘browser sniffing’ scripts can now be re-deployed to add value to the site for visitors.

Web standards helps you break free from proprietary technologies

Using Web standards can free organisations from being captives of browsers dependent on proprietary tags and rendering behaviour. For example, IBM’s move to Open Source desktop clients has reportedly been held back due to their web based systems being built on top of the non-standard Internet Explorer web browser.

Less errors in pages means less time dealing with complaints

Without working to standards – it is not possible to check for markup errors; there are no rules to check against. Standards base web pages can be checked against code validators such as the W3C validator – highlighting any errors – and allowing you to get those errors fixed. If you website works for more people on more browsers you won’t have to spend time replying to emails from people complaining your site doesn’t work.

Content is future-proofed and compatible with older browsers.
Pages built using web standards will display more consistently across browsers and platforms, including older browsers. Your content will not necessarily look the same in old ‘non-standard compliant’ browser but the bottom line is that the content will still be available.

Greater search engine visibility

Search engines are able to index web pages more accurately if the content on those pages is well structured. For example, when keywords appear in page headings many search engines give extra weight to those words when indexing the page. A web page where headings are improperly marked up is likely to suffer in the search rankings compared with a page with the same content that is marked up correctly. An accessible website will have alternative text for images and multimedia – and this will provide more text be indexed by search engines.

Accessible websites designed using Web Standards leads to real measurable benefits: more visitors, increased income, decreased cost, greater search engine visibility, faster loading and easier to use pages. Sell the benefits to websites commissioners, not the ideology.

This article was written by Jim Byrne, a Web site accessibility specialist since 1996. He is the founder of the Worldwide Guild of Accessible Web Designers and author of the QnECMS – the accessible CMS.

Contact us now if you are interested in having your own accessible website built using Web Standards.

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2) translating from WCAG Speak to Jim Speak

Published:

This short article will set out the basic ideas underlying the World Wide Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2 (WCAG 2).

Here is the shortest possible summary of the guidelines:

The WCAG 2 guidelines are based on four principles: all content must be Perceivable, Operable, Understandable and Robust.

  • For each principle there are guidelines.
  • For each guideline there are testable ‘success criteria’.
  • For each guideline and success criteria there are related techniques.

Ok, if you are anything like me, that’s about as clear as mud. So to understand it, let’s start by defining what some of these words/principles mean; which we can do by translating them from WCAG speak to the much simpler, Jim speak.

Part 1: Defining the principles

Perceivable

WCAG speak: Information and user interface components must be presentable to users in ways they can perceive.

Jim speak: the site visitor must be able to recognise that the content exists. For example by being able to see it, hear it or touch it (e.g. being presented as raised dots for a braille user).

Operable

WCAG speak: User interface components and navigation must be operable.

Jim speak: The site visitor must be able to navigate around the site and use the features and functions presented.

Understandable

WCAG speak: Information and the operation of user interface must be understandable.

Jim speak: Not only should visitors be able to recognise the existence of the content and be able to interact with it, they must also be able to understand it.

Robust

WCAG speak: Content must be robust enough that it can be interpreted reliably by a wide variety of user agents, including assistive technologies.

Jim speak: It must be possible to access the content using everything from a text-only web browser to the latest Firefox browser. And everything in between, including screen readers and all the different brands and versions of browsers now available

Success criteria – what does that mean?

‘Success criteria’, it may not be a phrase that most people will be familiar with; however it is an idea at the heart of WCAG 2 – so we need to figure out what it means.

WCAG speak: For each principle there are guidelines. For each guideline there are testable ‘success criteria’.

Jim speak: There are things you will need to check to assess whether your website is accessible or not.

Stay tuned for part two: a summary of the guidelines for each principle.

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HTML 4.01 will be around for a while yet

Published:

One of the most important steps you can take to ensure that your web pages will be accessible is to code them using standards based markup. Coding to standards will reduce development and maintenance costs, make your content more flexible, and ensure your pages will be more ‘future compliant’.

But which standard should you adopt – surely the one thing we can be sure of is that standards are always changing and being ‘upgraded’

Well here’s a wee tip: there is one standard you can rely on to never change (apart from bug fixes) and that is HTML 4.01.

In a sea of changing and unpredictable variables, there are few rocks for you to base the building of your site on – but marking up the content of your site using valid HTML 4.01 is one.

So should you code your pages using HTML 4.01 or make the leap to XHTML or XML, HTML5? That is up to you to decide, but consider this quote from Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web and director of the W3C ,

“I think HTML 4.0 will be a standard which you will be able to read in 200 years time. There is so much HTML. There is also enough investment in it that any new format will have ways of moving an HTML website into that format. But — do use standard HTML!! If you use some proprietary version then you could be stuck with material which makes no sense in 200 years time — or 20. ” Tim Berners-Lee. http://www.time.com/time/community/transcripts/1999/092999berners-lee.html

Links

Standard HTML and accessibility: an introduction

Published:

What is standard markup?

There have been many different versions of HTML since the World Wide Web was invented in the early 90s by Tim Berners-Lee. The ‘rules’ for using each version are encapsulated in the standards published by the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The standards dictate the tags publishers are allowed to use (and in what order), and how those tags should be interpreted by browsers and ‘user agents’. For example, text within header tags are interpreted as headings, text within paragraph tags are interpreted as paragraphs.

How else would your web browser know the <h1> tag around a particular piece of text means, ‘display this as a headings’, if it didn’t have a set of rules to follow?

