Accessibility Through Semantic HTML

Great article by Laura Kalbag on why semantic HTML is better for usability and accessibility:

As developers, we like to use divs and spans as they’re generic elements. They come with no associated default browser styles or behaviour except that div displays as a block, and span displays inline. If we make our page up out of divs and spans, we know we’ll have absolute control over styles and behaviour cross-browser, and we won’t need a CSS reset.

Absolute control may seem like an advantage, but there’s a greater benefit to less generic, more semantic elements. Browsers render semantic elements with their own distinct styles and behaviours. For example, button looks and behaves differently from a. And ul is different from ol. These defaults are shortcuts to a more usable and accessible web. They provide consistent and well-tested components for common interactions.

It’s pretty common to see “div-itis.” Where there’s a semantic HTML element nested many layers deep in a series of divs. I’m certainly guilty of this, but i’m conscious of it and try to look for ways to improve. Developers should really start paying attention to their HTML. It’s seems to be the first thing ignored.


Good usability is good accessibility

This is my experience as well. In fact, when I previously performed in-person usability testing with blind participants, one individual even stated that often times sites or apps are not usable at all, nevermind accessibility issues.

Vintage Soviet Control Rooms

These Vintage Soviet control rooms are stunning. Pre-GUI interfaces like these control centers should be the study of UI Designers as there is much to learn from the layout, control types, and schematics.

Matthew Green on Encryption

Matthew Green, Cryptographer at Johns Hopkins, writing on encryption in light of recent Kaspersky reports:

At the end of the day we, as a society, have a decision to make. We can adopt the position that your data must always be accessible—first to the company that made your software and secondly to its government. This will in some ways make law enforcement’s job easier, but at a great cost to industry and our own cybersecurity. It will make us more vulnerable to organized hackers and could potentially balkanize the tech industry—exposing every U.S. software firm to the same suspicions that currently dog Kaspersky.

Alternatively, we can accept that to protect user data, companies have let it go—and the single most powerful tool technologists have developed to accomplish this goal is encryption. Software with encryption can secure your data, and in the long run this—properly deployed and verified—can help our software industry spread competitively across the world. This will not be without costs: It will make (some) crimes harder to solve. But the benefits will be real as well.

Software and service providers are not deploying encryption merely to frustrate the U.S. government. Providers know their business far better than the Justice Department does—when they choose to deploy encryption, it’s because their business depends on it. And while it may be frustrate law enforcement, in this case Silicon Valley’s interests and consumers’ interests are aligned.

On App Icons

This post from the Pixelmator blog is great, loved this part:

The app icon is a fundamental part of any app. I personally judge apps by their icons and I am very comfortable admitting that. The icon is a reflection of lots of things, including quality, beauty, innovation, platform nativeness, and even the developer’s values. All of this is visible from the very first glimpse. It’s incredibly rare for an app with a beautiful icon to be crap. Even more, app icons are of utmost importance in macOS, since we, Mac users, care a lot about how our apps look and feel.

America's Gladiator Sport

This comment from a Hacker News thread:

Football is America’s gladiator sport. For all the fun, the money, the excitement, the money, the drama, the bombast, the cheerleaders, and even the money, we should remind ourselves that American football is a very violent sport rife with injury and long term disability, and our participation as passive spectators and consumers makes us just as responsible for the incentive structure that harms so many young men for the rest of their lives.

And yet we can’t stop. Football is practically an addiction in this country, and I don’t think there is one serious proposal that could reduce the size and scope of injuries and brain trauma in particular, and allows the game to continue in its current familiar form. So we tuck the problem under the rug and pretend it doesn’t exist until moments of faux anguish pierce our veil of doped-up depravity.

Sorry if this post comes across as depressing and masochistic. After all, I am a Bills fan.

Excerpt from Resilient Web Design

Really great new web book from Jeremy Keith, I loved this part:

Despite JavaScript’s fragile error‐handling model, web designers became more reliant on JavaScript over time. In 2015, NASA relaunched its website as a web app. If you wanted to read the latest news of the agency’s space exploration efforts, you first had to download and execute three megabytes of JavaScript. This content—text and images—could have been delivered in the HTML, but the developers decided to use Ajax to retrieve this data instead. Until all that JavaScript was loaded, parsed, and executed, visitors to the site were left staring at a black background. Perhaps this was intended as a demonstration of the vast lonely emptiness of space.

Mozilla Won

There has been some back and forth between Mozilla and Chrome in regards to browser market share. While Chrome has signifigantly higher market share, I found this HN comment spot on:

But I don’t think Mozilla lost.

I worked for Mozilla for a few years, after seeing John Lily (CEO at the time) speak. It was right after Chrome started getting popular, and a smug person in the crowd asked him about how he felt about Chrome.

John’s response was awesome. “This is the web that we wanted. We exist not because we want everyone to use Firefox, but because we wanted people to have a choice” Firefox was a response to a world of “best viewed in IE” badges, and it changed the browser landscape.

Now, we have options. Chrome is great, but so are Safari, Edge, Brave, Opera and Firefox. There’s a lot of options out there, and they’re all standards compliment. And that’s thanks to Mozilla.

So, in my mind, Mozilla won. It’s a non-profit, and it forced us into an open web. We got the world they wanted. Maybe the world is a bit Chrome-heavy currently, but at least it’s a standards compliment world.

I hope Mozilla sees that. I hope they take credit, and move on to what’s next: privacy and net neutrality. Our privacy is under attack, and Mozilla is one of the few companies that can (and would want to) help. I know, I know. Nobody cares about privacy. Nobody cared about web standards, either, but Mozilla bundled it into an attractive package and it worked. It’s time for Mozilla to declare victory, high five the Chrome team, and move on to the next big challenge.

We really need someone to fight for our privacy and neutrality. And I really believe that this could be Mozilla’s swan song.