Explaining Standards

So I’ve run into an issue wherein, after carefully building an accessible, standards-compliant site, the client (who initially demanded the accessibility of the site), has slowly but surely asked to have various elements removed. I’d posted (on the index page), one of those hidden upgrade messages. It said something to the effect of: ‘while this site is viewable by all internet devices, it will look best in a modern browser. For information on how and why to upgrade, click here’, where click here was a link to the WaSP’s upgrade page. So perhaps not the ideal link, but workable, and easily modifiable to be perhaps more corporate or friendly. However, the client did quite rightly point out that no one cares about standards, they just care that it works. But now, the upgrade message says:

Based on our User Statistics, this site has been designed for
Internet Explorer, Version 5.0 or higher, and Netscape, Version 6.0 or higher.
If you would like to upgrade your browser now for optimal viewing of the site,
click here

Which isn’t exactly wrong, but it isn’t exactly true either. And what’s really annoying me is the link only to IE. Were it up to me, there’d be several links, or if only one, probably a link to Mozilla or Netscape. But now I feel like this site’s warning is like one of those old ‘This site works best in IE5, 1024 x 768 resolution’ messages that I hated. Much work was put in to make this cross-browser, standards-compliant. It degrades beautifully. It reads well (Although flatly, as I didn’t put in a voice style-sheet) in text-readers. It’s perfectly functional in Lynx. I was forced to remove the hidden ‘skip navigation’ link, as the tester was using Netscape 4.08, and was annoyed by always seeing that at the top of the page (it of course not being hidden there).

Which brings up a whole raft of questions for me. How far is too far when evangelising/following standards? Should accessibility come before (average) usability? For that matter, when is a design ‘broken’ as it degrades to older browsers? If I know that say, 5% of the users are using version 4 (or older!) browsers, but these 5% are an important 5% (like, for instance, the BoG), should I make sure it looks good for them, even though the site is really for their clients, for whom the site works? Because no matter how hard I try, I can’t seem to get across to clients that their website is not really for them, but for their audience. But then maybe it needs to be as much for them as for their audience? etc.

Thoughts?

12 Replies to “Explaining Standards”

  1. My normal strategy is to design for the vast majority and not post any warning at all.

    Old-browser users are very used to hitting sites that look wonky to them (I’m also convinced that a chunk of the old-browser stats are web developers testing sites).

    People with rotary phones understand that life would be easier with a touch-tone phone. Nobody in those little phone menus tells you to go get a touch-tone phone if you don’t. They do give you an option to talk to a real person or an aswering machine, which might be a good online solution to: don’t post a warning, post an acessible phone number or email address.

    Those warnings also make me laugh a little. It’s kind of an ego-trip to announce that this is the site that will finally make a given visitor upgrade. There are lots of advertising and other hints letting people know what the latest version is.

    The exception for me in all this is Flash, where I’ll post a small, simple link to get the plugin. Another thing I do is try and stay the hell away from DHTML when I can find another solution, as it seems to be an accesibility nightmare, even with recent browsers.

    Yes, often the client or a client stakeholder will be the problem. I recommend gettting them to upgrade as part of the discovery process. Getting a client to understand the nature of the web is part of the job. I recently had a client who was frustrated with the lack of progress on the design of the homepage and asked if the site could just not have a homepage at all. It happens, it will happen again.

    If the client is one of these rare people who actually really cares about accesibility, I’ll make it accessible down to version 3.0. Stick to un-nested tables, don’t use graphics for layout, etc. and don’t put any warnings on.

    That’s my take on it.

  2. My normal strategy is to design for the vast majority and not post any warning at all.

    Old-browser users are very used to hitting sites that look wonky to them (I’m also convinced that a chunk of the old-browser stats are web developers testing sites).

    People with rotary phones understand that life would be easier with a touch-tone phone. Nobody in those little phone menus tells you to go get a touch-tone phone if you don’t. They do give you an option to talk to a real person or an aswering machine, which might be a good online solution to: don’t post a warning, post an acessible phone number or email address.

    Those warnings also make me laugh a little. It’s kind of an ego-trip to announce that this is the site that will finally make a given visitor upgrade. There are lots of advertising and other hints letting people know what the latest version is.

