Week 35 at an Unbootcamp

Continuing to study web software accessibility, also called “a11y”, I have tried to inject more geezer-friendliness into a website.

More accessibility

During my 35th week (ending on 12 January 2018) at Learners Guild in Oakland, California, I continued studying web software accessibility, which I discussed a week earlier.

I started “giving back” just a bit, by suggesting a few improvements in some of the documentation I studied. For example, I saw the A11y Project explaining, on its “Learn more” page, why “accessibility” is often abbreviated with a numeronym, namely “a11y”. The project gave only one reason for this: brevity. It pointed out that in some situations, like tweets, every character is precious. I knew there’s an important second reason: “discoverability”. So I proposed adding that. I explained that

Searching for this subject with “accessibility”, you will find many irrelevant resources using that word in various other senses, and you will also miss resources in languages other than English. To the extent that specialists use “a11y” as an international technical term, you can find more relevant resources, and with greater precision.

Later the same day Scott Vinkle, a project maintainer, incorporated that change into the website. Such fast action is what one expects at an actively maintained open-source projects.

Making a geezer-friendly website

Most of the week I worked on developing a website aimed at a senior-citizen audience, advertising a housing cooperative unit (my own). I had a deadline, because the site was scheduled to go live the following Tuesday.

It started as a project to be developed by Green Build, a software consulting business that the Guild is setting up as a vehicle for contract work by Learners. The Green Build team got a prototype developed, using skills I hadn’t yet acquired, and I had continued the work. I was the final developer and the customer.

Making it geezer-friendly required responding to comments from genuine geezers who tried it out. Fortunately, a few geezer friends (and non-geezer fellow Learners at the Guild) were willing to do that, in response to an entry in this blog two weeks earlier. Increment by increment, they helped me discover rough edges and confusions. There’s always room for more improvement, but the launch deadline set a limit.

It is hosted at berkhouse.info, and there is a companion Multiple Listing Service page. The MLS listing is restricted to mentioning certain categories, and normally the photos there show spaces but not people. I intended to complement that with a site emphasizing the social community members of the co-op enjoy.

Commenters were not in agreement on my success (or failure). Some found the site easy to navigate and understand. Others found it “overwhelming” or complained about the impossibility of searching and scrolling through the whole site. Until time ran out, I tried to satisfy them all, but left some wishes unfulfilled.

The original prototype contained a navigation bar at the top, and scrolling was possible, too. It used a “carousel” to display photos. Accessibility norms advise against automatic timed changes, such as carousel rotations, since users may not react fast enough or may have trouble figuring out how to control the activity. I chose other mechanisms. But whether my result is more geezer-friendly may vary among users. I can still work on it, so feel free to comment further.


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