Long live the WordPress community – and a new look!

A friend in the WordPress community saved my blog today, so this blog post is dedicated to her. 🙂

Let’s back up for a moment. I attended WordCamp this past weekend. In fact, I was one of the organizers together with the awesome team of @markgazel, @dejliglama, @risager, and @anetq. WordCamp Denmark 2014 was also awesome. That is not an exaggeration. Our hosts, One.com, provided excellent facilities and great food. And they are blessed with an employee who thinks baking gigantic cakes for 150 people is fun!

What happened at WordCamp does not stay at WordCamp. Those stories will get shared. The WordCamp site has links to the slides and the photos, etc. I left in a fantastic mood from the last three conversation there with three happy people. They were all so excited by the weekend that they said they wanted to get more involved in the community around WordCamp. The excitement was tangible. I left with lots of warm fuzzies.

I went home and said thank you to all the participants by posting in the various Danish WordPress groups on Facebook. I also expressed the hope that those who couldn’t attend this year would come next year. And I plugged our monthly WordPress Meetups in Copenhagen.

It was probably one of these postings that caused one of my friends on Facebook to check out my blog – and find it replaced by one of those “this site is hosted by” messages. This is where my little blog was saved.

One.com offered WordCamp attendees free hosting, and I took advantage of that over the weekend. When the redelegation came through, I thought more about my email than my blog. Thanks to my friend’s kind nudge, my site is up and running again. I said goodbye to the Beast-Blog theme by Mike Cherim that I had used for more than 7 years. It was an accessible theme, and I loved those green leaves, but it hadn’t been updated for ages, and that is a dangerous thing. Thank goodness I knew about the Blaskan (accessible) theme. I can’t talk about accessibility and not have an accessible theme!

The Danish WordPress community has always been helpful and generous in spirit. I felt like the message about my troubled blog was just one more example of how we help each other out. The episode gave me an opportunity to thank her anonymously here, announce the change on my site, and give a little shout-out to all the people I know who work with WordPress professionally or just for the sheer fun of it all.

This entire episode is almost worthy of a new Hanni Ross presentation called “How to really and truly break your blog, and how to fix it”. 🙂

My Ignite talk at UX Camp CPH 2014

My Ignite talk on the first day of UX Camp CPH was a success! Here is the transcript. The video is available on Slideshare and is embedded at the end of the transcript. All images are described here in parentheses for each slide. If there is an RM before the word “image”, it means the images come from Rosenfeld Media’s Flickr account where they are CC by 2.0. All other images are my own or from Wikimedia Commons .

The text here is my guess as to what I said! It was based on some key words, but somewhat spontaneous and changed over the many times I practiced!

Slide 1

Hi. We are going to talk about user experience over today and tomorrow here, in case you hadn’t noticed. I want to talk about accessible user experience. I have a few minutes to discuss this. You have a lifetime to follow up.

Slide 2

Let’s start with an example of a pain point we all know. The cost of the development/design lifecycle. Fixes are cheap early on, but expense late in the process. Accessibility is often thought of late, so it’s expensive, so it gets dropped. How can we change this pattern? (Image shows an x, y axis with a Euro sign on the y axis and a clock on the x axis. A curve starts low on the money and time axes and moves right, curving up to be high on the money and time axes. Hand-drawn in Sketch on the iPad.)

Slide 3

There are a couple of books that can help you build accessibility in from the beginning. One is the free, online book called Just Ask, which is a great resource. I want to focus on A Web for Everyone published in January by Rosenfeld Media – a sponsor! It’s the inspiration for my talk.
(Images of the two books’ covers.)

Slide 4

The authors [Whitney Quesenbery and Sarah Horton] propose a framework of 9 principles for helping you build a practice of accessible user experience. I am going to introduce you to those 9 principles now.

