Saturday, January 1, 2011

Year-End Cliché

@FakeAPStylebook: Remember to hold all actual important news for your year-end 'stories we missed' feature.

I can't turn on the TV, surf the web, or peer into my Twitter feed without stumbling into another year-end wrap-up of 2010. These dime-a-dozen contrivances abound like the proverbial lemming to the cliff (lemmings don't really do that, it's also a contrivance). However, there have been enough of some quality that I think they bear mentioning. So here's my own trite year-end cliché.

Jeffrey Zeldman collects many of his articles in a list below a narrative full of links to outside sources. His focus is on, predictably, web standards and manages to hit the salient points without a wandering review full of self-congratulatory hullabaloo. Read his post 2010: The Year in Web Standards.

Media Access Australia, a member of the W3C WAI and Australia's media accessibility not-for-profit, has an article running through everything the WAI and its groups have accomplished this year with some information on what might be in the works for 2011. Personally, I was hoping for some more detail on the WAI-ARIA progress, something causing those trying to implement it with HTML5 some headache. Given that the Australian government is mandating WCAG AA compliance over the next few years, they are kind enough to include a link to their own article on the topic. Read the scoop at The W3C web accessibility initiative — 2010 year in review.

The Yahoo! Accessibility blog doesn't take a look back at accessibility, but instead talks about resolutions to make for the new year. Among those resolutions it suggests we should all make in order to create a more accessible web are: adding captions to videos, creating structure for your web pages (hooray for proper heading nesting!), account for keyboard users, and learn to use a screen reader. It's only been a day, but the post is sadly lacking in feedback. You can, of course, add your own by visiting the post: What are Your Resolutions for an Accessible 2011?.

If you like your web accessibility tips with some curious intro music & audio quality, without all that troublesome reading, you can grab the WebAxe podcast reviewing the year in accessibility. If you are willing to sit through 32 minutes of audio (skip the first four minutes, or jump to eleven minutes for the year in review), there are some juicy nuggets in there. Even better, just follow the links on the post and read through the transcript. There are some good bits about alt text, the longdesc attribute, colorblindness, HTML5, and other bedtime reading for the kids. Grab the podcast, transcript and, most importantly, the links at Podcast #87: Web Axe 2010 Year in Review.

Two sets of predictions for the coming year come from Mashable and ReadWriteWeb. Mashable's is more of a list of prediction lists and ReadWriteWeb has its staff give predictions for the coming year. Why Mashable gives its number as 95+ and not just 96 makes me wonder if they got lazy with counting. At least ReadWriteWeb mentions what its team got wrong last year (along with a link).

If you saw my recent kvetching over the demise of Brightkite, which caused me some stress as I worked to extract over 4,000 posts and images, then you hopefully wondered the same about your own presence on the web. In a not-quite-thorough-but-at-least-well-timed post from Mashable you will find some tips for archiving your data from some of the more popular services (Twitter, Facebook, WordPress, etc): HOW TO: Back Up Your Social Media Presence Before the Ball Drops.

While reading through lists of the year, I found one that got some references from good sources, but really left me unimpressed. I figure I might as well start of the new year with a little friendly disagreement, so I'll review. The 5 Biggest Interface Screw ups of 2010 seemed to be stuck in a time warp, hitting items that are actually quite old (as in, from the 1990s). Its list:

  1. Splash Screens: I wrote about this in 1999 (also at my site), and I was already late to the party. This is not unique to 2010,
  2. "Click here" links: In 1996 Jakob Nielsen recommended against that practice, echoed later by the W3C WCAG in 1999.
  3. Unclear dia­logue boxes: I found some of my first examples of this, and diatribes against it, in Bruce Tognazzini's 1992 book, Tog on Interface.
  4. Fanci­ness over usefulness: His example is a computer desktop interface based in a real-world metaphor. It may be the worst example in 2010, but it's a repeat of the 1995 Microsoft BOB interface of confusion targeted at neophyte users.
  5. Poor but­ton placement: The author's point is really about mobile UIs, which is at least recent simply because consumer-oriented touch interfaces are relatively new. I'll allow this one, even though it's clearly based on the failure to apply Fitts's law, which dates back to 1954.

Now that I've satisfied my ego by taking shots at an easy target, I wrap this up with a contribution from the old man of pointing out the terrible, Web Pages That Suck: Worst Websites of 2010: The Contenders and Worst Websites of 2010: Group 2 Contenders.

Happy new year.

6 comments:

  1. I have long been an advocate for not using Click Here text, and I hate it with a passion; however, I've found it makes a difference. It definitely cuts down on my support email requests. Links are blue, bold and underlined, very easy to see, yet before adding Click Here, the support emails drive me bonkers.

    I don't have any "scientific proof", but for some odd reason it seems to work for my audience. Granted, the support requests were/are probably coming from less web-savvy, older crowd. I should attempt to do a study with my newsletters to see if Click Here generates more click throughs than just a "proper" link.

    Happy New Year!!

    Mich

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  2. I refuse to use "click here" because it's a barrier to accessibility (many screen readers read the links on a page separately) and fails WCAG validation.

    On top of that, using "click here" means that any links you have within your site aren't being indexed with key phrases by Google, Bing, etc. That alone is reason enough for me to avoid them.

    In the absence of A/B testing with your users, you may want to maintain links as key phrases and action phrases and make it a point to add "(click here)" as part of the link text for each link.

    In addition to WCAG and SEO benefits, you can also end up training your novice users what a hyperlink looks like, potentially allowing you to dump the "click here" text altogether in the future.

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  3. I use it rarely and never on it's own .. as an action to do something, like click here to submit your recipe, or click here to view the list of participants, click here to submit your blog. That sort of thing.

    It should be unnecessary, but if it helps cut down on the support emails and produces results, I'll use it small doses.

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  5. What's the point of complaining about duplicate content such as the UX Booth post, when your post is also a duplication of content already said. It doesn't matter whether these concepts were shared 10 years ago or not, there may be a younger generation (like myself) that care about UX now, but didn't when we were 10. We don't dig around old and outdated blogs for content, we follow newer, more relevant articles. If your criticism isn't constructive, refrain from sharing it.

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  6. I can see you don't follow your own advice about offering criticism. That's a good thing. Once you stop sharing your feedback you end up as a mindless drone parroting what others say as if it is truth.

    The UX Booth post implies, by its very title, that the issues cited are new or unique to 2010. That's just not true. As a PhD student who already writes for journals, I expect him to qualify it better or at least back up his points by showing that they are pervasive and ongoing.

    This way, for any reader unwilling to actually educate his or herself by proper research into best practices and the history behind them, the author can provide his readers with greater context and, as a bonus, greater weight to any arguments.

    In that regard, if you are following what you think are newer, more relevant articles then his article is a good example of how taking it at face value robs you of a good deal of UX history and ammo to defend those points with clients.

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