This article explores both sides of a longstanding debate: should screen readers be detectable in analytics? It’s an issue that pits accessibility against privacy, with legal complications thrown in for fun. When these aspects are taken into consideration, screen reader detection emerges as a technique which carries serious technical, ethical and privacy risks. Analytics Designers and developers live for analytics data. We can spend hours digging into fascinating insights on everything from shopping cart abandonment to social media conversions to browser use.
This posting summarizes some detailed research into the state of government accessibility standards around the world, as of March 2016. Usually these evolve fairly slowly, although the Jodhan vs. Attorney General of Canada case may change that (governments don’t like being successfully sued by their citizens).
Summary This post describes how table cell headers for screen-readers are calculated. TH with SCOPE=ROW or SCOPE=COL is unambiguous and widely supported TD with SCOPE is non-conforming in HTML 5, and is ignored as a header on some browsers (works in Apple WebKit, but ignored in Chromium WebKit). On tables with headers in the top row, or first column, TH without SCOPE usually works. TD HEADERS is problematic because it assumes a single list of headers for each cell, but accessibility APIs expose row and column headers as separate properties On any other table, TH without SCOPE produces wildly varying results.
Accessibility professionals can look forward to the passage of two European laws pertaining to web accessibility: the public sector accessibility directive and the European Accessibility Act. Both of these laws will bring much-needed clarity to the drive towards better accessibility in Europe. There are, however, a number of issues which will need to be resolved before the laws can be allowed to achieve their full potential.
Welcome to a series of articles on accessibility laws, standards, and statistics around the globe. These articles will help web professionals to understand accessibility legislation within a wider policy context. Every accessibility law has both strengths and weaknesses which can offer valuable lessons for other countries and systems. As disability laws become increasingly harmonized it is essential for accessibility professionals to understand the impact that these laws have made in their local and national contexts.
This post is a compilation of disability statistics from government agencies and researchers in the US, UK and Canada. The statistics shown have most impact on website use, and help assess the impact of accessibility problems, in terms of numbers of people affected, and likely commercial impact.
PowerMapper is now available for OS X, providing one-click site mapping for the Mac. The Mac version has the same site map styles as the Windows version, but with an easier to use interface. This release is functionally identical to PowerMapper 5.18 for Windows, with the exception of some map customization options. The Desktop Suite (which bundles PowerMapper and SortSite) is now also available for Mac OS X. You can download a free 30 day trial of PowerMapper.
SortSite Developer Edition is now available for Mac OS X and Windows. Developer Edition is aimed at agile software teams, and is designed for integration into continuous integration (CI) systems like Jenkins. You can download a free 30 day trial.
As part of the online demo at try.powermapper.com we collect summary statistics about pages scanned by our service.
One interesting statistic covers versions of HTML and XHTML in common use. As of July 2015:
- HTML 5 DOCTYPEs account for nearly 70% of pages scanned (up from 0% in 2008)
- XHTML 1.0 DOCTYPEs account for fewer than 20% of pages scanned (down from 60% in 2008)
- XHTML 1.1 DOCTYPEs account for about 1% of pages scanned (no change from 1% in 2009)
- HTML 4.01 DOCTYPEs account for about 3% of pages scanned (down from 20% in 2008)
The W3 ARIA recommendation specifies new HTML attributes (like ARIA-DESCRIBEDBY and ROLE) to help screen readers identify relationships between elements. These new attributes tell screen readers about relationships that can’t be derived from existing HTML semantics, and usually only obvious from the position of items on screen (e.g. a paragraph of help text next to a form field). Most people who’ve tried adding ARIA attributes to pages with HTML 4 and XHTML DOCTYPES have noticed that documents don’t validate.
Search engines can’t see and can’t click, so there’s a big overlap between making sites accessible and making sites perform well in search engines. Social media also uses several features that improve accessibility.
Ever been wondered why there’s a lot of conflicting advice about longest page title allowed in search results pages (SERPS)? The short answer is different search engines have different limits and these limits keep changing. The current official guidelines, as of April 2013, are: W3C recommends a maximum of 64 characters for page titles. Bing recommends a title around 65 characters long. Yahoo used to recommend a maximum title length of 67 characters, but this advice is now obsolete since Bing now supplies Yahoo’s search results.
After 4 years of development HTML 5.0 finally exited draft status and became a W3 Candidate Recommendation on Dec 17, 2012. HTML 5 will now go through the final stages of the W3 standardization process before becoming a full Recommendation in 2014 (the final published standard). The only changes now to HTML 5.0 will be bug fixes, fixing typos and the possible removal of "at risk" features. New features will be added to the HTML 5.1 draft specification, which is planned to become a Candidate Recommendation in 2014.