  1. People first
  2. Clear purpose
  3. Solid structure
  4. Easy interaction
  5. Helpful way finding
  6. Clean presentation
  7. Plain language
  8. Accessible media
  9. Universal usability

Slide 5

Principle 1. People first
I hope this is an obvious choice for you. You know about personas. Well, are you designing for differences? Are you working with people with disabilities? (RM images for some of the personas from the “A Web for Everyone” book: Persona Carol, Persona Trevor, Persona Jacob, Persona Lea) You really should be because…

Slide 6

Disability is … a universal human experience. (Extract from a quote from WHO at http://www.who.int/classifications/icf/en/) I keep using this quote in my presentations and will continue to do so to hammer home this message. We all have various abilities and we should be designing for them.

Slide 7

When we ignore people with disabilities, we are creating Digital Outcasts. Technology can leave these people behind, but… necessity being the mother of invention, they are doing it for themselves. A lot of innovation is going on here. Why not work with people with disabilities and benefit from that synergy?
(Image of the book “Digital Outcasts” by Kel Smith.)

Slide 8

Principle 2. Clear purpose
This is having clear goals. Imagine working on the user experience of voting forms for an entire nation. You certainly need to consider different abilities. Once you start working that way, I think accessibility will always be part of how you work. (Reference to a quote from Sarah Swierenga, Director of Usability and Accessibility Research Center, Michigan State University, in the book.)
(Image of one of the “Field Guides to Ensuring Voter Intent” from http://civicdesigning.org/.)

Slide 9

Principle 3. Solid structure
Of course, you need a solid structure underneath all your design. Built on standards. For example, headings that can be seen visually, but also interpreted by a screen reader.
(RM image of jelly bean page on wikipedia and an image of a screen reader listing headings.)

Slide 10

Principle 4. Easy Interaction
Things should just work. This continues the idea of the standards coding. You shouldn’t have a keyboard user get trapped inside a video viewer where only a mouse click can help them escape. A blind person wouldn’t use a mouse.
(Screenshot image of Easy YouTube from http://icant.co.uk/easy-youtube/.)

Slide 11

Principle 5. Helpful Wayfinding
When you click on a link on a page, do you get to the destination you are expecting? When you get there, can you find what you are looking for? I let these pages speak for themselves.
(Two screenshots from the Danish-language site Virk.dk about setting up the Danish Digital Mailbox: first, the page about setting up the digital mailbox where I clicked the link in step one on the page to get to the actual task of setting up the mailbox.)

Slide 12

Principle 6. Clean Presentation
This covers typography or color. I show an image of 6 lines of color. I placed colorblindness filters on top of part of that image. What colors are you perceiving? What does that mean for your design?
(Images from wikipedia: The Rainbow flag and the same image manipulated to show protanopia, deuteranopia, and tritanopia.)

Slide 13

Principle 7. Plain language
Let me emphasize. Plain language is not dumbing down. It is using the language that is appropriate for your audience so they can start their conversations. I love Ginny Redish. This is a great book. Just go buy it, read it, and keep it on your shelf for reference.
(Image of the “Letting Go of the Words” book by Janice (Ginny) Redish.)

Slide 14

Principle 8. Accessible media
Do you have audio or video on your site? Are you preparing audio description, captions, or transcripts for them? These benefit not only the deaf and blind communities. Others can use them, too.
(Image taken from one of my older presentations where I describe how to caption YouTube videos.)

Slide 15

Principle 9. Universal Usability
Here we have the 9th principle where we can transcend technology and just be ourselves and enjoy our lives without a lot of clunky things to bother us.
(Image of a TDD machine to represent the old way and a screen shot of a man using Apple’s FaceTime to sign with his girlfriend on the iPhone 4 from a YouTube video.)

Slide 16

So why not get started with baby steps? May 15th is Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Try unplugging your mouse that day, all day. How much can you do at all without the mouse? Try it! (Follow @gbla11yday on Twitter plus the #GAAD hashtag.) (Image of statue of mother holding a baby taking steps.)

