Tuesday, July 15, 2014

CSS Summit 2014 Slides: Making Your Site Printable

CSS Summit

This afternoon I awkwardly stumbled through my talk for CSS Summit, Making Your Site Printable. I can tell you that speaking to a screen instead of to a room full of people is a whole different experience than I was expecting. Fortunately for you I do not have an audio/video recording. I do however, have all the slides.

Slides

Making Your Site Printable: CSS Summit 2014 from Adrian Roselli

Links

Links to resources referenced in the slides (in the order they appear):

Ticket Giveaway

I'd like to note that thanks to the generosity of CSS Summit, I was provided with two tickets to today's talks that I could give away as I saw fit. I opted to offer them to two deserving young women from the Buffalo chapter of Girl Develop It (neither heckled me):

The Twitters

Finally, one of the novel things about an online conference is that attendees seem to be more active on Twitter. I got feedback and questions, and even fielded a few sub-tweets (I happen to know the print styles aren't glamorous, but most of the fundamentals aren't). I've collected the tweets in a Storify, which I have embedded here:

Update: July 21, 2014

Based on the activity from these two tweets alone, I am really hopeful that web developers are starting to see that print styles have value and belong in a responsive workflow. Only time will tell. The tweets:

Friday, July 11, 2014

Patents versus Accessibility — Again

I've ranted about frivolous patents more than once here. Others far closer to the issue do it daily, so my voice is but a drop in the ocean (and yet nothing happens).

This time it's a little different, and yet familiar (read my April post Patents versus Accessibility). Thanks to a tweet from WebAxe, I found out that somebody has patented (granted June 26, 2014) a tool that automatically makes a web site accessible. I find this a preposterous claim (at best), but here's the abstract from the patent:

A method for an accessibility solution provided as a software. The method includes approving or implementing by a website owner of a code into his website and receiving web format by a user device by “scraping” the data from the website pages or by other means of using client side plugin, server side plugin, browser or 3rd party server side or mobile app. The method also includes analyzing the data over the user device or on the server side and clicking a button by the end-user and the original code and the content and code that were collected from the website are rewritten which can also be done automatically as a suggestion to the end user, and the end-user sees or can use a new format according to the updated standard.

Unlike so many frivolous patents that are nothing more than an idea, this patent has some compelling claims. Unfortunately, the likelihood that all those claims can be realized seems pretty small.

Why I Am Wary

Just as anyone who practices accessibility understands that there is no automatic tool that can completely and truly evaluate a site's accessibility, there is also no tool that can automatically make a site accessible. To quote Jared Smith of WebAIM fame:

Accessibility is a continuum. It is based on the user experience. It cannot simply be defined as pass/fail or accessible/inaccessible.

While I don't want to attack what may very well be the well-intentioned best efforts of a dedicated person or team to improve the nature of accessibility on the web, I also have too many conversations with clients who are happy to accept a one-click solution at face value, unaware of the risks. More than anything, this post will serve as a quick reference for the inevitable conversation I'll have with a client or prospect about relying on a tool like this (or perhaps this tool in particular).

I am interested in how this tool can evaluate the value of alt text on images, verify whether an article or section is the correct sectioning element, make sure that placeholder text is not a barrier, understand when a button should be used, and so on. And then fix all these by re-writing HTML, JavaScript and CSS and not introduce more issues. These are just a tiny, miniscule slice of the kinds of decisions that require a person who understands the context in order to be successful.

The Patent Holder's Qualification

The evidence doesn't bear out that this tool can do what it advertises. The company that makes it, which promotes its accessibility services, has many issues on its own site. Which begs the question, did the company use its own tool and get such awful results, or does the company not see enough value in it to use it?

I wasn't the first to tear into the site. Folks on Twitter independently identified issues with color contrast, keyboard navigation (ok, that was me), image alt text, use of a carousel, a blank accessibility statement, incorrect ARIA role use, and misspelled ARIA attributes. All this feedback was unprompted.

To be fair, the tool may not exist yet. The patent was only just approved, though it was filed over two years ago. While I don't want to name and shame, there really is no way to make my point about the proposed tool without doing so.

