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.

Tweets!

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, Time.com’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.

Related

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.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Twitter App Sets Browsers Back 10 Versions

Screen shot of a web page as seen in the Twitter app, with a menu showing the option to open in the user's default web browser.

The title of this post may be a bit of hyperbole for some, but it is completely true for me.

Sometime over the course of the last week Twitter changed what happens when I tap links in the native Twitter app on Android. Links now open within an embedded browser, not in my default browser.

I have Chrome 40 installed on my Android phone. The built-in web view on my phone is 10 releases back, at Chrome 30. Normally this isn't a concern of mine, but when a good deal of my Twitter timeline consists of bleeding edge web development techniques, I want to view those on a current release of Chrome.

The first image shows that the user agent string within the Twitter app includes Chrome 30. The second image shows my default browser user agent string is Chrome 40.

This change appeared while I was traveling internationally, which means I had a slower connection than usual as well as a data cap. Not only do I have to view content in an old browser, I have to know that the web view is older so that I then know to open it in my default browser.

That's at least two more taps, plus the burden of the download starting in the web view that I don't want. That extra download burden also impacts my data cap, which is an even bigger issue if I have chosen to surf with Opera Mini to make the most of my limited data cap (you know, data budgeting).

Not only did I never enable this feature, I cannot disable it. It appeared three weeks after my last Twitter app update (see the caption below).

The first image shows the settings screen in the Android Twitter app, version 5.48.0. You can see there is no option to disable the in-app browser, though it has been enabled. The second image is the note in the Google Play store that tells me the only change in the new release is updated profiles so it's easier to view bios, Tweets and photos. The final image shows the option to disable the in-app browser, but only because I updated to version 5.51.0 (when I returned from home and shed my data cap).

So What?

A couple months ago Peter-Paul Koch wrote about the massive fragmentation in the world of Chrome (Chrome continues to fall apart at brisk pace), something to which Twitter is now contributing en masse.

In the modern world of rapidly updating browsers, 10 releases may not seem like a big deal. I guess it comes down to what you want to see, or more importantly, what you want your users to see. Can I Use provides a quick way to compare Chrome 30 and Chrome 40 to see which features you may be missing. Here's a short list:

  • The ability to discard many -webkit- prefixes,
  • Font unicode-range subsetting,
  • matches() DOM method,
  • CSS touch-action property,
  • CSS Font Loading,
  • Custom Elements,
  • picture element,
  • Web Cryptography,
  • WOFF 2.0 - Web Open Font Format.

If you rely on any of these (or many other) features of the open web platform, and you receive traffic from Twitter, I suggest you monitor your logs to see if the most common version of Chrome drops.

As for user experience, If you plan to allow users to toggle a new "feature," don't push that feature to them without the toggle. Especially when you exclude it from your update notes within the app store.

Monday, March 16, 2015

ACE! Conference Slides: Selfish Accessibility

ACE! Conference on Lean and Agile Best Practices

In addition to the slides, I've embedded video of my talk and way too many tweets after that.

Video

Impressing everyone on the internet, Paul Klipp has already gotten videos from ACE! posted less than 24 hours after the event ended. That's impressive. I understand his tactic is to upload lower resolution videos immediately and then slowly replace them with higher resolution videos. Depending on when you see this, it may still be the low-res video.

Tweets

Tweets from ACE! that satisfy my ego, show me in a photo, or might be funny.

Feedback (Added 26 March 2015)

I've received the audience feedback from my talk and overall was pleased. 17 people responded (out of what I estimate was ~40+ in the room) with the following rankings:

  • Loved it! 10
  • Liked it: 2
  • Meh: 4
  • Didn't like it: 0
  • Hated it! 1

Of those 17, 10 left comments (which I greatly appreciate!). Sadly, the one Hate it vote did not leave any comments.

  • Liked it: Too basic for me, but nice examples of disabilities.
  • Loved it! I loved the idea how to easily test your apps.
  • Loved it! Great that this topic emerged.
  • Loved it! Great approach to creating sites/apps friendly for impaired.
  • Loved it! Full of very practical suggestions. Thanks for including it.
  • Loved it! Content that usually doesn't get a forum.
  • Meh: Interesting, however I won't get a chance to use what I learned.
  • Loved it! Interesting point of view. I did not consider accessibility during software design. I should start.
  • Liked it: Most important is to think about problem, not about product/project.
  • Meh: Nicely said, but too short.