The winter festival has just finished in Edinburgh. For 6 weeks, from the start of December to the start of January, the city centre streets come alive
The latest quarterly PowerMapper and SortSite maintenance releases are now available. New features include: View Source command added to right click menu Updated W3 DTDs to match validator.w3.org (pulls in fix for USEMAP in XHTML 1.1 Second Edition) Added compatibility checks for Firefox 9,10,11 and Chrome 16,17 versions Added support for CSS3 properties that have reach candidate recommendation status Fixes include: Handle zero sized thumbnail images caused by buggy display driver Avoid blank thumbnail images on pages that only contain Flash movies or META refresh directives Don't detect broken anchors in non-standard CSS e.g.
This post follows on from the one on Disability Statistics, and shows how the most common disabilities affect website use.
Well, it’s that time of year again. While I consider myself one of life’s formidably organised Christmas present buyers (I started in August) I seem to fall sadly short when it comes to finding the time to write and post my Christmas cards. I know that to many, card writing seems an outmoded way of sending Christmas greetings, but for many of my ageing relatives, some of whom now live alone, a hand written card arriving in the mail is still much appreciated.
Today is World Stroke Day, which aims to raise awareness of the condition. Earlier this week I saw a conference keynote speech by Clayton Christensen, author of The Innovators Dilemma and a Professor at Harvard Business School. He introduced himself by apologizing for hesitating while speaking because he'd suffered a stroke a few months earlier. In spite of this he was an engaging speaker - much better than the other professional conference speakers.
The latest quarterly PowerMapper and SortSite maintenance releases are now available. New features include: BlackBerry, Firefox 5 and Chrome 12 added to browser compatibility tests Autocomplete for forms Enhanced spell checking options Fixes include: Performance improvements Handle Arabic character encoding in content rules Handle pages with contradictory character encoding in HTTP headers and META charset These are available to all customers with active support and maintenance contracts via the Update Watch feature in each application.
SortSite OnDemand has just been updated for all subscribers. New features in this release include: Mobile browser compatibility checks for BlackBerry Added Firefox 5 and Chrome 12 to browser compatibility tests Added self-service password recovery Added delete scans and delete scan history Added scope option to quick scan on home page Bug fixes include: Expand All button in reports was slow on large sites with lots of errors Correctly handle
The Design for All Research Group at Middlesex University have produced a report called Declaring conformance on web accessibility asking the question: can website accessibility declarations be trusted? Sadly the conclusion was no, for both self-declared and third-party certifications, confirming the findings of earlier studies. Using a sample of 100 European government and commercial sites claiming accessibility standards conformance, more than 95% were found to have accessibility issues. The study used our automated tool, SortSite, in conjunction with manual testing performed by the accessibility group at the Shaw Trust (see the report for details on methodology).
One of the great new features in PowerMapper 5 is the ability to overlay data onto a sitemap. Here's an example using data imported from Google Analytics: To overlay data from Google Analytics: Go to the Top Content report for your site in Google Analytics Choose the Export option at the top of the page and choose CSV (this exports only the data shown on screen, which is 10 pages by default, so you may want to increases the number of rows displayed) Save the exported file somewhere on your PC Create a map of your site in PowerMapper Professional Select the Import command from the File menu Choose the file you saved at step 3 Note: not all of the map styles support data overlays - try the Electrum or Isometric map styles first You're not restricted to Google Analytics - any data that can be exported to a CSV file can be overlaid onto a sitemap.
A few days ago I attended a presentation given by some UK Government departments - the main topic was providing equality of access to government contracts. There was the usual torrent of PowerPoint slides filled with facts, figures and addresses of websites which publish government contracts. At the end of the presentations the question and answer session started: Chief Official: "Does anyone have any questions?" Lady in Audience: "Will any of the slides be available after the meeting?" Chief Official: "We'll consult on that afterwards."
We just received this Out of Office reply today, in late February: Thank you for your inquiry. We are currently Closed for the Christmas holidays and will reply to your inquiry in the new year. A Merry Christmas to all our clients and all the best for 2011 This isn't an isolated example - here's one we got at the end of 2010: Sorry we are on Holidays and will be back on 23/4/2001 It doesn't look good if your Out of Office reply says you've been on vacation for a decade.
This diagram shows how web standards have developed since 1994. Originally HTML and related standards were discussed and agreed by a small group of interested parties on a mailing list. Later the W3 was formed, and it put in place increasingly rigorous processes, with increasing amounts of public consultation. While solid process and consultation is a good thing, one striking point is how long it now takes to get W3 standards from Draft to Recommendation status.
