As one might have expected, Mark Pilgrim’s accessibility case studies provoked a variety of responses.
Mark Pilgrim’s been telling stories about Web accessibility at his shiny xhtml 1.1 blog all this week, and plans to keep it up. You’d think that sites like www.section508.gov would be half as conscientious as Mark about such matters, but no.
While I applaud his aims and greatly look forward to the series, I can’t help but feel that limiting the series to just bloggers is an unnecessary move. I expect most of the tips to be applicable to a wide array of sites and the web is crying out for a good resource for improving general site accessibility.
Dave Winer says that Mark Pilgrim has noted that he’s got people ripping him apart for the series on his blog entitled “30 days to a more accessible weblog”. (I’ve seen some of the parodies, and they’re vicious. Funny, but vicious. And clueless.) That’s a real shame, because the kind of personas he’s creating are an excellent way to gain a better understanding of the kind of visitors your web site is going to get.
Christ Mark, could you get any more preachy? … Here’s my suggestion for day three:
“Gregory, who goes by Greg, is 21 years old. He is a junior at a large state university, and is a member of a fraternity.
“Greg cannot get laid. This is not a popular culture cliche or a philosophical statement; he really cannot find a girl who will have sex with him. He has “No Game…”
I’m not sure if you know this, but I’m colorblind. It’s really not a big deal, and doesn’t play a major part in my day-to-day life. I recently read this story on “Dive into Mark”. I’m not sure if this ‘Michael’ person actually exists, but if I were him I’d be pissed off about this article.
[next day] After yesterday’s post, I got a nice email from Mark. He changed his article on the fictional color-blind ‘Michael’. Now Michael just leaves images off because he doesn’t want to waste his bandwidth. Sort of makes the whole “colorblind” aspect of his character useless now though.
This is too good not to link to… Describing case studies has too long been the stepschild of user research, numbers and graphs were long seen as the ultimate conveyors of truth (see Market research). Time to change that back. There is a lot of detail lost in the numbers and graphs, and a long time ago, the medical profession (for example) recognised that. They used to do detailed case studies; what happened to that practice?
The hard work is unlocking the power for masses of people, people who couldn’t care less about ontologies, or semantic webs, or even accessibility. If you want all that stuff, you have to learn how to make products that work for people, and accomplish your goals, if you can figure out how…
PS: The bit about accessibility is deliberately provocative. Think about it. People with disabilities don’t want accessibility, they want to use the Web. Different perspective.
The recurring themes?
- It’s a pity the series is only aimed at webloggers.
- I thought they were real people.
- Case studies vividly explain the issues involved.
I think Mark’s approach has been exemplary. First, he ensured that his own site is accessible. Then, without any preliminary explanation, he dropped us into a series of well-written and engaging character sketches that, by personalizing the issue, provide the best reason for caring about accessibility. Most importantly, he has promised to follow up with a series of tips that we can immediately apply to our own weblog templates.
That the series is aimed at webloggers rather than a more general web audience seems OK. Better to start with a defined target audience and trust that the story will ripple out from there.
I’m aware that many bloggers believe they have an obligation to be truthful in their posts, but it’s irrelevant to me whether the personas are based on real people or not. I reject the illusion of “journalistic truth,” believing instead that a well-written fictional character is usually more engaging and believable than a “real person.”
Nor do I have any problem with the parodies. I’m committed to making my own site more accessible by implementing Mark’s tips as he publishes them. Yet I also believe that no issue, idea, or argument should be exempt from (even harsh) critical analysis—as long as the criticism is directed at the position, not the person holding the position. If we’re going to start granting exemptions for special issues or special people, we may as well admit that John Dvorak was correct when he implied that blogging is little more than a cross-linking mutual admiration society.
As for Dave Winer’s statement that “people with disabilities don’t want accessibility, they want to use the Web,” that’s not really a different perspective, that’s just Dave being provocative, as he admits. People with disabilities do want to use the Web and we can significantly enhance their Web experience by designing accessible sites. They may not want accessibility but they certainly need it.
Hats off to Dave Winer, though, for supporting a righteous cause. The traffic he directed to Mark Pilgrim’s site this week probably outweighed the flow from all the other links combined. As we embark on the adventure of making our weblogs accessible, Dave deserves the final word:
I support what [Mark’s] doing, his narratives of real-world case studies for accessibility are just what I wanted, to help me understand what the issues are, and what solutions exist.