RE: You decide

3 Jan 2005 - 8:35pm
9 years ago
18 replies
342 reads
Steven Streight
2004

Okay. I've decided that Jakob Nielsen has delivered
another brilliant commentary on site design.

I myself have addressed some of these same issues on
my own web usability blog, and in my client education
reports (my version of Alert Boxes).

To rant and flame against Jakob with "Is this the
usual Nielsenian poor communication skills showing or
a sign of design facism rearing its pretty [sic] head
again?" is unfortunate for any reasoned debate.

Name calling, that seems a bit immature maybe, but I
could be wrong.

Railing against usability seems to be a popular
pasttime...perhaps for those who squirm at the thought
accountability for their web designs that are
dreadfully annoying to use when you don't have the
time or patience to figure out non-standard
terminology and abnormal locations of needed
information or functions.

I know that some people may never really understand
the difference between Altruistic Design and
Narcissistic Design:

http://vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com/2004/06/altruistic-vs-narcissistic-web-sites.html

When Jakob said "...free users from slavery to
individual site designs," the context was bad site
design.

For a browser to provide users with quick and easy
buttons for major pages of a site, like "Help System,
Category Listings", or "Archives", "Product Lists",
"Feedback/Contact", when some sites disguise or bury
these pages--a good idea.

"Explicit Structure Commands"? I see no reason for
designers, or users (who are more important in this
respect), to not like this concept.

Maybe they can fill us in on why this ruffles their
feathers...unless they know that some of their sites
are not as clear and organized as users require for
fast, easy, satisfying operation.

For more on why some designers express anger at
usability suggestions, see:

http://vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com/2004/12/designer-hostility-to-usability.html

Designers, usability specialists, coders, CMS, IA, we
all need, and can learn from, each other.

Let's pull together to make the web a more pleasant
and productive realm.

:^]

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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Comments

3 Jan 2005 - 10:15pm
Listera
2004

Steven Streight:

> For a browser to provide users with quick and easy
> buttons for major pages of a site, like "Help System,
> Category Listings", or "Archives", "Product Lists",
> "Feedback/Contact", when some sites disguise or bury
> these pages--a good idea.

If I could try to think of an example of non-designers just not grokking the
discipline of design, I couldn't possibly come close to this unbelievably
insane idea as an example. OK, maybe not, how about an extra row or two or
three or four of hard-coded keys for "Help System, Category Listings", or
"Archives", "Product Lists", "Feedback/Contact" on the keyboard? How about
dedicated buttons/keys for sitemap, terms of use, webmaster's phone number,
corporate org chart, branch offices...? How about a big red button to
directly email the web designer's cousin's hairdresser?

I'm going back to 2004!

> Let's pull together to make the web a more pleasant
> and productive realm.

I got a better idea.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

3 Jan 2005 - 10:53pm
Dave Malouf
2005

Steven,

I think that you are missing the point in a huge way.

1. good usability ONLY happens through good design. It can't happen w/o it.

2. protecting people from bad site design, through the use of rigid
standards that are bad design, and prevent good design serve no one. There
is nothing more usable about Jakob's suggestions. Standards do not increase
usability. I say this all the time when someone says that we should do it
like Windows, b/c everyone knows Windows. Pooey! Windows, while a standard
by default of ubiquity is NOT a usable success story. It's getting better
with each release, but I wouldn't say it's a standard worth following,
that's for sure.

This is why Jakob's suggestion is well borderline ludicrous. While this
group and many others like it like AIGA, UPA, AIfIA, and in general Uxnet
are working hard to bring "design" to the center of business innovation,
statements like this fly in the face of that effort. Instead of being clear
about "bad site design" and what bad site design actually means, we get a
statement that uses the word "design" as a generality, by someone who is
considered not the king of usability but the "guru of web DESIGN" as
recently touted on a recent episode on C|Net tv or TechTV or something like
that.

Just to be clear, I don't think anyone on this list wants to make things
that are unusable. I think the vast majority of the people here believe that
aesthetics (of all varieties) are not in contradiction to usability and in
fact when form and function harmonize, aesthetic beauty is emphasized. The
best solutions we can all come up with look at all the issues in design and
do not only focus on over the others.

-- dave

David Heller
dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
http://ixdg.org
http://htmhell.com/

AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux // MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

4 Jan 2005 - 1:55am
Suresh JV
2004

Hi All,

Pardon my ignorance, but please provide me with this information.

Do automobile designers have any set of usability principles.
Do they have someone like Jakob Nielson.
Do they have any set of design guidelines to follow.

