Rant Against Extensions to HTML
Macromedia Flash, or if essential elements are presented only pictorially, many
of your clients will not be able to see that content. Why does this happen, why
should you care, and what can you do about it?
Blind people rely on software to
read text on the screen to them.
Thus they are aware only of material that appears as text. I do not know
Flash, and the visual metaphors generally used by scripting languages are
inaudible to blind people.
Here's an exercise to raise your consciousness. There's a diagram
and a set of links on this page presented through
I can dowse, and the page is perfectly plain to me. If you can't learn this
simple skill, you need to get a life!
By creating web pages which are not accessible (or are accessible) to a
significant, though often ignored, client population, you demonstrate how much
concern you have for customer service. Sighted customers would do well to
predict what kind of service they may get from you, by assessing how you treat
less fortunate people.
Blind people are not the only clients who have trouble with nonstandard
- People with poor vision, though not blind, have trouble to read small fonts
kewl color schemes.
- Please at least honor the client's choice of body font and size, by not
overriding it explicitly in the web page.
- Use the CSS generic font faces
if that aspect is essential to your presentation; clients will
set these to their preferred size and family.
- Use H elements without explicit font sizes or overriding CSS.
- Use styles such as <B> or <EM> for emphasis rather than
overriding the body style explicitly.
- For size changes use <SMALL> or <BIG>;
or if a greater size change is absolutely necessary, use a relative size, not
- Not only visually impaired people, but people with a different screen size
from your web designer will have trouble with images of all kinds. Large
screens as used for graphic design, and small screens in the ubiquitous
web-enabled phones and PDAs, deliver a marred version of your message unless
you take care.
- Construct important elements such as the company's name from text (that
should scale to the screen size) over a nice graphical background, rather than
making a picture of the company's name. Then the name appears automatically
in a text-only browser, and one can select the text and paste it into a
proposal or purchase order.
- To adapt images to the actual window size, use an explicit WIDTH or HEIGHT
- Always include ALT text for images (except spacers and other content-free
material), so clients without imaging capability can display it, and when
appropriate provide a LONGDESC attribute. A picture may be worth a thousand
words, but you need to also provide the thousand words for when the picture
cannot be seen, or is too grainy on a PDA's small screen.
- People in a high security regime will refuse to enable scripting languages
in their browsers. This includes knowledgeable potential investors and
corporate clients, who take computer security seriously because they have
something to lose. Although scripted materials can add glitz and
responsiveness to a page, you should provide <NOSCRIPT> alternatives to
every scripted element. For example, you might have a movie presented with
Flash Player, but when that plugin is unavailable, you should have a simple
slide show using client pull for the frame-to-frame transitions. Or a highly
responsive dropdown link menu in Flash should be backed up by a more expensive
and less functional static page of links, possibly squeezed into a frame pane,
and accessible to a blind person's screen reader.
The scripted material may look nice to those who can and will look at it,
but showing a blank page or no links to your other clients is not good
- And finally, not everyone uses the market-leading web browser. If your
client chooses to use a browser or operating system that you have never heard
of, you should meet your client halfway by offering a strictly
standards-compliant web page, expecting the unknown browser to be able to
render standards-compliant material error-free.
It isn't bad to include enhancements for clients who have particular
plugins, but your job is corporate communication, and you should be able to get
your company's message across to all your clients.