The two Meh comments are mostly out of my control. I was given a 30 minute slot, which I agree is too short for all that can be said on the topic. As for the commenter who claims he/she won't be able to use it, I feel that the testing parts of my talk at the very least are in everyone's reach, so I think it comes down to deciding to use it. Even if only to troll the Virgin America site.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Typefaces for Dyslexia

Example showing the letterforms of b, p, and d, and how they have a thicker stroke on the bottom.
Both typefaces claim that heavier strokes on the bottom prevent dyslexic readers from flipping the letters when viewing them. The original caption: A heavier bottom is used to show which way is supposed to be down.

I've been writing this post in fits, so it may be a bit disjointed. I started it on my flight home from CSUN, and continued to work on it on subsequent flights. Apologies if it's a bit chaotic.

TL;DR: Typefaces designed to help dyslexics have no effect.

I'll list information about the two typefaces that I am aware of (which are designed explicitly for readers with dyslexia), as well as notes from the talk at CSUN and a couple other examples.

Typefaces

I am aware of two typefaces that are designed with dyslexic readers in mind.

OpenDyslexic

Open Dyslexic is an open source typeface for readers with dyslexia. The rationale behind the design:

OpenDyslexic is created to help with some of the symptoms of dyslexia. Letters have heavy weighted bottoms to indicate direction. You are able to quickly figure out which part of the letter is down which aids in recognizing the correct letter, and sometimes helps to keep your brain from rotating them around. Consistently weighted bottoms can also help reinforce the line of text. The unique shapes of each letter can help prevent confusion through flipping and swapping.

Dyslexie

Dyslexie is a paid typeface (free for home use). The site references research that supports the following claim:

Representative research among many dyslectics has shown that the font Dyslexie actually helps them with reading texts faster and with fewer errors.

I would like to note that copying that text directly from the browser wasn't easy. The use of Cufon to embed the typeface drops each word into its own element that itself hides and replaces the raw text in a canvas element. I'm sure you can imagine how much that offends me.

The following video explains the idea behind the typeface:

Study: Can a font improve reading?

The latest study to suggest that typefaces designed to aid reading for dyslexics had little to no effect was presented at CSUN this past week. As I noted on Twitter, I already had an idea what the results would be, and I came away feeling validated.

The study hasn't been pubished yet and I saw its first general presentation. The study was conducted at Mount Allison University, a 2,500 student college with 215 full-time students with disabilities. 50% of those students are classified as having a learning disability.

The questions asked by the study:

  • Do the style of the letters on a page mean that you read faster and make fewer errors?
  • Do persons with LD [learning disabilities] using this font read faster and make fewer errors?
Anne Comfort, Matt Kalichuk, Harry Wenban and Dr. Louise Wasylkiw

The typefaces (Open Dyslexic and Dyslexie) make claims about their benefits, aggregated in the presentation as:

  • Students with surface dyslexia experience letters flipping and moving around; Letters needed to be bottom heavy to prevent them from moving around
  • New font would increase reading speed
  • Will also increase accuracy (fewer errors)
  • Will decrease reading stress
  • Widely promoted to on-line uses and in word processing (Instapaper, iPad, an app)
  • Strong anecdotal feedback
Anne Comfort, Matt Kalichuk, Harry Wenban and Dr. Louise Wasylkiw

The presenter outlined some literature references, the procedure the team followed to perform the study, the nature of the participants (and control group), and the overall results.

The first bullet in the summary wraps it up nicely:

  • The font does NOT improve reading speed or accuracy for students with LD.
Anne Comfort, Matt Kalichuk, Harry Wenban and Dr. Louise Wasylkiw

An interesting note from the study was that half of each group (50% of control, 57% of LD group) said they would consider using the font and were then shown how to access it (download and install it, which I assume was Open Dyslexic). In a follow-up, none of those participants were using the font.

Another interesting point was that 40% of the control group and 48% of the LD group thought they performed better when using Open Dyslexic, though that was not the case.

