Monthly Archives: August 2003

Fixed Fonts and Style Sheets

At UTSA we use px to specify the font sizes on our sites, yet many accessibility conscious individuals propose other wise.

Matt Heerema of Iowa State University Extension recently brought this discussion to our attention again.

I was curious about one aspect of your site. I noticed that you fixed the font size on all of the pages (except for your text size changer tool on the secondary pages). Most accessibility gurus I know of recommend not fixing font size.

I had not addressed this issue in some time and so could not quite remember where I found my evidence. After a search for "css accessibility mac font pixel", I came across an article from A List Apart entitled Fear of Style Sheets 4: Give Me Pixels or Give Me Death.

In this article, Jeffrey Zeldman talks about the "braid dead" approach of using PT on the Web. He points out that Macs have a very different method for displaying fonts, and that a small pt can make the text completely unaccessible. I won't get into details about the article but encourage you to visit Todd Fahrner's image, which gives a strong examples as to why not to use points.

Please note however that this article was written in 2000, when browser support for %, em and keywords was far from effective. I also encourage you to visit my font size comparison page for a handy tool in comparing varying font sizes.

Web is for Politics, it's good enough for…

Redesigning our home page can bring out the most interesting and often offending comments and demands.

Yep, you heard it, demands. The scariest part of this whole ordeal has and is the shock of moving and removing links. We have even been threatened with ladder pushing! I won't go into detail about these, but would like to give some brief notes about our IA.

My claim about the old home page is that it's weakness was the fact that it grouped links together that had no business being together. It is a basic tenent of a good taxonomy to group things that relate. On the page you will find market links (future students, alumni, etc.) grouped with “Our Three Campuses”, and then a whole sleu of labels that seem to move along the lines of topic categories. Then the question is whether or not you can even read the text represented as images.

Our IA Methodology

We split our navigation links into about 4 sections. The first the user encounters on the page is site navigation. This is common with the major e-commerce vendors (Amazon.com). The next is a general grouping that is there mostly for one click access to major campus online applications and important marketing related features and services (alumni, news, athletics, etc.). This is followed by a Market-based (future students, alumni, etc.) grouping and a Topic-based grouping. These last two groupings are very common amoung North American Universities. The next item on the page is not really meant to serve as navigation but as an opportunity for our departments to deliver content that enhances the universities public image.

Here is a recap on our navigation:

  • Site tools
  • Misc. high use applications and marketing services
  • Market focused navigation
  • Topic focused navigation

Total navigation links:
Old home page: 22
New home page: 26 (9 are within Quick Links)

Design Notes

Our old home page was not ugly. It was very tight in it's design and used cool, subtle colors. The design elements were formally modern and decorated some very conservative content (school seal and a welcome message).

In our reasessment,

  • There was a call for color, both that reflects the heritage and environment of San Antonio and attempts to incorporate school colors.
  • Avoid overly-stylized home pages. This is based on the premise that Web page users to a university Web site have an information need and are easily deterred by confusing or slow loading pages.
  • Search integration on the home page.
  • Enhanced image “branding”. This ruled out highly stylistic designs.
  • An attempt to appeal to the traditional college student through environment and action photos.
  • Enhanced ease in finding information (Information Architecture).
  • Accessibility
  • Fresh news and content venue

What you see is the product of all of these needs. The beauty of the Web is it's cheap production costs. If this were a magazine, I would be doomed to live with a mistake or eat the high cost of reprinting. We will be constantly reorganizing the content and tweaking the structure of the page. Thanks for your feedback!

New UTSA Home Page Release

Coded in XHTML and CSS, the new home page adapts the latest in Web standards to deliver an accessible and memorable experience.

We finally pulled it off. Pushed it on up the ladder, got the necessary approvals and released it just in time before the fall semester. The administration at the University of Texas at San Antonio is very progressive and student focused. They care deeply about the Web and have allowed us to reflect our abilities in it.

Did I mention that it is done in XHTML and CSS — absolutely no tables! The new home page (and secondary pages I might add) also takes the next step in Web standards and accessibility by improving on it's usage of CSS to bring an enhanced user experience. We used:

The content is also greatly improved. We are featuring a gallery of great images on the front along with a regular upcoming section that will showcase certain news events at UTSA (replace the Bulletin section).

