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TAMU Webmaster's Blog

Information and insight from the A&M Webmasters


UWEB Meeting: Meet the web accessibility team and learn about web accessibility updates

The next university web group meeting (Wednesday, June 11, 3:00 pm) offers a friendly update on web accessibility, featuring Brittany Olsen and Kyle Boatsman from IT Risk Management. We will try to find a TTVN enabled room, but refreshments will be provided as an incentive for attending in person.

Brittany and Kyle will talk about who they are and what services and initiatives they offer, preview the newly launched IT Accessibility website, and give an update on campus web accessibility scans. They will help you prepare to run your website through the new version of WorldspaceSync, the university-wide accessibility checker, as well as the FireEyes plugin.

Please RSVP this week if you plan to attend. In the past, this topic has attracted large numbers of participants, so we want to find a room with the right size. Once we finalize a location we will let you know.


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Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 Area Events No Comments

Web Accessibility

Yesterday at the IT Forum we had a good discussion about web accessibility.  One of the things that was noted in the automated scans of campus web pages was that the primary areas of non-compliance were lack of “alt” attributes on images, lack of “skip nav” links, and lack of label tags on associated form fields.

It is easy to look at those things and think they are just minor details that don’t matter that much.  But let’s look at how important they really are.  Last year we presented an Accessibility Showcase to campus, and one of the presentations was a description of screen readers and then a live demonstration given by a blind student.  Watch or download the video and see how hard it is to navigate some of our own sites here on campus.

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Thursday, January 28th, 2010 Accessibility 2 Comments

IT Forum Meeting

Don’t forget that the IT Forum meets tomorrow (Jan 27)  afternoon at 3:00 in Room 601 Rudder Tower.

CIS will be talking  about Web Accessibility, the new state and university requirements, and the automated system they have available to check web sites for various accessibility issues.

If you manage a website I would encourage you to attend — if you haven’t already, you’ll likely be getting a call from these folks about scanning and updating your sites, and this is a good opportunity to learn ahead of time what to expect.

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Tuesday, January 26th, 2010 Accessibility No Comments

Hospitality: beyond SEO, beyond usability

For too long, webmasters have thought of search engine optimization as if it were nothing more than a form of advertising, and usability as if it were nothing more than accessibility. SEO became a set of clever techniques to get visitors to your site, and usability became a set of rules that might be reluctantly followed.

Now things are changing. The old SEO techniques aren’t working as well or as long. To get high rankings for many competitive keywords, the most important “technique” seems to be, “Have pages that people want to link to.” As far as usability, it turns out that pages that are hard for the disabled to use are probably hard for everybody else to use. Not only are they not accessible, they’re not very usable.

These problems with websites – people can’t find us, people can’t use us – can easily get masked. Most webmasters reason to themselves, “We have visitors, we must be doing something right.” But it’s difficult to know how many more visitors you would have had – how much longer they would have stayed, and how much more they would have recommended your site to others – if you had done things differently. If your site pleases you and your boss, you may hear no complaints. But your potential visitors are not you or your boss. They haven’t even visited yet. You may not know much about your potential visitors at all.

Both findability and usability have a bad name in some circles. People see web pages where the keywords limit the writers, and where usability rules limit the designers. We need to go beyond that. Content that isn’t interesting or natural, or design that isn’t attractive or even bearable – that’s not usable. That’s not optimized. Not if visitors can’t stand to use it. As Stephen P. Anderson notes, researchers have found that attractive things work better.

Instead of findability or usability, let’s try another word – hospitality. Our visitors are truly our guests. Our websites need to say, “Howdy! Glad you’re here. Can I get you anything? Are you finding everything you need?”

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Tuesday, November 10th, 2009 Search, Usability 2 Comments

Web Development Tools and Local Validators

Nick DeNardis over at .eduGuru recently wrote a post on web development tools. These browser plugins and websites help developers with issues pertaining to website validation, link checking, accessibility, page performance and more. He listed the W3C Markup Validator (aka HTML Validator), but did not list the W3C CSS Validator or the Feed Validator. He did list some browser plugins that will do similiar validation.

I’d like to add one thing to his list for universities in general – running a local copy of the W3C validation services is very valuable. We already run a local copy of the Markup Validator and will very shortly have local copies of the CSS validator and Feed Validator running as well. Having a local copy really helps when validating sites that are still behind the firewall and not accessible via URL to the W3C copy.

You can also set Firefox to use the local copies of the validators as well which will usually lead to faster validation results. It is a good idea for any web developer to take a look at Nick’s list and play with some of the tools you haven’t seen before.

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Wednesday, January 14th, 2009 Accessibility, Browsers/Plug-ins, Future Projects, HTML 1 Comment