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Website Design

David Berman’s 11½ (or 15) Favorite Tools for Testing Website Accessibility

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 27, 2015

Website accessibility – making sites understandable and usable by those with physical and cognitive disabilities – is a growing concern for web developers. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) has long published international standards for online accessibility, the Website Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG 2.0). The W3C website includes Easy Checks: A First Review of Website Accessibility, a quick checklist of steps to take to ensure a website meets basic standards. At first glance, these recommended steps appear to be fairly simple, such as following a clear hierarchy in assigning heading-tags, or ensuring high color contrast between text and backgrounds. However, many accessibility standards can easily be overlooked, or target goals inadvertently missed.

David Berman addresses those pitfalls in 11½ Tools for Testing Website Accessibility, a webinar hosted by 3PlayMedia. Berman is well qualified: he’s a UN advisor on accessibility issues, and an Invited Expert to the W3C. At the outset, Berman cautions developers to clarify their goals in making their website accessible. WCAG 2 sets different standards for gauging website accessibility, from level A, meeting minimal standards, through AAA. Berman advises that developers identify the WCAG standard they hope to meet so as to avoid wasting resources. He recommends using the WCAG-Evaluation Methodology report, which creates a compliance report that can help pinpoint the target accessibility goal.

The webinar covers a wide range of tools: from ones which scan entire websites, to browser toolbars, to tools which check submitted code (good for checking websites which have not yet been published) or check for specific issues, such as color contrast or photosensitive epilepsy triggers, to tools which emulate screen readers. Throughout the webinar, Berman demonstrates various tools by testing the accessibility of the Volkswagen website. (The company had just hit the news for faking emissions standards and, in light of the company’s boasts of inclusiveness, Berman felt a review of their website accessibility was in order.) The choice turned out to be a good one - a number of tools demonstrated that the VW website failed WCAG compliance because of lapses in basic best practices, such as supplying alt attributes on images.

So why should accessibility standards be a concern to web developers (beyond doing the right thing)? In the United States, Section 508 of the Workforce Rehabilitation Act requires that federal agency websites be accessible and sets accessibility standards. One of the goals of the Act is to raise accessibility standards across the board by requiring companies vying for government contracts to meet those standards. Additionally, lawsuits brought against major corporations such as Ramada, Priceline, Southwest Airlines, and Target argue that the American with Disabilities Act, intended to make brick-and-mortar establishments accessible to all, applies to websites as well. Currently, Section 508 is under review and expected to become fully compliant with WCAG 2.0 in 2016.

11 1/2 Free Tools for Testing Website Accessibility webinar screenshot

Sheila Copps Challenges Designers to Address Global Issues

Posted by Rebecca Blake on November 03, 2015

At the Eeum Design Connects international congress this past October in Gwangju, South Korea, Sheila Copps delivered a riveting keynote address that challenged the design community to effectively address global issues such as climate change and sustainability. Copps currently heads the World Summit and Congress of Architecture + Design + Planning, the 2017 international design congress which will bring together a multitude of design disciplines. She was asked to replace the scheduled keynote speaker, Victor Margolin, who was sadly injured right before the Congress.  If the last-minute call caused any difficulty, it wasn’t evident in either the content or delivery of her speech.

In her address, Copps focused on how design can be used as a leverage for political action. She related that in her 25+ years in politics, she never heard from designers or design organizations, despite the fact that designers work on solutions to many of the issues being addressed by communities and governments. She then asked when, where, and how do designers connect with decision-makers:

“Designers who come together for the common good of the community will get the ear of government… Designers CAN change the world. You design for people. You do not design in a void.”