As anyone who's done user testing knows, it's not uncommon for users to report one thing while doing or thinking another, so I consider this to be anecdotal reinforcement that the typeface had no benefit for users.

Study: Good Fonts for Dyslexia: An Experimental Study

In late 2013 I found a write-up on a Spanish study that reviewed which fonts were easiest for readers with dyslexia. The post summarizes the study:

Based on the evaluation of 48 dyslexic subjects ages 11-50, reading 12 texts with 12 different fonts, they determined that reading performance was best with sans serif, monospaced, and roman fonts used in the study. They also found that reading was significantly impaired when italic fonts were used.

[…]

Use of the OpenDyslexic font did not enhance text readability or reading speed. The study participants strongly preferred Verdana or Helvetica over the OpenDyslexic alternative.

You can find the full text of the study in a PDF file on the site for the Natural Language Processing group of the Department of Information and Communication Technologies at Pompeu Fabra University.

General Tips

For those of us who build applications and sites with content of any length (whether instructions for shopping carts or rant-laden long-form articles), I have found a few techniques are generally agreed upon by the community (feedback is welcome!):

  • Avoid justified text.
  • Use generous line spacing / leading.
  • Use generous letter spacing.
  • Avoid italics.
  • Generally use sans serif faces.
  • Use larger text.
  • Use good contrast.
  • Use clear, concise writing.

This generally follows rules for good typography.

You may have heard that Comic Sans is easier for readers with dyslexia to understand, but so far that evidence appears to be anecdotal. Certainly not enough to warrant punishing all your other users.

If you read an article that suggests users with dyslexia see letters flip or rotate, then be wary. Not only was this assertion challenged by participants in the study reported at CSUN, but generally the participant reaction was anger. The flipping/rotating may be a myth perpetuated by those without dyslexia in an effort to make sense of its effects.

Update: March 26, 2015

In a post from 2011 (Dyslexia, Fonts & Open Source), Mike Gifford outlines some of the issues related to supporting readers with dyslexia, including typefaces.

Update: April 17, 2014

Neil Milliken notes that, as someone with dyslexia, he finds the custom dyslexic typefaces unhelpful and unattractive.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Booster Conference Slides: Making Your Site Printable

Giving my talk at Booster.
Giving my talk at Booster. Photo from Booster by Tatiana Kolesnikova.

I'll fill this up with notes and other content later, but in the meantime here are the slides from my talk this morning:

I've written a bunch of handy stuff on print styles, here are some links (or you can see all posts tagged print on my blog) along with other resources (most of this is referenced in my slides):

The Twitters

Booster had a lot of activity on Twitter (not just about my talk, imagine that). I've collected some of the tweets below.

Feedback (Added 26 March 2015)

I got feedback from my talk, and it was overwhelmingly positive. Consider mine was the first lightning talk of the first session of the first day immediately after the keynote, I'm just pleased people took a moment to vote.

Voting consisted of asking attendees to drop a colored card into a basket representing my talk. There were three options. I got 15 green cards (it was amazing), 4 yellow cards (it was okay), and no red cards (I didn't like it).

Only one person left a comment, which was Talked too fast. I cannot disagree with that. With 10 minutes to cover 42 slides and do so to an audience of non-native English speakers, I'm thrilled I only received that comment once (though I suspect many others agreed).

Video

Making Your Site Printable - Adrian Roselli from Booster conference on Vimeo.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Speaking at Avega Group in Stockholm

Avega Group logo

Rounding out my European tour (I'll be at Booster in Bergen and ACE! in Krakow) is a speaking gig not at a conference. I've been grabbed by the fine folks at Avega Group to speak to their team in Stockholm on the evening of March 19.

I'll be speaking about accessibility not just to Avega Group, but apparently whomever else might like to attend who is in the area. There is a Google Form you can fill out if you would like to attend (it's after business hours, so it needn't eat into your day too much).

The abstract from my talk:

We can all pretend that we're helping others by making web sites accessible, but we are really making the web better for our future selves. Learn some fundamentals of web accessibility and how it can benefit you (whether future you from aging or you after something else limits your abilities). We'll review simple testing techniques, basic features and enhancements, coming trends, and where to get help. This isn't intended to be a deep dive into ARIA, but more of an overall primer for those who aren't sure where to start nor how it helps them.

