Web Standards and Accessibility Guidelines used in a Blog?

Web 3 ConsortiumThe majority of the Internet users should have heard about the World Wide Web Consortium or better known as W3C.
The W3C is the main international standards organization for the World Wide Web (W3). It is arranged as a consortium where member organizations maintain full-time staff for the purpose of working together in the development of standards for the W3.

Or as Michael Martin from ProBlogDesign.com described it in his article „Does Valid Code Help Your Blog?“:

The W3C is the internet’s daddy. They created HTML, CSS, and dozens of other specifications that govern the use of the technologies that makes the internet thrive today. Valid code is code which meets their guidelines, and can be tested in a validator, such as the HTML and CSS ones.

I don’t want to discuss if using valid code should be used in a blog or if it is actually helpful for a blog. To be honest, I had it in mind, but somehow ProBlogDesign.com beat me to it, which is actually helpful because I can skip this part 😉

To sum Michael Martin’s article up I dare to say that it is useful to use valid code, or better: Web Standards, in a blog.
His reasons are all great, but I have to add one more reason why you should use Web Standards: chances are higher that your blog is accessible by all humans, especially those with disabilities.

Less known among the Internet users is the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI) of the W3C. Although some webmaster and „webcoder“ know and follow the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) put together by the staff of the WAI there are way more webmaster / „webcoder“ who are not following these guidelines.

I’m aware that these guidelines are not a must have for a website, however I try to write templates and websites following the WCAG as closely as possible. I’m not perfect on this part and I know that my blog template still needs to adjusted to follow the WCAG, but I’m working on it and I’m using one of the many WAI validators.

So, why I am talking about the whole accessibility thing?

Lynx - a Text-Only browserAs you know, there are many different browsers out there. Most of them showing the nice designed content of your website, however, there are text-only browsers like Lynx. These users won’t be able to appreciate your nice layout, but they are able to either enjoy your website or just ignore it because of it’s structure. Have a look at your website without the usage of images and CSS, does the „layout“ show up in an order which allows you to easily navigate through your page? If not, I’d guess that text-only browser user will ignore your website.

I’m aware of the fact that text-only browser users are a minority, on most page statistics they won’t even show up, but do you really want to loose the few percent of possible customers?

Aside the text-only browser users there is a minority which most people tend to ignore if not forget. I believe it is really sad and of course wrong.
I’m talking about people with a disability. Yes, believe me or not, there are people browsing the Internet who are suffering from blindness or they are deaf or they have epilepsy…I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Disabled People SignIt doesn’t require much additional time to make your template more friendly for this target group. For instance, you can avoid using animated gifs so a visitor with epilepsy can enjoy your website. Also, you can avoid the excessive usage of Flash. I know, there are people who would like to lynch me, but be honest. Can you easily navigate through a flash animation without the usage of a mouse? Not really, additionally the animation could prevent the visitor with epilepsy to visit your website at all. Last but not least, (I’m pretty sure that I missed many examples) are the people with some kind of color blindness, like the Red-Green-Blindness. If you use a red-green template you should make sure that either the colors are ok for people with red-green blindness or that you have at least an alternate design available.

Everything I mentioned here is my personal opinion. I know that it can be difficult to maintain a accessibility friendly website and I’m also aware that many major websites like Amazon or Microsoft are not accessibility friendly, but maybe you can make a change.

Whenever I discuss this topic with other people, I hear many excuses for not following the WAI. In return, I always have a solid argument against the excuse.

Bad vs. Good – The Accessibility Discussion

  • It will take more time to finish my site!
    Not really, if you follow the WCAG right from the beginning, you will be done at the same time as you would without following it.
  • It will make the page more ugly.
    Sorry, but you are wrong here. Actually even the average visitor can benefit from the accessibility optimized website because of the clearer navigation and so on…
  • Those disabled don’t have to visit my site and/or shouldn’t use the Internet.
    Ignoring the fact that this is really racist, you should keep in mind that one day you could also suffer from some kind of disability. Of course, it is up
  • Major websites like Amazon or Microsoft are not following the WCAG either, so why bothering?
    True, but you know you could make a change? Just because „famous“ websites are not following the WCAG doesn’t mean your website wouldn’t help to spread the word and encourage other people to optimize their own websites.

Of course at the end it is your own decision if you try to follow the guidelines or not. I myself will continue to optimize my website(s) into this direction.

What about you?

8 Gedanken zu „Web Standards and Accessibility Guidelines used in a Blog?

  1. Well said Marco. Sorry I beat ya to the punch, but you’ve expanded so well on the Accessibility issue, it’s a whole new article! 😀

    I agree with you entirely. In regards to the „More Time,“ problem, I do find that it can be true. But the great thing about the internet is that a site never really has to be „done.“ A month after it going live, you can still be tweaking it! Accessibility can constantly be improved over time. It doesn’t always have to be perfect on the launch.

  2. True, that’s why I didn’t worry about the Accessibility part as I created the template. Actually I did worry about a few minor things, but I still have to take care of the real „tough“ section of the guidelines.

    oh, and don’t worry about beating me to the punch. As I said already, it allowed me to skip one part of the whole article 🙂

  3. The guidelines can get very tough to adhere to. I’ve never made (or tried to make) a site that was AAA compliant by the WCAG, and I rarely meet AA either for that matter.

    Covering the main points is usually enough I think. 🙂

  4. People are always going on about how your site looks with no CSS. But as you say very few people will browse with CSS turned off or with a browser like Lynx. I think it is more important to try and cater for people with more common disabilities like poor eyesight. You also bring up interesting pots with colour blidneness – hadn’t thought of that.

    That reminds me of when I was working for an IT company and the guy I was working with was trying to wire a CAT cable and he was pputting the wrong colours in the wrong holes because he was colour blind. So, I think that is a very valid point. You could say something like ‚click the red box to do x‘ and a colour blind person would not know what to do.

  5. Most people forget that a disability can be as minor as color blindness, which is usually less worse than poor eyesight. I’m using my common sense and moral understandings on my sites, thus I try to make them as much accessible as possible.

    This template here is great for colorblind people, same for people with poor eyesight. You can enlarge the page and everything scales as it should, thanks to not using a fixed size like px.

    As a side effect the site turns out to be quite good for Lynx users (or any other kind of text-only browser).

  6. What I really like when you are using proper CSS and em then you are even able to scale an image (like my header) in FF and the other browsers. On the downside there can be issues with IE6- …

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