It’s been a while, but here’s my final post on the Euro IA Summit. Usability has been a design value long championed by HCI professionals from which IA has partly developed. Naturally, they’ve often been responsible for ensuring usability in projects. There have been developments that force IAs to take a broader view and see usability as one of many values that go into a successful user experience on the web. Morville realised this quite a while ago and reminded us in his keynote of his user experience honeycomb.
Accessibility is one of those other values, and quite a few talks discussed it in some way.
For instance Fredy Oré’s talk on the project he did for Digital UK (the independent, non-profit organisation leading the UK’s move to digital television) contained quite a few examples of how he as an IA was faced with accessibility problems. From figuring out how to create a site structure that would support both English as well as Welsh to working around the limitations of a legacy CMS, there were many accessibility-related decisions to make.
Bogo Vatovec summarized the results from a test he did with several content adaptation solutions (mobile web browsing applications). The state of affairs in this area appeared to be quite sordid. Opera’s mobile web browser came out as the best option currently available. However, smart software will never be the silver bullet to solve all mobile web-browsing woes. We’ll need to build sites to be accessible for a broad range of devices. I feel we need to go even one step further and create alternative architectures specifically tailored for the mobile context.
Finally Steven Pemberton flexed his W3C muscles and overwhelmed the poor non-techy IAs with a deluge of information on new web standards such as XHTML 2 and XForms. The key takeaways for me were that the W3C is still pushing for a true Semantic Web (yes, uppercase). Example: Pemberton said XHTML 2 is “microformats done right”. Also, XForms promise to be a real alternative for other RIA technology, with the main benefit that it won’t need third party technology to be installed on the client.
So again, I expect IAs to be involved in more and more accessibility-related discussions. Accessibility is one of many design values that go in a user experience. These values should be prioritised for each project. Some might even put accessibility above usability. IAs could do worse than educate themselves on some accessibility basics.
This is the fifth and final post on themes spotted during the Euro IA Summit 2006. The first post was on strategy, the second on social search, the third on process & deliverables and the fourth on involving the client. My first post-summit post can be found here.