More information is on the Google Form, which I have also embedded below:

If you will be in the area, here's a map of Avega Group's venue:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Using Bookmarklets on Mobile

Viewing comments on Medium. Login prompt when tapping to view comment replies.
Viewing comments on Medium (first image), then being prompted to login in order to view comment replies (second image). Both images are current version of Chrome on Android.

This is a follow-up to my post CSS Bookmarklets for Testing and Fixing.

While surfing Medium the other day I chose to read a comment. As usual, the comment overlay came up at the bottom of my screen with an option to see replies. When I tapped the replies link, I was immediately prompted to log in. This was new.

In the time between me tweeting Medium to complain, and them responding that it was a bug, I wrote a bookmarklet to remove that login overlay.

This was the easy part. The hard part was using the bookmarklet on my mobile.

As you may already know, there is no bookmark bar in the average mobile browser (at least not on smaller screens). Viewing bookmarks will generally take you to a new tab or screen, meaning a bookmarklet cannot affect the page you were viewing.

Conveniently, once you create a bookmark it becomes available through the auto-complete feature of the browser address bar. In this case, while viewing the page I tapped the address bar and started typing the name of my new bookmarklet. It helps that I remembered this, otherwise it might have taken more time.

Typing the name of the bookmarklet into the address bar as it shows options from auto-complete. Once the bookmarklet fires I can see the comment replies.
Typing the name of the bookmarklet into the address bar as it shows options from auto-complete (first image), then once the bookmarklet fires I can see the comment replies (second image). Both images are current version of Chrome on Android.
This allows you to use bookmarklets you have specifically crafted to improve your mobile experience, or just general bookmarklets that you might not have thought would work on mobile.

Related

Fix Medium Bookmarklet

Hopefully by the time your read this Medium will have fixed the issue. If not, here is the bookmarklet I use:

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('.overlay{display:none !important;}',0);})()

Of note: after you do this, the hit state of the View n replies link is partially blocked. You need to tap at the very top of the link. If that requires too much precision, then zoom in until it it wraps to two lines and tap the top line of text.

What I Was Reading on Medium

Christian Heilmann wrote a great post on the web application myth, which may be the title, though I can't be sure because Medium's URLs never match what may be the page title, which is denoted by an h3 because there is no h1 nor h2 on the page...

Anyway, regardless of title, go read what I'll title The Web Application Myth: Web applications don’t follow new rules.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Speaking at Booster Conference in Bergen

Booster Conference

A couple days ago I mentioned that I'd be speaking at the Ace! Conference in Krakow. I also suggested I might have other speaking gigs around the same time in Europe. Now I can announce that I'll be in Bergen, Norway speaking at the Booster Conference.

Most of my talks lately have been about accessibility, but for this one I'll be talking about another topic that makes me rant — print styles:

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.

Given the generalized nature of the conference (it bills itself as a software conference for the whole team), I am looking forward to speaking to a diverse group of attendees, both as users and developers.

The conference runs from March 11 through the 13th, but I'll be presenting on day one (Wednesday the 11th). The conference will be held at the Scandic Hotel Bergen City, and again for my own benefit I have embedded a map.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Speaking at ACE! Conference in Krakow

ACE! Conference on Lean and Agile Best Practices

I'll be spending much of March bringing my shining personality to Europe, partially in the form of speaking engagements. The first one I can announce is the sixth annual ACE! Conference in Krakow Poland on March 16 and 17. Somewhere within that two day conference I'll be talking about accessibility.

There is a growing list of great speakers, and I'm pleased to be included among them. At least until they discover I'm a fraud.

If you are familiar with ACE!, then it's worth noting this year a separate track has been added focused on building better software. If you are unfamiliar with ACE!, then I will let the organizers speak for themselves:

ACE! is the largest regional conference of its kind in Central Europe, attracting people from all over the region. We're really excited about ACE! 2015 which combines two one-track conferences into one. The Building Software Better track includes the traditional ACE! content such as agile, lean, Scrum, Kanban, and other tools and methods for improving the software development process. This year we're adding a Building Better Software track that features Lean Startup, LeanUX, Design Thinking, and Customer Development topics. We're also adding a workshop track so that attendees can apply new skills and experiment with new ideas. It's going to be the best ACE! yet!

