I am about to be a total and utter hypocrite*.
In my previous, and to a limited degree in my current, jobs – I was a mild drum-beater for making websites accessible for those who have problems with their eyesight (or whatever the current PC term is).
I did this partly as it makes good business sense, partly as it is technically illegal not to, and partly self-interest as my own eyesight is fading and I sometimes have to adjust the colour/fonts on websites to be able to read them.
I also have a general distaste for fussy websites that are fussy for no reason other than to be fussy.
Do deliver the information in an aesthetically pleasing manner – but don’t put aesthetics before information.
This morning, the website for the 2012 Olympics appallingly badly named “game makers” was launched. Ignoring why they can’t just be called “volunteers”, a role that everyone would instantly recognise, the website is a disaster.
Here is the website (as advertised on Twitter) http://www.london2012.com/get-involved/volunteer/index.php
Nope – still not at the questionnaire yet – http://www.london2012.com/get-involved/volunteer/game/index.html
I then got a really nasty, bloated webpage that is entirely made in Flash, which does a quite good job of trying to overload my laptop with its wizzy flashy silliness.
Try it – I defy anyone to suspect it’s target audience is 5-year old kids.
However, try viewing it as if you are using a computer optimised for people who have viewing problems.
This is what I saw when I disabled Flash (as is usual for partially sighted users).
(For the record, I tried visiting the site from the very beginning page to see if there is a redirect based on browser compatibility. There isn’t)
Any half-decent website designer would ensure that there is a plain HTML version of the website available for people who can’t or won’t use the Flash plug in.
We are not talking about some highly complex webpage that really, really needed all the wizz-bang that can only be delivered by using Flash. This is a childishly simple questionnaire that could have been quickly delivered by a junior webmonkey without breaking into a sweat using off the shelf web tools.
To insist on using Flash is not just a strange decision, but it breaks all the fundamental rules about making content accessible to as wide a range of users as possible.
For an event that has a very strong remit to appeal to disabled people – if nothing else, because of the Paralympics – making sure the website is accessible should be one of the core requirements of the online team.
You’d have thought they would have learnt a lesson with the fuss over their dayglo flashing website allegedly triggering epilepsy in some people a few years ago.
*The hypocrisy? This blog isn’t very good on mobile websites, which is a related issue to making websites accessible. It’s one of the many things I have on my to do list.