PS: These questions came out of curiosity than any other reason.

Regards,
Suresh JV.

-----Original Message-----
From:
discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesigners.com
[mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesign
ers.com]On Behalf Of David Heller
Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 9:23 AM
To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] RE: You decide

[Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant quoted material.]

Steven,

I think that you are missing the point in a huge way.

1. good usability ONLY happens through good design. It can't happen w/o it.

2. protecting people from bad site design, through the use of rigid
standards that are bad design, and prevent good design serve no one. There
is nothing more usable about Jakob's suggestions. Standards do not increase
usability. I say this all the time when someone says that we should do it
like Windows, b/c everyone knows Windows. Pooey! Windows, while a standard
by default of ubiquity is NOT a usable success story. It's getting better
with each release, but I wouldn't say it's a standard worth following,
that's for sure.

This is why Jakob's suggestion is well borderline ludicrous. While this
group and many others like it like AIGA, UPA, AIfIA, and in general Uxnet
are working hard to bring "design" to the center of business innovation,
statements like this fly in the face of that effort. Instead of being clear
about "bad site design" and what bad site design actually means, we get a
statement that uses the word "design" as a generality, by someone who is
considered not the king of usability but the "guru of web DESIGN" as
recently touted on a recent episode on C|Net tv or TechTV or something like
that.

Just to be clear, I don't think anyone on this list wants to make things
that are unusable. I think the vast majority of the people here believe that
aesthetics (of all varieties) are not in contradiction to usability and in
fact when form and function harmonize, aesthetic beauty is emphasized. The
best solutions we can all come up with look at all the issues in design and
do not only focus on over the others.

-- dave

David Heller
dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
http://ixdg.org
http://htmhell.com/

AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux // MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com

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4 Jan 2005 - 3:56am
Listera
2004

David Heller:

> by someone who is considered not the king of usability but the "guru of web
> DESIGN"

The reason I'm ticked off by design-challenged people like Jakob is that he
makes my life harder. Inevitably, someone from the client side always goes
off on a tangent about some design approach, which is often utter waste of
everyone's time but I have to deal with it because the person who brought it
up read Jakob's book/site or attended one of his seminars, etc.

However, I found a solution for this problem that's 99% good. I now carry a
few screenshots of his website on my PowerBook and whenever someone insists
on blindly following "the way" I just fire up those screenshots and ask
them, "Do you want me to design your site like this?" No client has ever
said yes yet. :-)

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

4 Jan 2005 - 7:49am
Dave Malouf
2005

Yes, there is an entire area of study and practice called ergonomics and
human factors that deals with these issues in the 3-D world for things way
beyond automobiles. The field of study historically derives from the
military for the use of aerospace and is the grandfather of what we consider
to be "usability". My aussie buddy never seems to let me forget that all we
are talking about is "human factors" ... I disagree with him b/c we are also
talking about the presentation of form and not just the use of form. But
still for much of the 3-D product world there is ergo and human factors.

Separately, that only deals with one aspect of it. The 3-D also uses
ethnographic techniques like we do and have a lot more funding for it. I
pointed everyone to the Kodak article last week and then about 2 years ago
there was a great article about the development of the Honda Element.

More generally, the entire movement of the concept car and concept computers
(anyone see Intels set of 3 "future laptops"?) are examples of getting
user/customer feedback before investing in the manufacturing process.

You think retooling code is bad? Imagine retooling a factory! Ya gotta get
it "right" before you go to production.