You can stay abreast of new speaker announcements and other news from the conference by following @aceconf on Twitter.

As the conference site gets updated with this year's logo and the abstract from my talk, I plan to post it here.

I've never been to Poland, and I am hearing nothing but good things about Krakow (not just from its tourism board), so I am really looking forward to visiting.

The conference will be held about 5km from the city center, so if you're nearby you can pretty much include my talk in your tourism walk for the day. I've embedded a map for my own benefit:

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Best Viewed in 1 of 11 Flavors of Chrome!

Make sure you view this on Google's flavor of Chrome, otherwise, well, I have no idea what will happen.

Sometimes it's frustrating being a developer who's been around to see Mosaic supplanted by Netscape Navigator supplanted by Internet Explorer supplanted by Chrome/WebKit. Developers just love dumping one platform for the new shiny.

As I said last week, all of this has happened before and will happen again. The difference with this post is that I am not going to rant about lazy developers whining over a world that will still contain Internet Explorer and its offspring.

Instead, let's ask the average anti-IE / pro-WebKit developer a very simple question — on how many flavors of Chrome do you test?

I don't mean how many versions of Chrome. I also don't mean how many different WebKit-based browsers. No, how many flavors of Chrome?

I'll guess probably not more than a couple. I have four that I can, but typically don't, use. Even at four that's far too few.

Today Peter-Paul Koch pointed out that there are eleven (11!) flavors of Chrome (Chromia, if you will). All of them built on Chromium. Here's the breakdown from his article:

Vendor Version Tested Default Remarks
Google 40 Yes Yes
Opera 39 Yes No
Yandex 38 Yes No
Xiaomi 34 or 35 Yes Yes Zoom reflow
HTC 33 Yes Yes Zoom reflow
Cyanogen 33 Yes Yes
LG 30 Yes Yes Mid-range
Puffin 30 Yes No Proxy
Samsung 28 Yes Yes
Amazon 37 No Yes Silk
LG 34 No Yes High-end

You may have noticed that this only accounts for mobile devices. Some on Twitter also noted Chrome on Google TV, or on Android TV, which doesn't account for the Samsung Android TV nor the Sony Android TV.

So maybe it's fifteen (15!) flavors of Chrome. Either way, I suspect that number will continue to grow.

Even if I include IE6, I only have to worry about 5 versions of Internet Explorer across mobile and desktop. If I want the idyllic WebKit-only world so many seem to crave, then I need about a dozen flavors of Chrome before I can get started with the Operas, Safaris, Yandexes, and Vivaldis (plural because those forks of WebKit also have their own versions to support)

All of this written against the backdrop of a Medium post claiming it won't consider IE11 a Tier 1 browser because of what it considers an ugly border in the editor view. Unable to find IE developers anywhere, nor to figure out where to file a bug, Medium just browser-sniffs IE11 into a second tier. I'm sure Medium tested across eleven flavors of Chrome, though.

Please read PPK's piece: Chrome continues to fall apart at brisk pace

Monday, January 26, 2015

All of This Has Happened Before and Will Happen Again

Jacob Rossi from Microsoft put together an article for Smashing Magazine that discusses Microsoft's Project Spartan web browser, Inside Microsoft’s New Rendering Engine For The “Project Spartan”.

Unlike other click-bait efforts that only speculated that perhaps Spartan was going to be WebKit-based, showing their own preference instead of any real understanding of the browser world, this one is filled with lots of great information. You should read it.

The first few comments, on the other hand, started off a mess (with many more on Twitter since the initial announcement). Two examples from the article:

So here was the opportunity to swallow their pride and join WebKit to make the internet a better place

…and they built *another* closed-source, proprietary rendering engine.

[Slow sarcastic clap]

« IE did shape the web in a positive way »

This made me laugh more than it should. You seem to forget why Internet Explorer has felt the need to change its name in the first place. And it’s not because it was «too good» or «too innovative»…

Many folks jumped in and corrected, down-voted, and generally balanced the insipid whining. Christian Heilmann, who has logged more years working for Firefox than most devs have logged using it, waded in to challenge many of the incorrect assertions.

