I know that when I rant about web standards and usability I am usually called a fun-spoiler or told that I think too much, but there are reasons for my annoyance at people’s disregard for compliance and any sort of basic testing and that’s because — despite being a developer; far above that even — I am an Internet user: I browse and I shop.
As a non-smoker, a non-drinker, and a total geek (i.e. no social life) I have what’s known as “expendable income” floating about which (being a hermit; or “loser”) I predictably like to spend on the Internet. Games, books, geek t-shirts and other assorted crap that takes my fancy: you name it, the chances are I’ve bought it. So, it will come as no surprise that when I had to buy a new pair of shoes this week I decided to use the resource available.. the Internet.
<noscript>?) While using Firefox the website constantly gave me totally blank pages, for what seemed like no reason whatsoever (unhelpful much?) and I had to resort to Internet Exploiter.
Next on my hitlist was Clarks. Now Clarks are a well known brand, mostly bought by oldies or mothers who respect their children’s feet… and this is where it struck me as odd: if your primary audience is “the older generation”, why force them to read tiny pixel (bitmap) fonts on a blurry Flash-based background? Furthermore, forcing a pop-up which any decent browser will block, led only to continued confusion regarding why the website didn’t seem to work. If I can’t use the website, how am I supposed to buy from it? (As it turns out, there didn’t seem to be any option to buy shoes via the Clarks website so it was 30-40 minutes wasted.)
Now, this is just a small selection of the painfully difficult to browse market out there, and if I — a web-savvy Internet user — find myself struggling to use a website because of the lack of provisions they’ve put in place for anyone who deviates from the standard setup by just a smidgen, how are others going to find their browsing experience? Is it not their responsibility to ensure that I can use their website, and if necessary, warn me about what I need to do to make my shopping more pleasurable? (Because I hate shopping for shoes at the best of times.)
At the end of the day and no matter where way you swing on the whole accessibility/usability debate, if a perfectly able person has difficulties with your website, you’ve got issues. I hope as a developer I never find myself creating a website that puts someone else in the same position.