Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Slides from Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2015

The Paciello Group is holding a full day of free webinars on Global Accessibility Awareness Day. That's 24 straight hours of talks, which started at midnight (GMT) on Wednesday, May 20 through through midnight (still GMT) on Thursday, May 21. I was fortunate enough to participate as a speaker and had the third slot in the queue.

As promised, I posted my slides. All the links I referenced are embedded within.


I'm pleased to see there was tweet activity during (and about) my talk. I've captured many of them below.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Speaking at Inclusive Design 24 for Global Accessibility Awareness Day

The headline really captures it all.

The Paciello Group will be holding a full day of free webinars on Global Accessibility Awareness Day. That's 24 straight hours of talks, starting at midnight (GMT) on Wednesday, May 20 through through midnight (still GMT) on Thursday, May 21.

I'll be giving my world-renowned (not really, but at least it's world-traveled) talk Selfish Accessibility at 2:00AM GMT (10:00PM EDT on the night of Wednesday, May 20). I'm third in the queue and will already be following two great speakers. The abstract is posted on the Inclusive Design 24 site.

If you are struggling with your local time for each of the talks, you can use this handy reference that shows the start time for your current city, or this countdown to the start of the event (which has no bearing on your time zone).

If you are new to Global Accessibility Awareness Day, here is an interview with Jennison Asuncion, one of its creators:

Sunday, May 17, 2015

For Infinite Scroll, Bounce Rate Is a Vanity Stat

Animation showing me scrolling an article at the Fortune site. The yellow arrow indicates when the URL changes. At that point leaving the site will not count as a bounce.

About a year ago I wrote a post with a checklist of items I feel you would need to satisfy before you can ever consider putting infinite scroll on a site. Surprising no one, the checklist hasn't really caught on (though it has generated a lot of traffic and discussion).

Worse, no one (that my Google-fu found) is challenging the most common argument in favor of infinite scroll: user retention, often described as a reduced bounce rate.

I've simplified it a bit, but the gist is that advertisers and marketers want to see a low bounce rate on a site (ideally one that continues to fall). This helps justify ad buys and is often used as a proxy for engagement.

Typically authors who want to write a pro/con piece on infinite scroll will cite user retention. The same is true for those whose success is measured by low bounce rates, as well as those who just really like the infinite scroll "feature."

Because content continues to appear, users find themselves scrolling and interacting for longer periods of time.

You stand a better chance of retaining the user because there’s nothing for them to do but scroll. It’s almost like a subliminal call to action.

Since its March redesign,’s bounce rate — the percentage of visitors who leave the site after viewing only one page — has declined by 15 percentage points[.]

Mobile page views in June were up 30 percent over the previous 12-month average [on the redesigned NBC News site.]

Quartz estimates “readers view about 50 percent more stories per visit than they would without the option to scroll.”

The numbers look great in a vacuum. As readers, we don't have access to the raw data. We can't see if the reduced bounce rate correlates with a (minimum) doubling of time on the site. We cannot see if the user gets to the new headline and just leaves the site. There is no metric for a second-step bounce rate.

I posit that the goal to affect the raw stats doesn't necessarily mean more engagement.

On these sites, when I keep scrolling to make sure I've finished the article, the URL changes. I haven't actively gone to another page. Whether or not I choose to read the next article, this is counted as retention. I don't count as a bounce simply because I scrolled, not because I have started to read (let alone finished) the next article.

A couple examples of this in action (in addition to the opening image)…

Animation showing the URL changing (when the yellow arrow appears) as I scroll down the page at the Time site.
Animation showing the URL changing as I scroll down the page at the Forbes site.

We should be wary of these engagement or retention claims. Measurements shouldn't be about solely bounce rate, and minor jumps in engagement time are also a poor proxy. Perhaps a bounce should count unless the user makes it to the end of the next article. Perhaps retention should only count if the user's time on the site equals or exceeds twice the average time it takes to read an article.