    The exception for me in all this is Flash, where I’ll post a small, simple link to get the plugin. Another thing I do is try and stay the hell away from DHTML when I can find another solution, as it seems to be an accesibility nightmare, even with recent browsers.

    Yes, often the client or a client stakeholder will be the problem. I recommend gettting them to upgrade as part of the discovery process. Getting a client to understand the nature of the web is part of the job. I recently had a client who was frustrated with the lack of progress on the design of the homepage and asked if the site could just not have a homepage at all. It happens, it will happen again.

    If the client is one of these rare people who actually really cares about accesibility, I’ll make it accessible down to version 3.0. Stick to un-nested tables, don’t use graphics for layout, etc. and don’t put any warnings on.

    That’s my take on it.

  3. How much time do you wish to spend? If you don’t mind hours in explaning what you are doing, and then extra hours in re-explaining it down the road when you realize that it wasn’t understood the first time then go for it. I suppose that my feeling is that it’s a good idea to try to do the “right thing” at first, but when the person signing the cheque starts to complain then just do what they want. You could even have the client sign something to let them acknowledge that they want their website done in this particular way- so your role as a designer for THER clients is out of your hands.

  4. How much time do you wish to spend? If you don’t mind hours in explaning what you are doing, and then extra hours in re-explaining it down the road when you realize that it wasn’t understood the first time then go for it. I suppose that my feeling is that it’s a good idea to try to do the “right thing” at first, but when the person signing the cheque starts to complain then just do what they want. You could even have the client sign something to let them acknowledge that they want their website done in this particular way- so your role as a designer for THER clients is out of your hands.

  5. We try to have this discussion right from the get-go. We cover it in the initial design meeting, and we talk through scenarios like, “What if you get an email from someone freaking out that they can’t view your site in Netscape 3?” Most of our clients go, “I dunno… what do you do?” And we say, “Well, 90% of the web probably looks like crap to them, so we tell them to upgrade.” So far, our clients have agreed with us that they are happy to do away with that group of users.

    We also like to remind them that the 98% of people who can see their site fine won’t be the ones contacting them to let them know how it looks, so if they get a few complaints it’s likely only representing a tiny fraction of the total visitors.

  6. We try to have this discussion right from the get-go. We cover it in the initial design meeting, and we talk through scenarios like, “What if you get an email from someone freaking out that they can’t view your site in Netscape 3?” Most of our clients go, “I dunno… what do you do?” And we say, “Well, 90% of the web probably looks like crap to them, so we tell them to upgrade.” So far, our clients have agreed with us that they are happy to do away with that group of users.

    We also like to remind them that the 98% of people who can see their site fine won’t be the ones contacting them to let them know how it looks, so if they get a few complaints it’s likely only representing a tiny fraction of the total visitors.

  7. How much can you worry about how things look in older browsers? If you can run an older vesion of IE, or NS, you can easily download the latest version. Worrying excessively about how a site degrades, seems to mean spending a huge amount of build time just so that a few archaic people can put off updating a little longer. And I don’t even pay people to build my site.

    Were I pencilneck creations client, I would ask that you not bother worrying about how a site degrades. Whatever I want to sell on my website, I’d figure people that don’t run a recent web browser either A)are cheap, and therefore probably not interested in buying whatever I’m selling or B)are technophobes that can’t figure out how to upgrade their browser, and therefore aren’t really going to use or trust any information on my website beyond a mailing address and telephone number.

    Cambodian farmers earning $2 a day use the latest version of IE to check their email.

  8. How much can you worry about how things look in older browsers? If you can run an older vesion of IE, or NS, you can easily download the latest version. Worrying excessively about how a site degrades, seems to mean spending a huge amount of build time just so that a few archaic people can put off updating a little longer. And I don’t even pay people to build my site.

    Were I pencilneck creations client, I would ask that you not bother worrying about how a site degrades. Whatever I want to sell on my website, I’d figure people that don’t run a recent web browser either A)are cheap, and therefore probably not interested in buying whatever I’m selling or B)are technophobes that can’t figure out how to upgrade their browser, and therefore aren’t really going to use or trust any information on my website beyond a mailing address and telephone number.

    Cambodian farmers earning $2 a day use the latest version of IE to check their email.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.