What standard should I use?

It is said (with irony), that ‘the great thing about standards is that there are so many to choose from’; and in this case it is quite true. However, if you are beginner, you won’t go far wrong if you decide to use the latest – and final – version of HTML released by the W3C, i.e., HTML 4.01 Strict. This is a good standard to adopt as it will never change (giving you a solid reliable way to markup your pages), and web browsers will understand your pages for a good while yet.

The ‘Strict’ part of the name means that you should not use tags and attributes that are no longer part of the final HTML standard (the jargon used when referring to these non-standard tags and attributes is ‘deprecated’). Mostly these are tags and attributes that are related to altering page presentation, e.g., the <font> tag and the bgcolor attribute. Staying away from deprecated tags and attributes removes a few more potential barriers to accessibility for your visitors.

If you are a more experienced coder and you have the tools to ensure that you don’t make mistakes when marking up documents, you may prefer to use XHTML 1 Strict. Adopting this more up-to-date standard will make you feel more virtuous, assist with accessibility, and help to future-proof your pages.

(If you read the excellent book, Designing With Web Standards by Jeffrey Zeldman, you will be convinced that you should be using XHTML 1 Transitional – but if you read the warnings by Ian Hickson about the dangers of sending XHTML as Text/HTML you will be slightly less sure.)

What is XHMTL?

Future developments in the area of ‘markup for the web’ are based around the use of Extensible Markup Language – XML for short. This is not the place for a long discussion about what XML is, and what it can be used for, suffice to say it is a way of labeling and adding structure to data; in the case of XHTML – which is an application of XML – the data being labelled and structured is the content of a web page. XML is potentially a more flexible and ‘intelligent’ way of adding labels to your web published documents – because it is designed to make it easier for computers to process and transform documents into different formats.

How does the web browser know what version of HTML I am using in my pages?

All HTML pages must include a Document Type Declaration (DTD) as the first element in on the page. For example, if you are using HTML 4.01 Transitional, that declaration will be:

<!DOCTYPE HTML PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD HTML 4.01 Transitional//EN"
       "http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/loose.dtd">

There are three DTDs for HTML 4.01, ‘Strict’, ‘Transitional’ and ‘Frameset’. Using ‘Transitional’ means you are allowed to use some of the ‘deprecated’ tags in your pages (i.e. tags that are no longer part of the standard). If you are interested in finding out more I suggest the article, Fixing Your Site With the Right DOCTYPE.

How do I ensure I am using standard markup?

Stardard HTML documents are ‘marked up’ in a way that makes it clear up what parts are headings, what parts are paragraphs, what parts are images, lists, and so on.

Using HTML in a standard way means you have to put the correct labels (i.e tags) around the appropriate document structures; headings should be marked up using heading tags, lists should be marked up using list tags, passages of quotation should be marked up with the blockquote element, and so on. In other words the HTML tags should be used to label the various elements of your documents according the rules of HTML. Using standard markup also means that you are using the tags in the correct places and in the correct order, e.g. you can’t put a heading tag inside an image tag.

An example of a heading created using non-valid markup:


<b><font size=4>First heading</font></b>

The presentation tag <b> has been used to make the text look bold, and the <font> tag has been used to make it bigger than the default size.

The same heading marked up using standard HTML:


<h1>First heading</h1>

Having marked up the text as a heading, the presentation aspects can be altered using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS).

See the article HTML – looking down at it from a very great height for a short introduction to using standard HTML.

How do I check I am using standard markup?

The W3C provide a free validation tool to check whether your document is valid HTML: http://validator.w3.org/. Your document must include a Document Type Declaration (DTD), so that the validator will know the HTML version used to markup your page.

What are Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) for?

Once a document has been created using standard HTML you can alter the way it is presented, by using different ‘style sheets’; in much the same way you can use different styles to alter the look of the text in a Microsoft Word document.

Cascading Style Sheets contain information to set, among other things, the size and colour of headings, the justification of text, the layout of the page, and so on. In other words CSS should be used to provide information about how the page looks for visual users, and in more general terms, how it is presented to different types of user and ‘user agent’ (i.e., browsers).

What does ‘divorce structure from presentation’ mean?

HTML should ideally be used only to markup the structure of your document (i.e. say what bits are headings, paragraphs, list, quotes, and so on), with CSS being used to determine the presentational aspects of that document (e.g. how it looks). By separating structure from presentation you
are creating more flexible pages. A given user can then
apply their own style sheet so that the content is
presented in a way that suits their needs.

Why does using standard HTML and CSS help accessibility?

Using standard HTML and CSS will mean your pages are more flexible in the way they can be presented to the end users.

Using standard Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) also ensures that your pages will work on the widest range of hardware and software.

  • Standard markup helps people who are using screen readers, e.g. the screen reading software can present all of the headings on the page as a list, providing a summary of the page contents for the users.
  • Pages using standard markup will work more consistently on a wider range of browsers and hardware.
  • If you use CSS for presentation, users will be able to replace your style sheet with one of their own, that encapsulates all of their preferences.
  • On pages that do not use standard markup, style sheets may not work as expected.

Links

See the Web standards Project (WASP) for further information, and the advantages of using standard HTML

Jim Byrne

Give me a phone if you would like me to test the accessibility of your website:

I provided feedback on the WCAG 2, have two decades of experience and worked with hundreds of organisations.

07810 098 119

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