The Patent Holder's Possible Example

Looking to the site of the registrant of the patent (I also made a Wayback permalink) I see an "Accessibility" box floating on its home page which may provide insight into how this patent might be applied. This "Accessibility" box allows some rudimentary control over the content. For example you can scale the text up or down, something I first built into sites about 15 years ago. You can change the text to white on black or black on white (yes, I also did that about 15 years ago). Oddly, you can convert the page to grayscale, removing all color information (it's not obvious how to turn that off, so it's still gray for me). You can toggle "alternate navigation," which just puts a big box around items that have keyboard focus (the site benefits since it wrongly uses outline:none). There is an option called "Speed control" which may adjust the rate at which its carousel/slider changes. There is an option to "Block blinking," though its affect was not immediately apparent to me.

I'm not sure that the patent would withstand scrutiny from someone who has worked in web accessibility. Some of the ideas outline, while not implemented in the tool on its own site, seem to lean on existing technologies that themselves are subsumed within patents. For example, one of the figures in the patent shows how optical character recognition (OCR) can be used to convert the text in an image into text that can be passed along to the user (figures 7a and 7b).

The Takeaway

As always with what feel like frivolous patents, I fear that they can be used to block truly useful and innovative solutions from coming to market. In this case, I worry that the already poor state of accessibility on the web could be stifled if the patent owners try to exercise any claims against those of us who've been doing accessibility work for years.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Changing YouTube Playback Speed

This post originally appeared on the Algonquin Studios blog.

YouTube gives users the option to modify the playback speed of some videos. This is particularly useful in the case of videos that you are obligated to watch (training videos, terrible fan videos, the occasional conference talk, etc.) and want to get through quickly. You have the option to speed a video to one-and-a-half times normal speed and double normal speed. You can also slow a video to half speed or quarter speed, which can be handy when trying to draw out a training-over-lunch session.

In order to make a go of this, you’ll need to use the YouTube HTML5 player, which you can activate at http://www.youtube.com/html5 while logged into your Google account. If you worry about browser support (for both the HTML5 video element or the various codecs), the YouTube page will show you what your browser supports. In general, if you are using a current version of your favorite browser then you should be fine.

The opening image shows where the option lives. Sadly, that awesome video of Morrissey and George Michael doing film reviews has been pulled, so instead you can try it out on this video of Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes (I reference it in slide 58 of my Selfish Accessibility talk). The video also has closed captions and an audio description so it’s a great example of the accessibility features available for YouTube.

When at a video, click the gear icon at the bottom right and look for the Speed menu. If the video allows you to change its playback speed, it will be there with available options. This will only apply to the selected video. If you know of a setting to have it apply to all videos, please let me know.

If you still aren’t sure where this can handy, just try listening to Thundercats dialogue (particularly Panthro) at normal speed and then again at 1.5× normal speed. To me the difference is dramatic.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Speaking at CSS Summit

CSS Summit

In just under two weeks the 6th annual online, live CSS and SASS conference, CSS Summit, will be underway and I have been asked to speak on print styles. You don't have to deal with airports, hotels, taxis, or strangers. Heck, you don't even need to leave your desk. The event description:

Environments for Humans brings together some of the Web's most notable experts in [CSS] and [SASS] for an all-new, three-day online conference, the CSS Summit 2014! Bring the experts to your desktop July 15-July 17, 2014 from 9AM to 4PM (CT).

I'll be speaking on Tuesday, July 15 at 11am CT (10am ET). The abstract for my talk should sound familiar to those who have heard me rant about print in the past:

The push for responsive web design has helped web developers consider how the sites they develop can adapt to different devices, including sizes, screen resolutions, and even contexts.

It should now be easier than ever to respond to a format that has existed since the start of the web — print.

I'll walk through the process for making your responsive sites respond to the format we most often forget and show you how to use Google Analytics to track what pages are printed from your site.

The rest of the speaker lineup is Estelle Weyl, Jing Jin, Luis Rodriguez, Matt Carver, Jason Pamental, Rachel Andrew, Ana Tudor, Dave Arel, Russ Weakley, Rachel Nabors, Justine Jordan, Chris Eppstein, Patrick Fulton, Ben Callahan, Tab Atkins, Roy Tomeij, and Sam Richard

Whatever you do, don't pay full price. You can get 20% off by using the discount code 20ADRIAN. So go buy some tickets now and then listen to me rant. Go ahead. Really, go on, buy a ticket.