Monday, May 1st, 2006

Open Says Me (Accessible Development)

Category: Accessibility, JavaScript, Usability

Pete Forde suggests a method in his new post for making websites that everyone can enjoy, not just the ones that have browsers that natively support the latest bells and whistles. Graceful degredation is one of the larger problems that developers with technologies like Ajax face, but the development method he suggests just might help.

As web developers, we have a serious issue to contend with: completely all-over-the-place support for Ajax. Prototype does a great job of abstracting the various browsers, but there are several pitfalls coming our way.

The good news is that we don’t have to draw a line in the sand. We don’t have to interrupt navigation with warnings about internet settings. We will not point at our potential clients and suggest that without JavaScript and cookies enabled, they will not be able to access the full functionality of our site. With proper planning, we can refactor our site architecture so that people with feature-limited browsers can use a site, albeit with some limits to functionality, but without being presented with an ‘Upgrade or Else!’ style ultimatum. The solution is remarkably simple.

He proposes a solution that is the reverse from most of the methods I’ve read, working from the more basic user’s perspective out to the more advanced. Since “functionality for all” is really the key to keeping users happy and informed, it makes sense to develop a site that can work first there, then have more of the add-ons later.

There’s a series of steps he gives to follow to make sure your development follows this process, as well as a flowchart to get you headed in the right direction:

Posted by Chris Cornutt at 1:14 pm

4.2 rating from 36 votes


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I practice the same technique, and recommend it, but I would actually have some respect for the poster if he could configure his webserver correctly. Yet another site that throws for long UA strings. Pathetic, really.

Comment by Marc Brooks — May 1, 2006

In response to Marc Brooks: It’s not a misconfiguration, it’s a security feature. Most webmasters don’t expect visitors to be expressing themselves through their UA string and therefore see bizarrely long User Agents as potentially threatening. An interesting observation perhaps, but pathetic…no.

Comment by J — May 1, 2006

I’ve seen UA strings being stuffed up by the various plugins that the user has installed or from customized browers given to users by ISPs and Corps. More plugins means web site restrictions and less accessibility?

Comment by Andy — May 1, 2006

QUOTE: “Further, the new changes Microsoft is being forced to implement as a result of a lawsuit ruling would see IE users having to click a response each time ActiveX is used in the browser. It’s unclear how this might impact how we use Ajax in our web applications.”

From what I heard, IE 7 come with a non-activex xmlhttp object, just like the implementation in other browsers, so that is not a cause for concern.

Comment by Roy — May 1, 2006

You can get around the click activeX thing by creating the axtiveX object such as a flash object in the DOM dynamically. Thats what adobe has issued as a work around.

Comment by Mario — May 1, 2006

This is certainly not a method for making an accessible website and there’s hardly a good tip in the whole article.

Browser sniffing, redirection to basic websites, etc. These should all be things of the past.

If you really want to have an accessible website, start with plain HTML version and use AJAX where it will improve experience. There’s hardly ever a good reason to sniff the browser version, you should really check the existance of a particular feature. Etc.

Comment by Marko — May 2, 2006

Try this sample with Javascript turned on and off:

You don’t need to reload the page after you switch Javascript on or off.

Comment by Michael Jouravlev — May 3, 2006

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