She concluded her address with ten steps the design communities can take to connect to decision makers, governments, and communities:

1.    Determine the outcomes do we want, and reverse engineer those outcomes.
2.    Create simple concepts such as “green design” that are easily communicated and which people can rally around.
3.    Develop metrics and measurement tools that international decision makers can implement.
4.    Utilize international design champions to promote our common objective.
5.    Determine the ten key elements of what constitutes good design in a horizontal fashion.
6.    Measure the real cost of cradle to grave cost of disposability.
7.    Create template for action that is easily understood by governments, NGOs, and the business community, so that design becomes a sustainable economic driver.
8.    Create great design which adds value to society that will build value in cities, communities, buildings, etc.
9.    Create the potential for tax incentives. Financial incentives come from a design connection that understands how to make good politics.
10.  Help policy makers develop tools so that we can measure our footprints.

 

Guild Member Discount for HOW Interactive Design Conference Boston, Nov. 5-7

Posted by Rebecca Blake on September 30, 2015

At the HOW Interactive Design Conference (HIDC) in Boston November 5-7, designers and developers will explore the intersection of design and technology. The conference is packed with seminars, breakfasts, and happy hours. Talks will be given by industry leaders, such as Jen Simmons, designer and host of The Web Ahead, and Stephan Mumaw, Director of Creative Strategy at Hint and author of Creative Bootcamp. Guild members are invited to attend the conference at a discount of $50 off the registration fee. Register online on the conference website with the code GAG50.

HOW Interactive Design

Yahoo Ads Delivered Malware as Hackers Leverage Flash Security Flaw

Posted by Rebecca Blake on August 20, 2015

Yahoo logoVisitors to Yahoo’s main website during the last week in July may have been exposed to malware. On August 3rd, security software company Malwarebytes reported on their blog that they had notified Yahoo as soon as they discovered the security flaw, and that Yahoo immediately took steps to remove the threat. According to Malwarebytes, “malvertising” is particularly insidious because it doesn’t require user interaction; merely browsing the website can cause the computer to be infected. After being redirected through two websites hosted on Microsoft’s Azure cloud platform, users’ computers downloaded the malware.

According to The New York Times’ Bits technology blog, the hackers exploited out-of-date versions of Flash Player. Adobe recommends that users keep their version of Flash up-to-date, and has a sniffer on their Flash download page that tells visitors what version of Flash they’re running. However, in light of repeated security breaches, there are mounting concerns with Flash. In mid-July, Alex Stamos, Chief Security Officer at Facebook, tweeted a call for Adobe to announce a retirement date for Flash. In a subsequent Twitter exchange, he pointed out that newer browsers no longer require Flash for video streaming. Since January, YouTube has used HTML5 by default in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8.

Designers and animators creating media content will need to include HTML5 in their arsenal of professional skills. However, should Flash be retired in favor of HTML5, chances are security issues won’t be solved. As reported in InfoWorld, although it’s an improvement over Flash, HTML5 brings its own set of complex security flaws.

Typetester Online Tool Permits Comparison of 2,000+ Webfonts

Posted by Rebecca Blake on April 09, 2015

For the past decade, Typetester has been an online resource for website designers. Users could compare up to three fonts at a time, and customize size, line height, alignment, color, and spacing. As versatile as the tool was, the limited number of fonts available made it of limited value; only websafe, Windows default, Mac default, and Google fonts were selectable. That changed earlier this year, when Typetester partnered with Adobe Typekit. The result is a robust library of over 2,200 fonts, including Typekit and Adobe Edge fonts.

Typetester also debuted Inspritation Gallery, a selection of staff picked web typography. Both the sampled fonts on Typetester’s homepage and the Inspiration Gallery examples are linked to the font’s webpage, permitting the user to easily purchase and/or download the font.

Typetester was first developed by the Croatian design firm Creative Nights, which built the site in HTML 5, with heavy-duty CSS and JavaScript. (Note that the site will not run properly if JavaScript has been disabled.) The firm has plans to develop TypeTester further, and invites users to subscribe to subscribe to their newsletter to be eligible to preview and provide feedback on upcoming features.

Below: Typestester's interface permits users to compare up to three different webfonts from Google fonts, Adobe Edge, and Typekit.

Typetester screenshot

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