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:
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,
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.