Here's a month-by-month review of the important events of 2010 for our company and customers: Jan - PowerMapper 5.0 Released PowerMapper 5.0 was released to support and maintenance customers. New features included: new map styles; analytics data import; data visualization; map notes. Feb - Management Buyout PowerMapper Software completed the acquisition of Electrum’s PowerMapper and SortSite product business as part of a management buyout (MBO). Mar - Draft of new Section 508 accessibility standards The US Federal Access Board released a draft refresh of the Section 508 Standards and Section 255 Guidelines Apr - Customer base expands to 30% of Fortune 100 Sales figures revealed that PowerMapper and SortSite were used by more than 30% of the Fortune 100.
Today is World Usability Day, so I’m going to talk about some famous usability disasters. As web developers we’re lucky - our usability shortcomings almost never kill anyone. Some famous examples of fatal usability problems include: The Airbus 320 crash in Jan 1992 was partly caused by a mode switch in the wrong position. The mode switch changed the meaning of descent rate numbers entered into the autopilot and was toggled by a small switch in a large bank of other switches.
The HTML 4.01 standard was introduced in 1999, but 11 years later, no major vendor fully implements it.
Controversial, perhaps, but also true. A lot of flak is rightly directed at Internet Explorer’s lack of standards support, but the other browser vendors aren’t blameless either.
Pam is responsible for PowerMapper sales and marketing. Prior to PowerMapper Software, Pamela held senior positions in the beverage and tourism industries. She holds a BA (Hons) in Design from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design.
Mark is CEO of PowerMapper Software, and has over 25 years experience in the software industry. He previously held senior positions with Electrum, Panasonic, and Office Workstations Limited. He holds a BSc (Hons) in Computer Science from The University of Dundee.
Heather Burns is a digital law specialist in Glasgow, Scotland. Her focus is researching, writing, and speaking about internet laws and policies which impact the professions of web design and development. She has been designing web sites since 1997 and has been a professional web designer since 2007.
October 14th is World Standards Day: this year's theme is making the world accessible for all, which we're passionate about (both personally and as a company). Over 650 million people globally are affected by some kind of disability, and one quarter of the world population is over 60, so accessible products and services have a huge audience. Remember, accessibility benefits everyone: Wheelchair ramps in buildings make them easier to get into with prams.
We've just moved to new offices in Edinburgh in the rather stunning St Andrew Square. We spent a long time choosing offices since they had to match quite strict sustainability criteria: Easy access to public transport (the train station is 3 minutes walk, the bus station is the other side of the square, and the new tram system will run through the square) Accessible to wheelchair and low vision users (quite hard to find in Edinburgh which is full of very old buildings that are hard to make accessible) Energy efficient with recycling facilities (the office has recycling bins everywhere, with special bins for toner cartridges which go to a recycling charity) Plenty of space for future expansion The new offices fit the bill perfectly, with the bonus of a great view across to Edinburgh Castle.
Just back from the Business of Software Conference 2010. Met some interesting people and heard lots of great speakers, but two really stood out. Firstly, Derek Sivers, a musician who founded CD Baby, then sold it for $20 million and gave the money to charity. He set up the site to sell his band's CDs, then people from other unsigned bands asked him to sell their CDs as well. Fast forward 10 years and he's running a thriving business.
I had the privilege of visiting the Shaw Trust's accessibility testing center recently. The Shaw Trust is a UK charity which supports disabled and disadvantaged people prepare for work, find jobs and live more independently. As part of their work they provide accessibility testing services to a range of organizations worldwide. Their accessibility testing team employs people with a range of disabilities, using different assistive technologies. This means their testing is very thorough and sets a gold standard for the rest of the accessibility community. The commitment and enthusiasm of the team was brilliant, and watching them at work really brings home the challenges and obstacles some websites present.
We've just switched this blog from Blogger to a self-hosted solution. Blogger was great, but we have more control over the look and feel of the new platform, which means better integration with the rest of the site.
We've just launched PowerMapper 5.0, which will be available to all customers with a support and maintenance contract before the end of the month. New features in this release include: Two new map styles Import data from Google analytics or webmaster tools Overlay imported data onto site maps (little graphs are drawn next to page thumbnails) Add design notes to maps (use this when using the site map as a blueprint for site re-development) Extract links from Flash sites Resizable page thumbnails Support for non-European character sets including Russian, Japanese, Chinese and Korean User interface improvements including customizable toolbars and new map wizard Exporting meta data Support for Windows 7 We'll talk about the new features in more detail in follow-up posts.
For the past month or so we've been working hard to get SortSite Certified for Windows Vista. This involves testing against a slew of test cases which makes sure your application plays well with Windows, including Restart Manager support, which means SortSite saves and restores current state if an overnight restart occurs (usually as the result of Windows applying automatic updates on the first Tuesday of every month). After a few weeks of internal testing against Microsoft's "Certified for Vista" test specification, we submitted our application to VeriTest last week.
Part of the our sales strategy for 2009 is expanding our reseller program. In January we signed up Dell, Compucom and QBS Software. We're always on the lookout for new resellers, and offer generous discounts for volume sales.