-- dave

> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesi
> gners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interac
> tiondesigners.com] On Behalf Of Suresh J V
> Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 1:55 AM
> To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] RE: You decide
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant
> quoted material.]
>
> Hi All,
>
> Pardon my ignorance, but please provide me with this information.
>
> Do automobile designers have any set of usability principles.
> Do they have someone like Jakob Nielson.
> Do they have any set of design guidelines to follow.
>
> PS: These questions came out of curiosity than any other reason.
>
> Regards,
> Suresh JV.
>
>
> -----Original Message-----
> From:
> discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interactiondesi
> gners.com
> [mailto:discuss-interactiondesigners.com-bounces at lists.interac
> tiondesign
> ers.com]On Behalf Of David Heller
> Sent: Tuesday, January 04, 2005 9:23 AM
> To: discuss-interactiondesigners.com at lists.interactiondesigners.com
> Subject: RE: [ID Discuss] RE: You decide
>
>
> [Please voluntarily trim replies to include only relevant
> quoted material.]
>
> Steven,
>
> I think that you are missing the point in a huge way.
>
> 1. good usability ONLY happens through good design. It can't
> happen w/o it.
>
> 2. protecting people from bad site design, through the use of rigid
> standards that are bad design, and prevent good design serve
> no one. There
> is nothing more usable about Jakob's suggestions. Standards
> do not increase
> usability. I say this all the time when someone says that we
> should do it
> like Windows, b/c everyone knows Windows. Pooey! Windows,
> while a standard
> by default of ubiquity is NOT a usable success story. It's
> getting better
> with each release, but I wouldn't say it's a standard worth following,
> that's for sure.
>
> This is why Jakob's suggestion is well borderline ludicrous.
> While this
> group and many others like it like AIGA, UPA, AIfIA, and in
> general Uxnet
> are working hard to bring "design" to the center of business
> innovation,
> statements like this fly in the face of that effort. Instead
> of being clear
> about "bad site design" and what bad site design actually
> means, we get a
> statement that uses the word "design" as a generality, by
> someone who is
> considered not the king of usability but the "guru of web DESIGN" as
> recently touted on a recent episode on C|Net tv or TechTV or
> something like
> that.
>
> Just to be clear, I don't think anyone on this list wants to
> make things
> that are unusable. I think the vast majority of the people
> here believe that
> aesthetics (of all varieties) are not in contradiction to
> usability and in
> fact when form and function harmonize, aesthetic beauty is
> emphasized. The
> best solutions we can all come up with look at all the issues
> in design and
> do not only focus on over the others.
>
> -- dave
>
> David Heller
> dave (at) ixdg (dot) org
> http://ixdg.org
> http://htmhell.com/
>
> AIM: bolinhanyc // Y!: dave_ux // MSN: hippiefunk at hotmail.com
>
>
> _______________________________________________
> Interaction Design Discussion List
> discuss at ixdg.org
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> --
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> --
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> announcements already)
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> --
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>
> _______________________________________________
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> discuss at ixdg.org
> --
> to change your options (unsubscribe or set digest):
> http://discuss.ixdg.org/
> --
> Questions: lists at ixdg.org
> --
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> announcements already)
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> --
> http://ixdg.org/
>

4 Jan 2005 - 6:32pm
Steven Streight
2004

Hijacking the user's Back button on their browser is
no solution to flawed design, IMHO.

Ever heard of an "orphan page"?

Many many web sites have orphan pages, and yet it
seems so elementary that every web site page have nav
tools, intra-site links, in and out of them, back and
forth, yet, go figure.

I often use my Back button to get out of an orphan
page.

Another example of poor, but very common design is:
click on Main Menu, click on Artists, click on Artist
Name, read about that artist, but your only option
next is Return to Main Menu, rather than Return to
Artist List, or even Next Artist, or a search box to
type in artist name.

It's like the designer didn't even bother to test the
site him/herself. How could you miss something so
basic as simple linear navigation?

It's not that designers are 100% to blame. We know
they are bullied by ignorant clients and bosses. But
that's why usability professionals have plenty to do.

If I state a general usability guideline, I love for
designers to jump on it and explain how in real world
design this guideline must be expanded, revised, or be
cognizant of certain exceptions that can be
encountered.

Sarcasm and hyperbole is funny sometimes, but I don't
derive much practical data from it.

It's not Usability vs. Design.

It's Web Professionals vs.
Confusion/Frustration/Inefficiency.

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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4 Jan 2005 - 8:26pm
Steven Streight
2004

David Heller: I agree with your point of view
expressed concerning the irrational "Us vs. Them"
mentality.

I repeatedly state that the civil war between
Usability and Design is idiotic, counter-productive,
and unnecessary.

There is no need to be extreme or dogmatic on either
so-called side.

A web site is designed. A group of representative
users attempt to accomplish things at the site.
Usability professionals observe, ask questions,
monitor performance, and report back to the designer.
Together, they strive to fix whatever might be wrong
with the site, or what could enhance it to improve the
speed and ease of use.

The example of "orphan pages" and Back buttons is a
good one. No designer in his or her right mind would
want to present a mouse trap to any user. And no
usability specialist wants to accuse a designer of
being insensitive to user requirements.

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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4 Jan 2005 - 8:37pm
Dave Malouf
2005

> The example of "orphan pages" and Back buttons is a
> good one. No designer in his or her right mind would
> want to present a mouse trap to any user. And no
> usability specialist wants to accuse a designer of
> being insensitive to user requirements.

