Robin Christopherson works at Abilitynet and gave an excellent talk last year at FOWA Dublin 2009 about some of the traps to avoid to keep your website accessible to all.
This year he was talking about pretty much exactly the same thing, which would be annoying only the need for accessible websites hasn’t went away and people are still making the same mistakes.
I won’t go through every example he gave but here are some of the important notes I took from his talk entitled Accessibility in Web Design.
- Adobe Flash is getting more accessible but a lot of the older sites are still completely out of reach.
- Youtube is in the process of moving to HTML5, whilst it is still using flash it is unaccessible.
- Chrome currently doesn’t play well with screen readers.
- Google allows you to add captions in Youtube videos really really easily, this would really improve the experience of video for people who are hard of hearing.
- Lots of mobile websites such as m.facebook.com are very accessible because they need to be for mobile devices.
One really cool thing I learned was that Opera Mini as a force single column mode, I have been a user of Opera Mini for ages and didn’t know about this, one setting change and my experience on most websites using that browser has improved dramatically, vertical scrolling is basically eliminated.
Robin talked about Project Canvas, the following snippet is from their website and it seems like an interesting an worthwhile project.
Project Canvas is a proposed partnership between the BBC, ITV, C4, Five, BT and Talk Talk to build an open internet-connected TV platform, subject to BBC Trust approval.
Finally here are a few links he shared with us;
He mentioned some really valuable stuff and it was a very enjoyable presentation.
In my last writeup I mentioned that the content Owen DeLong was covering was a little dry but incredibly necessary.
Eoghan McCabe‘s and Des Traynor‘s (both from Contrast.ie) talk entitled Five Lessons We’ve Learned Sexy or Meaningful builds a lot upon the theme of necessity as they talk about why it is important to not always be chasing the sexy things in life.
They basically go through five areas of business and explain why in most cases the sexy option is the option you want to avoid like the plague. This was an excellent talk delivered by two fantastic speakers.
With regards to business strategies they discussed things that didn’t work;
- Filling a hole in another product very rarely works.
- Being a middle man doesn’t work.
- Generally relying on third parties for your business model to work isn’t going to work.
- Being first to market has no real advantage.
- Creating copy cat apps isn’t going to work (in personally, find that really boring)
- Trendy businesses never seem to work (SEO companies for example)
And they concluded that we should be looking long term and to focus on the things that aren’t going to change.
With regards to the people you are involved with they mentioned a couple of things;
- Talent without discipline is bad.
- Having a friend become a colleague can ruin the friendship.
- You should always choose people for the right reasons.
Their third topic for discussion was about investments, basically they highlighted the fact that investment is sexy and reminded us that our business doesn’t really need that much start up so why would you really need to chase money in the beginning?
Fourth on their list was the section on design, they warned us to watch out for trends and don’t immediately follow them. I couldn’t agree more with this, it is so tempting to make all your corners rounded now and have a nice shadow effect around divs, but just because it is the flavour of the moment doesn’t mean you are giving any real value to your users.
They gave an example of a good meaningful website – Craigslist. They point out that the design hasn’t changed and whilst it isn’t sexy, it is very functional. I would argue that sites like Amazon and Ebay would be in the same boat, not great to look at but usually easy to use.
Their talk ended with a section on marketing, here they listed some more key points;
- Build your product first, then look at the marketing.
- Let the product do the talking.
- Don’t chase overnight success.
- Ignore tabloids.
Onto number 5 with my run down and onto a talk by Owen DeLong entitled Content Providers must lead the way to IPv6.
Owen is an IPv6 Evangelist with Hurricane Electric who gave a rather worrying talk about how we are going to need to move to IPv6 sooner rather than later.
Networking is a very dry subject matter and even an Evangelist like Owen could do little to spark up too much in the way of excitement about the topic but it is very important and something we need to be paying attention to.
Basically his talk focused on the fact that IPv4 addresses are running out and could be gone in 2011. What this means is ISPs and hosting companies have very little time to get their infrastructure sorted in order to deal with both IPv4 and IPv6 traffic.
The main action point I took from the talk was that I need to contact hosting providers for my websites and find out what provisions they have made for IPv6, because it was clear from the talk that the days of IPv4 are drawing to a close and whilst there will be IPv4 legacy systems in place for some time it will begin to get phased out sooner rather than later.
Owen hosted a University session later on in the day which covered how you can prepare your servers which I will talk about in a later post.
My fourth post about FOWA is about a University Session that was organised during the first break, it was given by Microsoft‘s Martha Rotter and was on their new tool Pivot.
Martha is a developer and part of the Platform team at Microsoft Ireland and gave a pretty interesting live demo of the Pivot system.
Essentially Pivot is a free tool from Microsoft that can take huge datasets and display them in a user-friendly way. I don’t want to talk too much about the tool because I haven’t played about with it myself but it is ran on Silverlight and therefore will work on anything from Vista up on Windows and OSX. The website for finding out more is getPivot.com
After some preamble about the product Martha gave a live demo, which as I said was pretty interesting and whilst I can’t see a good reason to use the product myself I can see the benefit of creating the datasets required by Pivot to allow other users to access your information via this tool (so long as there was a solid user base behind it).
Martha delivered the demo well (even with the occasional technical hiccup) and it was refreshing seeing a Microsoft employee running Windows 7 via a virtual machine on a mac.
It will be interesting to see how Pivot develops in the coming months and what the general publics opinion of it is.
The third talk at FOWA Dublin 2010 was by Renier Lemmens, the GM of PayPal Europe.
You may think it odd that a PayPal head would be invited to talk at a developer conference (Apart from the fact they were the main sponsor of the event) but early on in the talk Renier proved his tech-chops by listed some past things he had done (he has a background in computing) and even made light of the fact that he was no longer creating cool things on the web. (Paypal, on the other hand, have created some really cool new things which I will be talking about in a later post).
The mobile space isn’t somewhere I have played in really but we all know it has huge potential, Renier emphasised this by through out some mind blowing figures and projections (which unfortunately I didn’t take down with any context… If I can get my hands on the presentation I will update this).
One point he made which I don’t think can be stressed enough is that the online and offline world is blurring into one, very few people are ever truly offline and it is because of this that developers and creatives need to take advantage of the mobile revolution and that there would be some serious downsides to ignoring it.
One stat I did note down was that a figure of $400 Billion has been thrown up as a projected worth of mobile commerce, although nobody really knows what its full potential could be. This figure leads on to what I believe has to be the main point of Renier’s talk (or at least the main thing I took from it), which is that you need to make it as simple as possible for that $400 Billion to come your way, you need to remove any barriers between the user and them parting with their money on your mobile site.
You can achieve this by keeping one eye on the mobile world as you create your ecommerce processes and design your interfaces. One example given was iPhone apps which make you fill in all this information before saying you need to be at a computer to create your account.
Overall I thought this talk was interesting but I already had an idea that the mobile market was huge and that there are different things to consider when designing say shopping carts on mobile devices than you would on the web.