On Dec 11th 2008 the W3C released the long awaited WCAG 2.0 accessibility guidelines. The first draft was published in Jan 2001, so they've been 8 years in the making. For comparison, it took NASA 8.5 years from Kennedy's 1961 speech to land a man on the moon. On Dec 16th 2008 Electrum released SortSite 3.0, the first commercial accessibility tool to support the final W3C WCAG2 recommendation. In addition to support for WCAG2 there's been a host of user interface improvements, including the ability to set a corporate web site quality policy and share that with co-workers.
We shipped the SortSite 2.07 maintenance release earlier this month. Changes include a new scheduler, improved performance (up to 10x faster on some sites) and fixes for a number of false positives reported by users. Fortunately false positives are pretty rare - we only see 3 or 4 reports a month. Any user can report a problem using the Report Broken Rule menu option - we log these and endeavor to fix them in the next maintenance release (although anything reported in the week before a release is usually deferred to the next release).
We shipped the latest maintenance release of PowerMapper over the weekend. The focus of this release was improving performance on large sites. Scanning a large site is now up to 10x faster (depending on network speed). We were aiming for a 2x speed improvement, so we're pretty thrilled. We also updated Google sitemap export to match the current (0.9) schema from sitemaps.org, and fixed a crash on the Japanese version of Windows XP.
This blog has been pretty quiet for the last few weeks because we’ve been busy releasing an online version of SortSite.
This lets you take SortSite for a spin without having to install any software.
We released PowerMapper 4.12, the latest release of our site mapping tool, a couple of weeks ago, with some long overdue features: Export maps as HTML Export maps as PNG (useful for using maps in reports/presentations) Excel Site Report (useful for information architecture/site redesign) SortSite 2.04, our link checking and web site testing product was released at the same time and also has a new HTML export option.
In Part 1 we covered how a search engine crawler visits web pages. In this part we're going to investigate how words on web pages are indexed. You'll recall the three phases of search engines: Crawling (or spidering) the web, finding pages people want to search Indexing words on web pages Searching the index (i.e. the bit that happens when you type a search into Google) A search engine index works very like the way the index in book works: in a book each word in the index lists page numbers the word appears on; in a search index each word has a list of pages the word appears on.
We've just released SortSite 2.03 with a feature many of you have been asking for: export to Word RTF. RTF is supported by all major word processors, including Word and OpenOffice. This allows you to add value to the reports by exporting them, then editing them in Word to add your own logo and executive summary. You can then print or PDF them before presenting them to your customers.
In response to customer requests we're making PowerMapper and SortSite available in retail boxes, with help of the folks at SwiftCD. The first boxes should be rolling out of production on Monday, and will be available to buy from our web site early next week.
Having some background on how search engines work is very useful when you're trying to optimize your site. We hope we've a bit of perspective on this, having spent the best part of a decade implementing search engines and web crawlers. How do words on a web page end up searchable? This happens in three phases: Crawling (or spidering) the web, finding pages people want to search Indexing words on web pages Searching the index (i.e.
In 2006 we converted our site from HTML 4.01 to XHTML 1.0. It seemed like it should be straightforward. After all, we reasoned, XHTML 1.0 is compatible with HTML so it should just be a case of changing the doctype from HTML to XHTML? Wrong.
There are a lot of good reasons for switching to XHTML, but there are some drawbacks as well. Imagine you're responsible for a major e-commerce web site, and you make the decision to migrate the entire site from HTML to XHTML, serving it to standards compliant browsers (like Firefox) using the W3C recommended MIME type application/xhtml+xml. A couple of months after the switch someone types <br> instead of <br/> when making a minor edit to the main site template.
Google wants sites in its index, but it doesn't want sites that use sneaky techniques to increase their rankings. If Google detects a site using these techniques, they penalize the site's ranking (or remove it altogether). Google has a set of freely available guidelines on the sort of techniques they frown on, but it's often difficult to know when you're breaking them - especially if you're not the one writing the site code.
We got our test results back from VeriTest this morning - first time pass - PowerMapper is now Certified for Vista. Apart from the installer, the main bit of engineering work needed to ensure certification was support for Vista Restart Manager. This is one of the best hidden features in Vista - it allows the OS to restart your application where it left off after a reboot or a crash. Needless to say it needs a bit of work: your app needs to register a command line option used by the Restart Manager via the RegisterApplicationRestart API call.
After some hard work we've finally submitted PowerMapper, our site-mapping product, for "Certified for Vista" testing (aka logo testing). The previous version had gone through the "Designed for XP" test, so we thought it would be easy to get certified for Vista. We were wrong. The tests themselves are split into three areas: Security and Compatibility (test cases 1-10) Most desktop apps should pass these tests with few, if any, modifications.