Bruce Lawson, who happens to work for another browser vendor (Opera) noted all the things Internet Explorer did for the web in his five-year-old post In praise of Internet Explorer 6. It's also a cautionary tale about where reliance on a single rendering engine will take us.

What these two guys have in common, besides working for the competition, is that they have been on the web since its dawn. They've seen what happens when one browser gets too big (Internet Explorer) and how we spend the next decade-plus digging out from the mess.

How did we get into that mess? By people coding for one rendering engine.

Everyone who calls for WebKit in Internet Explorer is exactly the same kind of developer who would have coded to Internet Explorer 15 years ago (and probably happily displayed the best viewed in badge).

If you are that developer, then it will all be your fault when it happens again. When WebKit is no longer the hot engine. When Chrome loses its dominance. When Apple's market share falls to match the developing world. You will be to blame.

Do you think that won't happen? Just look to Android browser fragmentation, or WebKit failing to support a standard that Firefox and IE have nailed, or Chrome introducing its own proprietary features (can't find the link; it's coming), or failing to use best practices as it tries to carry the next big thing forward, or the complete lack of developer relations from Apple. We've had over half a decade of warning signs.

It's happening again, and every petulant, lazy developer who calls for a WebKit-only world is responsible.

Related

Update: February 3, 2015

My rant continues in my post Best Viewed in 1 of 11 Flavors of Chrome! It's built off PPK's Chrome continues to fall apart at brisk pace. Even I didn't know there are so many Chromium variants.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

CSS Bookmarklets for Testing and Fixing

Animated image showing the Pinterest site and its infuriating blocking overlay, which is removed with the bookmarklet below.

I regularly have to test sites in development, review some third-party site, or just use a site in my day-to-day time wasting (and banking) rituals. I've relied on viewing the page's source or popping into my browser's dev tools to find a missing element, copy un-transformed text, check for inline styles, and so on. Typically I am relying on CSS and not JavaScript, as that is where I excel.

I got a little annoyed doing that all the time, and this morning I had reason to visit Pinterest and mostly lost my marbles at its login overlay and refusal to scroll. So I channeled that rage and taught myself to build a bookmarklet to dump that Pinterest overlay crap. I have created a few more that include my standard styles for testing, styles that perhaps you (dear reader) will find useful.

I'll have basic instructions below showing you how you can build your own and/or modify the ones I've provided.

Bookmarklets You May Steal

Note that I say may steal. That's me giving you permission. Note that I call them bookmarklets. That's me not giving into the term favelets or whatever HotJava called them (was it hot links?).

Restore Link Underlines

You know what's cool? Removing link underlines and providing terrible link color contrast. It's so cool, in fact, that I want to make those sites less cool. As well as usable. Read my rant on this.

This bookmarklet restores link underlines across the board. Every link. After all, if you want the link underlines, you probably don't care that the designer would freak out at the noise it adds to the page.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('a[href]{text-decoration:underline !important}',0);})()

Restore Focus Outlines (or Fix Virgin America)

Just as cool as removing link underlines is removing the outline on elements that get focus as you tab through a page. After all, if you've hidden the links, why not hide when the links are selected. Virgin America tends to agree.

This bookmarklet not only restores the outline (in the form of the two-pixel dotted blue line), but also adds a drop shadow for those cases where the blue is lost against the surrounding colors.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('*:focus{outline:2px dotted #00f !important;box-shadow: 0 0 2em rgba(0,0,0,.75) !important;}',0);})()

Find Inline Styles

Over at Algonquin Studios we have worked in the content management space for, well, since the dawn of content management systems. One of the risks of using a CMS is that your authors may accidentally (or intentionally) embed styles whether by pasting rich-text from elsewhere or by features built into the WYSIWYG editor within the tool. This is most common with text styles.

Sometimes it is faster to just find the elements that have a style attribute on them, as that's the first clue that there may be a conflict that needs to be corrected. This option will find any of those elements and give them a yellow background along with a two-pixel dotted red border (like the Windows "hot dog" theme from the previous century).

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('*[style]{border:2px dotted #f00 !important;background-color:#ff0 !important;}',0);})()

Find Duplicate ARIA Roles

In ARIA, there are a few instances of roles that should only appear once on a page. These landmark roles are banner, contentinfo, and main. In addition, the W3C HTML5.1 specification notes that there must be only one main element per page.

