Dispatches From the Internets

The Web Is for Everyone

I gave this speech as the closing keynote at A11yQC, a conference on Web accessibility, on 14 October 2014 in Québec City, Canada. I have published my script here as the slides can’t really convey its message on their own.

We, as an industry, tend to have a pretty myopic view of experience. Those of us who work day-to-day in accessibility probably have a broader perspective than most, but I would argue that even we all fall short now and again when it comes to seeing the Web as others do.

ARIA Quicktip: Labelledby vs. Describedby

Last night, while we were enjoying a cool evening and a few drinks outside after day 1 of BDConf, Jeremy asked me for some clarification on the ARIA attributes I had demoed as part of my forms presentation earlier in the afternoon. In particular, he was confused by how aria-labelledby and aria-describedby differ.

Google Embraces Progressive Enhancement

In case you missed it, yesterday Pierre Far updated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. In his post, Pierre lays out their case for progressive enhancement:

Just like modern browsers, our rendering engine might not support all of the technologies a page uses. Make sure your web design adheres to the principles of progressive enhancement as this helps our systems (and a wider range of browsers) see usable content and basic functionality when certain web design features are not yet supported.

Responsive Typography

I’m incredibly excited to see that Jason Pamental’s fantastic Responsive Typography is finally available. I had the great pleasure of reviewing an early galley and I can honestly say that it’s a book well worth reading. Jason’s natural and friendly style makes for an easy read and it’s chock-full of actionable recommendations and tips you’ll want to start using right away.

Missed Connections

Earlier today, Stuart Langridge—who I worked with on WaSP’s DOM Scripting Task Force and have the utmost respect for—published a blog response to my last post. In it, he made some good points I wanted to highlight, but he also misunderstood one thing I said and managed to avoid addressing the core of my argument. As comments aren’t enabled on his site, I thought I’d respond here.

A Fundamental Disconnect

Yesterday at BlendConf, Scott Hanselman gave a fantastically-entertaining keynote entitled “JavaScript, The Cloud, and the rise of the New Virtual Machine.” In it, he chronicled all of the ways Web development and deployment has changed—for the better—over the years. He also boldly declared that JavaScript is now, effectively, a virtual machine in the browser.

The Network Effect

Ars Technica revealed today that Comcast is injecting self-promotional advertising into web pages delivered via it’s Wi-Fi hotspots:

A Comcast spokesman told Ars the program began months ago. One facet of it is designed to alert consumers that they are connected to Comcast's Xfinity service. Other ads remind Web surfers to download Xfinity apps, Comcast spokesman Charlie Douglas told Ars in telephone interviews.

I wish I could say this is surprising, but it’s not: Any service that routes your content has the opportunity to modify the response being returned. Comcast is exploiting that opportunity and injecting JavaScript that, in turn, injects the ads.

The “Native” vs. “Stylable” Tug of War

In his astute post “‘Native experience’ vs styling select boxes”, Bruce Lawson correctly identified a common tension in the web world:

But why this urge to re-style page elements that end-users are familiar with? … Or is it that we love native look and feel, except when we don’t?

Speaking as the guy who not only wrote JavaScript to help me create an accessible select element alternative, but who also made it the focus of a case study (image) in AdvancED DOM Scripting, I am fully aware of the desire to have it both ways. I have not often seen the desire for both in a single individual, but it does happen in one particular instance occasionally.

Searching for the “Right Size”

This recent piece from Wired attributes dwindling tablet sales to cannibalization from larger mobile phones (aka “phablets”) which are nearly as big as 7-8˝ tablets:

Aside from the ability to make a phone call, the difference between a phone and a tablet comes down to 1.5 inches or less. … But the real issue is device makers are running out of good arguments for why these ever more subtle size gradations matter. After a point, the differences come down to personal preference rather than any meaningful new use case. As phones and tablets converge into this tight window, slightly bigger phones could accelerate the decline in tablet demand.

Personally, I’m not sure it matters. We’re in the midst of one big experiment being run by the device manufacturers. We’re in the scattershot. The industry is feeling out the “right” screen size (or sizes) that most people want to use and we are (in large part) footing the bill.