Web accessibility can be hard to get your head around. It’s all very well talking about best practise, but without personal experience it can be very difficult to understand the day-to-day issues people face.

I’m lucky, in that my eyesight is still 20/20. Yet today I ran head-on into a common web accessibility barrier. I got a (diluted) taste of what it’s like to use a screen magnifier to browse the web (like many vision-impaired users).

I was playing on the Wii and when I’d had enough of Super Mario Galaxy for the day, I jumped over to The Internet Channel (or Opera for Wii as us web monkeys know it).

I loaded Google Mail. Alas I have a relatively small television by today’s standards, so the on-screen text was rather small. Thankfully, on the Wii it’s very easy to zoom in on a certain parts of the screen, so I did. I scrolled across to the Labels part of Google Mail and clicked one. Just as you’d expect, it updated the conversations part of the page. No problem.

Well, no problem except for the whole zoomed in bit. Because the site is built using Ajax, there hadn’t been a full-page refresh. It meant I had no way of knowing something had happened elsewhere on the page until I zoomed out again.

Now, Google also offer basic HTML versions of their web applications. These don’t use Ajax, so you get the full-page refresh (and hence you’re aware that the page has changed). That’s one way to solve the problem, but creating separate web applications for different groups of users isn’t always an option.

I’m not saying Ajax is a bad thing — rather pointing out one of it’s side effects. I’m not yet sure how I’d work around the problem (and I’d love to hear suggestions), but it’s certainly food for thought when designing for the web.

8 Responses to “Zoom”

1. Simon

Interesting you should write about accessibility, I recently went for a job interview in Bristol for a company that does a lot with it. Promptly realised I knew hardly anything about it and assuming that’s why they didn’t want me back :) So it’s something i’m going to look into a bit more myself now. I have similar experience using my archos to browse the net, as I zoom in on that. It’s amazing what you just take for granted. As for resolving it, just give me 5 mins to learn ajax ok :p

2. Matt Robin

Interesting stuff Olly. I had one of my first (legitimate) experiences of using the ‘zoom’ function of IE7 the other day (I’m restricted to using the IE browser at work – don’t ask!). The site I was viewing had an image of a road-map (of sorts) but the text was too small to read, even for me with 20/20 vision…I thought: ‘wouldn’t it be useful if I could zoom in on that bit!’…and then I remembered I could – and it really helped. Yes, that might be the only time that ever happens in my life, but it certainly showed me how useful the feature can be.

I don’t know enough about Ajax at the present time to try and think of a work-around for the problem you encountered…sounds interesting though. And I don’t own a Wii.

3. Olly

I don’t own a Wii.

You should :)

It’s not just an ajax issue, or a zoom problem either. It’s a potential problem any time you use javascript to change some content elsewhere on the page. Low-res users might not see a change that happened “below the fold”.

4. Matt Robin

You should :)

I know! ;)

5. Matt Robin

Fu**! My use of the formatting didn’t work! :D

[Fixed that for you]

6. Flo

Soooo, Is Super Mario Galaxy good then?

XD I’m only just learning how to use CSS (which is dead easy like), sounds terrible Olly, a real pain in the arse. I mean, only one part of the page refreshing! =O

Haha. =]


7. Olly

Flo, I can’t tell if you’re being sarcastic or not. The fact you’re finding CSS easy is either encouraging or very worrying. Not sure which it is yet.

Super Mario Galaxy is a must-have. It’s fantastic :)

8. wii

CSS can open up some amazing door glad that it is becoming easier for you. Great work.