This bookmarklet will identify any additional instances of any of the once-per-page items above. If you know enough about coding ARIA, then you probably know enough about finding which of the roles/elements is on repeat. Offending items will have a two-pixel dotted red border and red background.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('*[role=main]:nth-of-type(n+2),*[role=banner]:nth-of-type(n+2),*[role=contentinfo]:nth-of-type(n+2),main:nth-of-type(n+2){border:2px dotted #f00 !important;background-color:#f00;}',0);})()

Find Missing Alt Attributes

An image without an alt attribute can be anything from an annoyance to a barrier to those using assistive technologies. Being able to quickly identify those images on a page can save time when figuring where to focus your efforts.

This bookmarklet will find those images and give them a two-pixel dotted red border. Note that it only looks for images with a missing alt, as a blank alt attribute is often perfectly valid.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('img:not([alt]){border:2px dotted #f00 !important;background-color:#f00;}',0);})()

Reset Text Size (Added January 30)

Sadly, it is not uncommon for sites to reset the default size of the text on the page. Too often that is done to satisfy a design change. One site where I find the text too small to read comfortably, or at all, is Daring Fireball. I know I am not the only one to feel this way.

This bookmarklet will resize the text on the body element to 100%, ideally conforming to whatever your default browser preferences are. It works great on Daring Fireball, but could easily be overridden on sites that set the text size in other ways and/or on other elements.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('body{font-size:100% !important;}',0);})()

Find Empty Elements (Added May 6)

It is not uncommon for a WYSIWYG editor in a CMS or on a comment site to throw extra empty p elements into the content. While I once wrote a style into my development CSS to highlight these issues, I was reminded of the potential utility by a Happy Cog post on pseudo classes.

This bookmarklet will find elements that are empty — no content, no whitepsace. It will not highlight images (by excluding elements with a src attribute) nor form inputs (by excluding elements with a type element), two common self-terminating elements that will otheriwse trigger this. It isn't perfect, but you are welcome to make it your own.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('*:not([src]):not([type]):empty{border:2px dotted #00f !important;background-color:#00f;}',0);})()

Fix Pinterest

When you visit Pinterest without a Pinterest account, or without being logged in, you are prompted to sign up/in by a terrible overlay. In addition, the page won't scroll past a certain point. This annoys me. So I made a bookmarklet to remove the two overlays and re-enable scrolling. You can test it on my abandoned Pinterest page.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule('.Modal, .UnauthBanner {display: none !important;}',0);b.insertRule('.hasFooter.Grid.Module{overflow-y:visible !important;}',0);b.insertRule('.noScroll{overflow:auto !important;}',0);})()

Make/Modify Your Own Bookmarklet

The Virgin America site is made usable for those who navigate with a keyboard by restoring link underlines and adding focus styles to elements.

If you look at the code chunks above, you'll see I am doing the same thing over and over. I am using the JavaScript CSSStyleSheet.insertRule() method to insert a new style rule into the page's stylesheet. Not only does the Mozilla Developer Network have a great overview with sample code, but David Walsh shows similar code with some minor tweaks.

This approach allows me to leverage my CSS skills to write selectors to find and style elements on the page. Since CSS has so many powerful selectors, I find this easier to quickly repurpose. In addition to adding a new style, I always include !important with each so that it will override any inline styles.

If you are writing a function from scratch, make sure you minify it to take up less space (you may bump into character limits for a bookmarklet). Pre-pend javascript: and make it the href value of a link and you are done.

Here is a sample block of code you can use with the styles rendered in bold so you can replace them with your favorite selector. In this example I have two style rules so you can see how to add additional selectors.

javascript:(function(){var a=document.createElement('style'),b;document.head.appendChild(a);b=a.sheet;b.insertRule("a[href]{text-decoration:underline !important}",0);b.insertRule("*[style]{border:2px dotted #f00 !important;background-color:#f00;}",0);})()

And with that you should be off to the races.

Related

Links to my posts referenced above:

Update: February 14, 2015

It's hard to use bookmarklets on mobile devices, but I have a solution.