New Accessibility Site Devoted to Best Practices

Access Matters Building on the quiz idea originated by Dan Cederholm at Simple Bits, this new site from Bob Easton uses quizzes to try to determine best practices. Easton says, “Join me in the search for accessibility best practices. Are practices and techniques developed several years ago still valid as web technology evolves? Designers and developers are continuously changing their techniques. As we move away from using tables for layout to using CSS for layout, what accessibility techniques need to be updated? This blog uses a quiz format to seek current best practices. Many, but not all, questions ask about techniques that can be used in designs using CSS for layout. I ask about specific situations and see how the best minds in the industry answer.”

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Why colleges should stop teaching Fireworks as a primary web design tool

Here’s a recurring scenario in my life. Someone who took some college classes to learn to make web sites has decided to try to implement CSS and to make their sites accessible. The classes taught them to make web sites by using Fireworks to slice an image and to export the resulting table-based HTML to Dreamweaver. Now this person, who–I admit–does beautiful graphics in Fireworks, comes to me or to some discussion list I participate in and asks for help in making their Fireworks generated HTML work with CSS or fulfill some accessibility need. This question is like asking how to get a tricycle to go from zero to 60 in under 6 seconds—it demonstrates a gap in the basic knowledge of what is involved.

Some college has given this poor person a difficult handicap to overcome. That handicap is the belief that what they are doing is a best practice that will adapt to every requirement. Yes, Fireworks can generate HTML. No, learning to generate HTML with Fireworks is not the best way to learn to make web sites.

In terms of best practice, students should be learning how to structure an HTML document intelligently so that it can be presented with CSS based enhancements (including, perhaps, lovely images created in Fireworks). An intelligently structured HTML document can adapt to every requirement: CSS/accessibility for screen, print, handheld, etc.

A sliced image exported from Fireworks as a table full of empty cells, spacer gifs, images and almost no text is not the web design solution that some college classes lead students to believe it is. Classes should teach HTML, CSS, and then how to apply that knowledge with a tool like Dreamweaver.

Fireworks does have its place: to create graphics. It should be taught as a graphics design tool, not as a web design tool. Students who use Fireworks to create exportable HTML should know how to adapt it in Dreamweaver to make it meet their other requirements.

There are many options available to an instructor who wants to teach students to think in terms of building structure with HTML that will support CSS and accessibility. My own book is written in these terms, and other books I have reviewed here such as Web Standards Solutions by Dan Cederholm are as well.

Sybex sponsors Digital Photo Contest

Sybex Photo Gallery explains how to win $1,000 from Sybex.

Send your best 3 digital photos to www.sybex.com between now and 4/1/05 for a chance to win up to $1,000 and publication in a Sybex book. The judge will be Tim Grey, author of Color Confidence (read my review here) and Photo Finish from Sybex.

1st Prize: $1,000 and publication in a Sybex book

2nd Prize: $500 and publication in a Sybex book
3rd Prize: The Digital Photographer’s Library (retail: $99.95), with books by Mikkel Aaland, Peter K. Burian, and Tim Grey.