As always, unless someone who manages a content site with infinite scroll (that isn't a stream-based site like Twitter or Facebook) can show data to prove infinite scroll genuinely leads to greater retention and engagement, I won't trust the measuring stick. Neither should you when making a decision about whether or not to implement infinite scroll.


Update: May 18, 2015

USA Today decided to ditch its infinite scroll, as reported by Digiday and its infinite scroll:

FTW’s implementation of infinite scroll, which displays a never-ending lists of article headlines below its articles, has been a major drag on the site’s mobile page loading times, so it had to go.

Another Update on May 18

Smashing Magazine asks the question, linking to this post:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

On the Mis-Named Mobilegeddon

If you are a web pro then it is likely that you heard that Google's search results were going to change based on how mobile-friendly a site is (you probably heard a couple months ago even). This change took effect yesterday.

As with almost all things in the tech world that affect clients, the press hit yesterday as well, and today clients are looking for more information. Conveniently, our clients are golden as we went all-responsive years ago.

If you already built sites to be responsive, ideally mobile-first, then you needn't worry. Your clients have probably already noticed that the text "mobile-friendly" appears in front of the results for their sites in Google and have been comforted as a result.

If you have not built sites to be responsive, or have had no mobile strategy whatsoever, then you may be among those calling it, or seeing it referred to as, mobilegeddon. A terrible name that clearly comes from FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).

If you are someone who relies on a firm to build and/or manage your site, then you should also beware the SEO snake oil salesman who may knock on your door and build on that very FUD to sell you things you don't need.

From Google Webmaster Central

For that latter two cases, I have pulled the first three points from Google's notes on the mobile-friendly (a much better term) update. I recommend reading the whole thing, of course.

1. Will desktop and/or tablet ranking also be affected by this change?

No, this update has no effect on searches from tablets or desktops. It affects searches from mobile devices across all languages and locations.

2. Is it a page-level or site-level mobile ranking boost?

It’s a page-level change. For instance, if ten of your site’s pages are mobile-friendly, but the rest of your pages aren’t, only the ten mobile-friendly pages can be positively impacted.

3. How do I know if Google thinks a page on my site is mobile-friendly?

Individual pages can be tested for “mobile-friendliness” using the Mobile-Friendly Test.

From Aaron Gustafson

Aaron Gustafson put together a simple list of four things you as a web developer can do to mitigate the effects of Google's changes, though the simplicity belies the depth of effort that may be needed for some sites. I've collected the list, but his post has the details for how to approach each step:

  1. Embrace mobile-first CSS
  2. Focus on key tasks
  3. Get smarter about images
  4. Embrace the continuum

What Is Your Mobile Traffic?

I've been asked how to find out how much traffic to a site is from mobile users. In Google Analytics this is pretty easy:

  1. Choose Audience from the left menu.
  2. Choose Mobile once Audience has expanded.

Bear in mind that this just tells you where you are today. If that number drops then it may be a sign that your mobile strategy isn't working. At the same time, if that number is already low then it may not drop any further owing to unintentional selection bias in how your pages are coded.

Oh, By the Way

Google isn't the only search engine. When I mentioned that on this blog before, Google had 66.4% of the U.S. search market. As of January 2015, that's down to 64.4%. Bing is up from 15.9% to 19.7%.

Google Sites led the U.S. explicit core search market in January with 64.4 percent market share, followed by Microsoft Sites with 19.7 percent and Yahoo Sites with 13.0 percent (up 1.0 percentage point). Ask Network accounted for 1.8 percent of explicit core searches, followed by AOL, Inc. with 1.1 percent.

While I Have Your Attention

Two days after the initial announcement of this change, word also came that Google is working on a method to rank pages not by inbound links, but by trustworthiness, in essence by facts.

When this finally hits, pay attention to those who refer to the change as Truthigeddon. Be wary of them.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Alt Text Bot Image Descriptions FTW

This weekend I saw a tweet in Marcy Sutton's timeline that appeared to be an image description generated by a piece of software.

Given my recent missives on the inherent inaccessibility of images without descriptions (even if Twitter accidentally gave us more options), coupled with rise in people tweeting images of text to get around character limits, I was intrigued.

