Deaf and online videos

One thing I noticed while watching videos online (YouTube, MetaCafe, Google Video, etc) is that there is rarely any text accompanying the video. It isn’t much of an issue if it’s a prank video or a Japanese game show, but when there’s a lot of speaking parts, there’s rarely any captioning.

I wonder what hearing impaired people do. Do they have software that automatically close caption the audio? If not, they must feel left out.

Old folders

Something I have been thinking about lately is the idea of naming folders that make sense in the future. For example, it does not make sense to name a folder “Word documents”; a year from now you might wonder what kind of Word documents are in that folder.

A common technique I have seen people do when introducing new websites or new software is to move all the old files (previous version of a website, supporting documents for old software) to a new folder labelled “old”. At the time, it makes sense.

Yet it does not make sense down the road. Should information that is new now be put in that folder a year from now? What reference point does the folder use to determine when something is old?

Folders should have names that accurately describe what is in them.

Don’t Design for Full Screen

Stop making your websites go to full screen automatically! I mean it. Stop it.

People do not take into consideration how different website users set up their operating system, software and hardware.

First, making a window auto maximize without giving the user the option to do it or not is irritating.

Second, making a window auto maximize without giving the user notification what will be happening is inconsiderate.

Third, not every user has a single monitor. Many users have set ups with multiple monitors. It allows them to work on more than one application at a time more efficiently. When a window goes to full screen, it spans all monitors—not just one. Since most full screen designs are centred horizontally and vertically, the content ends up being split evenly between both screens, with the left half being on the left monitor and the right half on the right monitor. If the first two issues I listed above were irritating and inconsiderate, this issue is very irritating and very inconsiderate.

Don’t make designs that expand to full screen automatically. Give the user a choice. If you have to make it full screen, at least learn how to constrain it to a single monitor.

Paving Paths and Website Accessibility

I have been working my legs too hard over the last couple of weeks with my non-stop cycling. Last weekend certainly was not enough time to let me legs recuperate. I decided to drive to work this morning in hopes that a third day will be enough to get my legs back to normal.

Anyhow, while walking from my truck to the University of Lethbridge on one of the new paths, I was reflecting on how the path has a lot to do with web design.

Before the fall of 2002, students travelling to the University of Lethbridge from the corner of University Drive and Columbia Boulevard had two choices to get to the University. They could travel down Valley Drive and then turn at the West Lot, travelling across the West Lot until they got to Anderson Hall or the PE Building. This was the longer option. The second option was to cut across the field, over the berm and across the Far west Lot and West Lot. This was the shorter option—albeit muddier in the winter and when it rained.

In 2002, the University of Lethbridge decided to pave the path students had worn down across the field and over the berm. They also added lighting. This made sense. After all, why not create a paved, lighted path right where people will use it?

As I reflected on this, it caused me to wonder why so many people do not do this when setting up information architecture on a website. So many websites make it very hard to find things. I do not know what the developers were thinking when they put it together, but I do know what they were not thinking. They were not thinking about the value in holding focus groups and watching how visitors use the website and what paths they try to access information.

So many developer think, “Oh, this looks cool” or “This looks good to me”, and give no thought that it needs to be cool and work; it needs to look good to you and everyone else.

If there is one thing website developers need to get into their thick, obtuse, close-minded heads, it is this: websites need to work for your users more than they need to work for you.

Television, Remotes and Accessibility

An experience earlier this week established for me that electronics manufactures need a lesson in usability and accessibility. It also helped solidify my conviction to make my websites more accessible.

We rented a Hello Kitty DVD Monday for our children to watch. As usual, I turned on the TV, popped in the DVD and went to switch to “Game” mode, which allows the output from the DVD player to display on the TV.

Nothing happened.

I started my troubleshooting A/V products process.

  1. Repeatedly press the button
  2. Press random buttons repeatedly
  3. Move closer to TV
  4. Repeat steps 1-3

The process put me no further ahead to determining the problem. This left me to think either the batteries were dead or the TV was malfunctioning. Here is where things became frustrating.

My remote control was not designed to include a battery indicator. My cell phone was designed with one. My PocketPC was designed with one. My digital camera was designed with one. Nearly every electronic device I own that runs on batteries was designed to include a battery indicator to let me know when the batteries are low. The remote control was not. Why is this a problem?

First, I had no forewarning there was a power supply issue with my remote control. Had I known the batteries were getting low, we could have bought some batteries when we were out shopping earlier that day.

Secondly, without any forewarning, I am doomed to experience a barrier at the exact time I do not want it. I want to use the DVD, but because of this unforeseen barrier, I cannot.

It is no different from a wheelchair-bound customer not being able to get past a store’s front step or a blind person not being able to read text on a website that is only available in an image. As I wanted to watch the DVD, both of these individuals also want something. The wheelchair-bound person would like to purchase something from the store and the blind person wants information from the website. Yet because of barriers unforeseen by businesses in the design process, the three of us cannot access the things we want.

This is only one part of the frustrating equation.

If I am using my computer and the mouse stops working, I can usually navigate through many applications with only my keyboard. The software creators designed it in a way that allowed more than one method of input.

Not so with the TV manufacturer. There is no “Game” button on the TV. In fact, all I can do with the TV is turn it on or off, scroll through the channels one at a time linearly, bring up the settings menu and raise or lower the volume. Most of the features of the TV, however, were designed to be accessible with only the remote control. If the remote is not working, then the TV is only partially accessible.

Since I couldn’t check if there was a problem with the TV—although someone could argue given what I’ve mentioned that there was something inherently wrong with the TV—my only other choice was to take the batteries out of our phone (we had no other AA batteries in the house), put them in the remote, go back to the living room and try the remote again.

Luckily it worked. But did I have to experience all this frustration just to find out my batteries were dead? Is it any wonder why I support accessible websites?