Steven,

I think our difference of opinion on the "back button" is that you think it
is necessary to help w/ orphan pages and I think we (designers and usability
specialists) should do better to not have them.

The basic problem is that we (all of us) have done such a bad job until very
recently that the back button has become almost 2nd nature to the end user
and they now use it whether it is an "orphan page" or not.

While in a more linear navigation model that most information consumption
sites have this is not disruptive, this is not the only use for the web
browser any longer and we need to consider that web browsers for now and for
a while to come are the primary thin-client environment for dynamic
distributed GUI applications from everything like photo-sharing to
x-enterprise content management and workflow management systems.

This newer reality has to be considered and no matter what environment your
primary design universe of problems is you need to be thinking about the
total problem set of the browser whether temporary or permanent. Yes, there
might be better solutions on their way, but they aren't there now.

So should we do something for the "just in case" there is an orphan page? Or
should we do something to make sure there isn't an orphan page? The reason I
think the latter is that that "orphan page" may have to be viewable in many
different browsers and I'm pretty confident I can't change them all any time
soon (desktop-based browser, phone-based, PDA based, screen-reader, and
others). As we know there are many different ones of each.

I think my main point is the the solution presented by Nielsen is one
looking way too narrow for the total problem space we are living with.

-- dave

5 Jan 2005 - 5:01pm
Steven Streight
2004

I have seen web sites that use pretty pictures, zany
animations, attractive color schemes, innovative
functionalities, and expansive modalities.

But when I need an intellectual common property, i.e.
idea, solution, I want words, specific instructions
and recommends.

Not a circus, video arcade, or television. Unless as a
limited metaphor of a site devoted to one of them.

Just a paragraph of good info.

For a service devoted to ideas expressed in words, a
text oriented web site, text only or text dominant,
could be appropriate.

Not necessarily should it be regarded as certainly a
"reaction against" or a "negative comment upon" some
unrelated concept.

Now let's look at each other's sites and see if we
live up to what we proclaim, as much as the boss or
client or provider allows us to that is.

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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5 Jan 2005 - 8:55pm
Steven Streight
2004

A usability analyst is not offering designs, this
specialist is offering evaluation of design relative
to heuristics ("rules of thumb", general guidelines
applicable to some degree, in most cases), or actual
user observation tests.

Though a usability analyst comments on design,
comments can also be made on coding, platforms, IA,
CMS, the entire range of human computer interaction
and transaction.

The usability analyst's commercial site may differ
from the informational site. Abundant free information
establishes practical expertise, and conceptual
orientation, which hopefully will attract clients who
seek specific, idiosyncratic input.

Usability is not "against" design, artistry,
aesthetics, innovation, or creativity.

Usability guidelines are not meant to be straitjackets
to stifle autonomy or inspired expression.

Many products are "field tested" as one check on end
user viability and customer satisfaction.

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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6 Jan 2005 - 12:15pm
Steven Streight
2004

As a Usability Professional, my critique of this
thread is that it's mislabeled. A poorly written topic
title.

Especially since an indepedent opinion on the topic is
held, by some, to be heresy. What a lovely inquisition
is going on. As though little words could intimidate
anyone.

Even elevating "design" to some pure entity that is
some kind of cure for "bad design", which purists
would say is "no design at all" to be consistent in
their argument. Very funny. Charmingly
anti-intellectual.

The cure for bad design? Well, how do you know, aside
from heuristics, that it's bad? Only two major ways:
it fails to advance corporate goals...or it fails to
satisfy users and enable them to accomplish things.

The cure for bad design begins, normally, with a user
observation test to really pinpoint what needs fixing.
Design Quality is totally unknown, in real world
applications, until some kind of objective feedback
from users is obtained.

THE ANTI-NIELSEN MANTRA:

(repeat robotically until it comes natural)

"Designers must hate Jakob Nielsen. Designers must
disparage usability analysis. Web designs must not be
subjected to the harsh light of day. Web designs must
please me and my boss and impress other designers.
Designers must not elevate user needs above designer
vanity and arrogance. Amen."

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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6 Jan 2005 - 12:39pm
Ben Hunt
2004

"Designers must hate Jakob Nielsen. Designers must
disparage usability analysis. Web designs must not be
subjected to the harsh light of day. Web designs must
please me and my boss and impress other designers.
Designers must not elevate user needs above designer
vanity and arrogance. Amen."

Alternatively...

