Flyouts Are Fun! And So Are Democrats.

I just finished a 12 hour day getting this site re-fresh ready for launch. It was my first real stab at a CSS-only flyout menu and I’m really pretty nervous. I know that older browser support will be spotty (or non-existent), but it should function in all current browsers and platforms. I’m pretty happy with it, but could probably use an expert review. I mean, in some ways I am an expert, but that just scares me sometimes. I mean, if I’m expert in any aspect of this wild and wolly internet then how the fuck is it still even running?

My main responsibility was the flyout menus under “ideas” and a bunch of image chopping and HTML cleanup. Please, by all that is holy, do not run an HTML validation on this page. We had nothing to do with the core HTML and I would dearly love to spend 10 hours just combing through the code getting it all up to XHTML snuff. Just seeing the thousands of occurances of

was enough to give me nightmares! Honestly, if you are as big a standards geek as I am, that single tag will make your stomach turn. Why do you think I’m typing this (while desperately gulping Hefeweizen) instead of going to bed, like any sane person would after already being in front of their computer since 8am? I’ll be dreaming of inline styles, duplicate IDs and classes with names like “blueNavCopy” all night. Honestly, it’s just not worth going to sleep at all.

Maybe I’ll just FTP to the server on my own time while nobody is looking and just…


How Accessible Do You Want to Be?

I swear, the next time I hear someone ask a client “How accessible do you want your site to be?” I’m going to scream. There is this misconception pervasive throughout the web-dev-consulting-design field that, at some point, you have to sacrifice design or function in order to accomplish some nebulous holy grail of accessibility compliance. For more on compliance, what it is, and what it should be check out Malarky’s post, “Wearing badges is not enough.”

It’s understandable. Prior to the availability of CSS, this was more or less true. These days, there is no excuse to build a site that is not accessibile. Really…It’s not some twisted fundamentalist in me that’s saying that. It’s just the me that codes HTML and CSS. It’s the part of me that spends hours turning a Photoshop design into a streamlined, zero-to-sixty in less than five seconds, complete with a wheelchair lift and assistive steering controls, rocketship of a web site.

Here’s where we shoot ourselves in the foot everytime: The part in the development process where the design gets turned into HTML templates which are, in turn, dumped into a content management system (don’t even get me started on what those things do to my beautiful HTML) by a developer who has neither the time, inclination, or desire to keep an eye on what happens to the code, has become an afterthought. The role of HTML-coder is the first thing to be outsourced. Usually to a designer or developer who cuts HTML in their spare time to help pay the bills. The reason that this happens is simple. Most folks start working on web sites doing everything. They design a site, cut it up, and build it out. As they get more experience, they specialize. Usually in programming, design, or the part I totally don’t get: strategy. Coding HTML is a rung in the ladder that most people see as an inconvenience to overcome rather than a skill to master.

This is where I am now. I’m under orders to freelance out the HTML work at my company. If we were a little bigger I could probably make an arguement to keep it in-house. We’re not, so I can’t.

It’s a fucked up catch-22. I work at a compeny small enough to maintain a culture that I find rewarding and healthy. One in which I’m not just a cog in a machine. But at the same time, the cog that I care deeply about isn’t valued. I’m still trying to figure out how to make it work. More later.

Also of interest from Mr. Malarkey on this subject:
On a shoe-string
Panning for gold

And from A List Apart:
What Is Web Accessibility?

I’m an Expert?

I don’t know whether to be proud of myself, or seriously dissappointed in everyone else. I’m apparently some sort of expert in the area of Online Accessibility.

I just got back from Chicago where I presented in a couple of sessions at the 2005 NTC Conference. On Thursday, I co-presented with my awsomely talented co-worker Cara in a session called “Extreme Website Makeover” which outlined the way that Beaconfire Consulting (the company we both work for) goes about bringing non-profits through the process or redesigning their Website. Everything from assessing the current site, defining audiences and desired outcomes for those audiences, to…well, just check out the slides (4MB PDF).

I would sort of describe the concept of each step in the process and some of the reasoning behind it, and then Cara would show examples from a project she is managing right now. It was a great way to bring in concrete examples at every step of the way.

What I didn’t expect was that the part of the session talking about accessibility would generate so many questions.

The next day I did a session with some folks from Easter Seals called “Why Online Accessibility is Good Design and Business.” It also went well.