Comments about the design are welcome too. Something that has bothered me about the page is the colors used and the saturation of marketing logos. The strongest feature is definitely the photos. We have some great photographers and are finally getting around to using them. What say you?

Web Standards on NPR

NPR recently featured Paul Ford of ftrain.com on All Things Considered where he gave a brief commentary about Web standards.

How exciting, I was in fact wondering if Web standards would ever get it's 15 minutes of fame. I always thought that next to California politics and the woes of the Liberian, Web standards would never be as Hollywood or as life and death dramatic.

And there it was…

They managed to fit it in right after a story about SPAM. I guess we'll take what we can get! Here are the links:

Accessibility Seminars/Presentations on the Web

From Jeffrey Zeldman, Knowbility, Watchfire and the Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center offer online seminars and presentations on Accessibility.

Jeffrey Zeldman

Section 508? That's for the government or something.

At Web Design World 2003, Zeldman gave two talks:

  • Accessibility and Section 508 – Easy to follow, well designed and entertaining. One can only imagine how good this presentation is with Zeldman actually taking you through it.
  • Designing with Web Standards – Not really focused entirely on Web Accessibility but was the keynote address–Definitely worth checking out.

Knowbility

I recently mentioned this seminar on an earlier post but it is definitely worth mentioning again. This is the actual Power Point presentation from Sharron Rush and Glenda Sims' Accessibility Class.

Information Technology Technical Assistance and Training Center(ITTATC)

This group is offering a Web Cast on IT Accessibility strategies, targeting state and local government entities on Wed., Aug. 13 from 2 to 4 PM EST.

This is from a recent PESO email:

The live Webcast will include Real-Time captioning.

The purpose of the webcast is to provide information on federal approaches to Section 508 of the rehabilitation Act of 1973, as amended. Processes, policies, and tools that have been implemented to effectively and efficiently improve federal agency accessibility procurement and training programs will be highlighted.

The targeted audience includes state and local government entities:

  • State Assistive Technology Projects (AT Projects)
  • Offices of the Chief Information Officer (CIOs)
  • Procurement Officials (POs)
  • Disability and Business Technical Assistance Centers (DBTACs)
  • State Americans with Disabilities Act Coordinators
  • Consumers and Advocates

For additional information and registration for the Web cast visit
http://www.ittatc.org/training/webcast_Aug13.cfm

Watchfire

The company which bought Bobby and made us all wait a full minute to do more than one 508 check on our site also apparently has some great free accessibility seminars coming up. Check out http://www.watchfire.com/news/seminars.asp for more information and registration.

Up-coming Events

  • Achieving Website Accessibility in State Government
    September 9, 2003
    2-3 pm EDT
  • Assuring Website Compliance with Industry Standards and Legislation in
    State Government
    August 14, 2003
    2-3 pm EDT

They also include information about products which help you in your accessibility endeavors.

MIT Guide to Teaching Web Design

Filling the hole in information for educators, The MIT Guide to Teaching Web Site Design is currently the only book I know of that specifically targets teaching Web Design.

From a brief overview of this book, it exhaustively overviews not only the technical aspects of a good Web site, but includes usability, information architecture, privacy, copyrights, security and much more. The only guides and syllabi that I have come across on teaching the Web all focus on technically getting your site to the Web. The overall approach in this book is exactly what I am looking for–and at a great price too!

Check out these other resources

Book Information:
Edward Barrett, Deborah A. Levinson, Suzanna Lisanti (2000) The MIT Guide to Teaching Website Design. MIT Press, Massachusetts. ISBN 0262025000

Accesify San Antonio!

Sharron Rush of Knowbility and Glenda Sims of UT Austin recently brought their accessibility expertise to San Antonio for a class.

Sharron Rush, co-author of Maximum Accessibility and Director of Knowbility, and Glenda Sims, Senior Systems Analyst for the University of Texas Austin Web, lead a group of UTSA Web developers through their accessibility class. The class was held Monday, July 28 2003.

I highly recommend this teaching duo for all large organizations with Web people. They are concise and manage to cover a lot of material in an attention getting way.

The lesson that attendees seemed to engage most was the demonstration of a screen reader. Working through feelings of frustration, confusion and shock, attendees gained a new level of empythy for those that use screen readers. Some recommended screen readers and tools:

Finally, register for the AIR-U (Accessibility Internet Rally University Challenge) competition and test your Web accessibility skills against numerous other sites.

Don't forget to validate with Cindy or Bobby!