Brian: Brothers, why are we fighting each other? Shouldn't we all unite
to fight against the common enemy?
All: SIGCHI!!!
Brian: No! Jakob Nielsen!!
All: Oh yeah, he's right, yeah...

6 Jan 2005 - 1:29pm
Steven Streight
2004

Oh no. The one word that is even more imposing than
"usability"--the dreaded designer nemesis,
"accessibility"!

How dogmatic and inflexible are those Accessibility
Rules. How they thunder from Mount Sinai with
terrifying flashes of code lightning.

Now, all we have to do, I suppose, is find a straw
man, some Accessibility Guru to despise and find fault
with, then we can go back to Design As Usual.

Or, we could act like we voluntarily see the wisdom in
and embrace Accessibility Mandates, since we legally
are bound to do so, but rail against Usability
Suggestions until we are legally or professionally
bound to embrace them.

RSS feeders are freeing users from two major problems:

1. bad web site design that slows and complicates
information foraging

2. time consumed going to each individual site to
obtain information

And yes, RSS feeders are definitely an example of
explicit structural commands on a browser, whilst not
being exactly what that "usability pundit/genius" was
describing, it's in the same general field of web
usage expediting.

=====
Steven Streight
Web Usability Analyst/Content Writer

http://www.vaspersthegrate.blogspot.com
http://www.streightsite.blogspot.com
http://www.arttestexplosion.blogspot.com
EMAIL: vaspersthegrate at yahoo.com

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6 Jan 2005 - 1:54pm
Listera
2004

Steven Streight:

> And yes, RSS feeders are definitely an example of
> explicit structural commands on a browser...

What on earth are "RSS feeders"?

If you mean RSS readers, they have nothing whatsoever to do with a web
browser to begin with.

Sure you can read an RSS feed on a browser, but you certainly don't have to
and until recently you couldn't even if you wanted to; that's why they are a
distinct form of software called RSS readers.

If "RSS feeders are definitely an example of explicit structural commands on
a browser" then so are FTP apps, audio/video streaming apps, Flash, Word,
PDF, MP3... ad absurdum.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

6 Jan 2005 - 2:06pm
Jonathan Grubb
2004

> > And yes, RSS feeders are definitely an example of
> > explicit structural commands on a browser...
>
> If you mean RSS readers, they have nothing whatsoever to do with a web
> browser to begin with.

I have to disagree with you on this one Ziya.

RSS readers *replace* web browsers for the specific function of reading syndicated articles. Separating content from layout is generally a Good Thing, and the web browser is not the best place to consume certain types of content. This is why we're seeing more internet connected desktop apps; the growing list includes email, rss, IM, multi-player games, calendars, photo management...

6 Jan 2005 - 2:22pm
Manu Sharma
2003

Ziya:
> If you mean RSS readers, they have nothing whatsoever to do with a
web
> browser to begin with.

JohnathanGrubb:
> RSS readers *replace* web browsers for the specific function of
reading syndicated articles.

Yes. I mentioned RSS readers in the context of, and under the title,
"Freedom from slavery of individual site designs."

Manu.

6 Jan 2005 - 2:24pm
Listera
2004

Jonathan Grubb:

>> If you mean RSS readers, they have nothing whatsoever to do with a web
>> browser to begin with.
>
> I have to disagree with you on this one Ziya.
>
> RSS readers *replace* web browsers...

Of course they do. But that has nothing explicitly to do with the browser
itself. In other words, you can still have an RSS feed and an RSS reader
merrily working together even if the web browser were not even invented yet!
Same with FTP, QT, PDF, etc. Oops, those were in existence before the birth
of the web browser after all.

Ziya
Nullius in Verba

6 Jan 2005 - 2:47pm
Daniel Harvey
2004

Steven Streight said:

"Now, all we have to do, I suppose, is find a straw
man, some Accessibility Guru to despise and find fault
with, then we can go back to Design As Usual."

Well, Joe Clark would be the first name to spring to mind as a likely target -- if such a thing were to happen.

"Or, we could act like we voluntarily see the wisdom in
and embrace Accessibility Mandates, since we legally
are bound to do so, but rail against Usability
Suggestions until we are legally or professionally
bound to embrace them."

508 standards legally only apply to work for the Government. Part of the reason why we hear as much as we do about the virtues of CSS is because of designers that want to bring accessibility to projects outside of that domain.

You're being needlessly confrontational, I feel, Steven.

Daniel Harvey
Interaction Design Director
R/GA 350 West 39th Street New York, NY 10018 www.rga.com <http://www.rga.com>

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