What can you answer to your client when you try to explain that your code is semantic, crossbrowser and…accessible and your client asks you “Good for you you’re coding accessible websites, but do you actually know any blind user?” Meaning, why should someone care about how you code a site as long as table-based code is still ok and cheap?
Well…you may remain speechless. Cause I really don’t know any blind person nor a person using assistive technology altough I do know people that need to increase the font-size or lower the screen resolution to be able to read better. But even if I did not “see” one that should not mean they don’t exist – but how can this be proved?
Since assistive technologies do not leave traces, maybe a solution is to see who’s clicking the a+ a++ buttons. This surely will leave some trace, right?
So we started an experiment: we wrote a script counting the number of clicks performed on the a+ a++ buttons (I know it’s not very scientific – anyone can click – but we’re counting on the fact that our users do not know about the experiment and that at least a small percentage of the clicks will be genuine). Every click is counted and written in a file. We compare it to the Google Analytics stats and hope to obtain some information about this aspect of the sites.
After a month of comparing both methods we saw that the a+/ a++ navigation was clicked on a daily basis (even though one site was selling Christmas decorations !!! ) and most of the time a++ was the star ! Between 5% and 8% of the visitors were clicking these links and that is more than the number of clicks on “about” or “contact” links.
Now, the question that started this article remains – what is the best answer for the client asking “Good for you you’re coding accessible websites, but do you actually know any blind user?”
I know almost every blogger wrote about this subject (lately all complaining about IE6 still being used by common users) – but this time I think we should take all this to the next level and start doing something about it.
I admit I don’t usually have contact with the final clients or have access to their websites stats – working as a freelancer made me lose contact with the real world and soon I started to believe that IE6 is slowly dissapearing. My sites’ stats show that Mozilla “rulz” when it comes to browsers and slowly, over the years, I began hoping that maybe one day I won’t have to code for IE6 anymore. The release of IE8 should have been the final stroke.
I was wrong. On most of the websites I code Internet Explorer is the master and mostly IE6 (I saw IE 5 too). We’re talking about brochure sites for small companies from Western Europe targeting users over 30years. Not IT sites read by coders who probably have all the existent brosers installed on their computers.
So it’s time to do something – we cannot talk to everybody asking to upgrade but we can add some custom message into our code to encourage users to upgrade. It’s safe, it’s free and it’s recommended. Starting from simple messages/ icons in the footer/sidebars of the websites you code to a more “extreme” solution like “IE6 Upgrade Warning Script” asking you to upgrade your browser and choose from IE8, Mozilla, Safari, Opera & Chrome. I think this kind of script scares people but maybe a small percentage will actually click.
I know I did not re-invent the wheel, coders wrote about this a long time ago – but no common user is reading IT blogs or actually talking about browsers at the pub – so I think a lot of messages shot blank by addressing to the wrong users. Asking permission from the final client to use their site help people move on from IE6 towards something better is my idea.
I look forward to reading about yours.