It turns out the Alt Text Bot is a project from Cameron Cundiff that he submitted to the NYU ABILITY Technology Hackathon, where it also won first place this weekend. He has written a little bit of background on the bot.

Alt_Text_Bot uses an API from CloudSight to help describe images submitted in tweets. Users simply need to mention @alt_text_bot in a tweet with an image (the tweet must be part of the image, not in a Twitter card or via a link) and Alt Text Bot will respond with a description.

I've been feeding my own test images, but Steve Faulkner has been testing its ability to read CAPTCHAs and recognize faces of personalities (though not all).

It has some limitations. The biggest is the character limit within Twitter. Converting a chart to text, for example, is a great idea, but the character limit of Twitter precludes you from getting much value and descriptions can be truncated.

Another is probably from the CloudSight API. If an image is tweeted twice (such as a retweet), you might get two different descriptions (as this first one demonstrates, and then this second one). On top of this, not all images are very clear and context is hard to convey, as in this one showing wheelchair demonstrators in Seoul.

Regardless, given the current state of accessible images on Twitter, this tool is awesome. As I write this I see more and more people testing Alt Text Bot, so I expect that, even if this is just a proof of concept, more good things will come as a result.

The next image is me being excited about this, along with both descriptions that Alt Text Bot provided.

Me at Buffalo Unconference throwing some finger guns.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Selfish Accessibility at Buffalo Unconference

Buffalo Unconference

Yesterday I presented a stripped-down version of my Selfish Accessibility talk at Buffalo Unconference. With an unknown audience and a 20 minute timeline, I gutted most of the technical bits and focused on my thesis. I think it was well received.

At the end of the talk, I pointed people to the version of this talk I gave for Avega Group last month in Stockholm, as it has (many more) slides (with more detail) and video of me rambling. That longer talk is a bit of a disservice to those who don't want to hear me drone on for an hour and a half as well for those who aren't technical.

With that, here are the slides from yesterday in all their concise glory.

The conference produced just one tweet to satisfy my ego:

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Twitter (Accidentally) Takes Step Toward Accessible Images

Video showing how tweet quoting works. See original tweet from which I swiped the video.

Twitter has officially released its new-ish tweet quoting feature. Since at least last June, if a user included the URL of a tweet within a new tweet, it would present viewers with the full body (albeit smaller) of the referenced tweet within the new tweet.

Now that feature has been formalized. Users should see it when retweeting a tweet as the option to quote a tweet (which previously would just wrap the original tweet in quotes).

This can be a boon to Twitter image accessibility, allowing alternative text to wrap an image tweet (see my post on existing techniques). Except for a few points:

  • Twitter's (current*) prohibition on retweeting oneself means that users cannot easily quote their own tweets to add alternative text — at least not in the Android app nor on the web. TweetDeck allows it, so perhaps we'll see it in the app or web site.
  • Because a quoted tweet is not a reply, it doesn't show up in the list of replies when viewing the original image tweet. This means a missed opportunity to be associated with the alternative text when viewed on its own.
  • When viewing the tweet providing the alternative text (as a standalone tweet, not in the timeline) in the Android app, the image within the quoted tweet is not displayed.
  • Embedding a tweet that acts as alternative text doesn't show the original quoted tweet (nor its image). There isn't an option to embed media, so web page authors will likely embed the original image tweet instead of the alternative text tweet. You can see this example below.
  • Twitter is missing an opportunity to provide an interface that prompts users to provide alternative text. This might help stem the inconsistent efforts from those who want to provide accessibility (such as 18F's noble but under-informed efforts).
Image 1 Image 2
The first image shows a tweet quoting an image tweet when viewed in the timeline (the quoted tweet's content is visible). The second image shows a tweet quoting another when viewed on its own, demonstrating that the quoted tweet's content isn't displayed at all. Note in both views that I cannot retweet my own tweet (the option is disabled).
Sample tweet that quotes an image tweet, but does not show the quoted tweet.

* From the Twitter page explaining the feature, Note: You cannot Retweet your own quote Tweet.