Slide 17

Or could you sign your name to a document stating that you had considered accessibility throughout your project and that you had involved people with disabilities in your research? Could you do that?
(Image of John Hancock’s signature. The quote on the slide “…a document must be signed off by the responsible party annually to show that you have considered accessibility in your design and you have reached out to the user community and experts in the field…” comes from the episode of A Podcast for Everyone about CVAA with Larry Goldberg.)

Slide 18

I don’t think that the creators of the Danish Digital Mailbox took any of the 9 principles into account. Of course the book didn’t exist then, but perhaps we lack enough knowledge in the Nordic area?
(Screenshot of the Danish-language site Malene and the Digital Mailbox in Danish only that covers – in Danish – one person’s troubles with the Danish Digital Mailbox. See also another great article – in Danish by Susanna Rankenberg for additional excellent discussions on the same topic.)

Slide 19

I could only think of Funka Nu in Sweden as a place that works with accessible user experience. Are there others? Maybe we need to build more knowledge. This could be a business opportunity for you.
(Screenshot of the Funka Nu website and a link to the Swedish languge page with their mobile accessibility guidelines in multiple languages.)

Slide 20

Maybe you can go out and be the early bird who gets the worm. You can build the knowledge that helps you saves costs for customers so you can build a web for everyone.
(Image of robin feeding a worm to a young robin in the nest)

The haves and the have-nots

I am worried about our society and the attitudes we have toward each other. My worry is anecdotal, something I sense in my occasional dips into the passing Twitter stream. In the past month or so, I have read tweets about poverty and what seems to be an increase in discussion about the haves versus the have-nots. On their own, these articles might easily disappear in a tweet stream. Putting a few together in a little blog post might get at least one more person thinking about these topics and possibly coming up with better ways to fix these broken bits of our society.

Then this article came along: Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or, Poverty Thoughts. The writer describes what poverty is to her. She does say these are not all her experiences, but a conglomeration of experiences. The subsequent backlash on Twitter is that “no poor person can write that well”, etc. I guess the idea is that poor people should stay quiet on their patch of cardboard? I did want to know if this was genuine. In my search, I found Erin Kissane and others discussing the reality of povery and sharing links like Being Poor, a 2005 blog post from John Scalzi, and The logic of stupid poor people. Today, when I decided to put these thoughts into a blog post, I discovered an article that calls out the “Poverty Thoughts” essay as false: That Viral “Poverty Thoughts” Essay Is Totally Ridiculous.

I don’t know what is true or what is false, but I do know that having this discussion is important. I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed” some years ago and found it quite shocking. When I got back from my overland trip to India and Nepal back in 1978, I looked at all the pictures and their captions in Jacob Holdt’s “American Pictures” and pretty much freaked out. I had seen poverty on my trip and now I was seeing some pretty awful examples in “my own backyard”. What in the world was the meaning of life? Why such disparity? I was able to have a roof over my head and three meals a day, but should I or could I do something about those who couldn’t. This moment really shook up my 20-year-old complacency for about a year or two, but I never did try to start any revolution. Something is wrong with this picture, I thought, but I had no idea how to save the world on my own.

Shortly after the Twitter discussions about poverty, I came across a different type of article that was at the societal level. Cyrus Farivar shared this article on Twitter or Facebook: S.F. tech companies’ civic image at stake as backlash grows, and I found this on my own: In This Silicon Valley Tech Culture and Class War, We’re Fighting About the Wrong Things. Then Cennydd Bowles shared a tweet that led me to this article: Silicon Valley Is Living Inside A Bubble Of Tone-Deaf Arrogance.

I was shocked at the arrogance and the growing gap between the haves and the have-nots. There was also something that reminded me vaguely of distopian, post-apocalytic science fiction movies. Suddenly, it seemed like scriptwriters weren’t making things up, but were looking at what was happening to society today. It was David and Goliath IRL.

There is no conclusion to this blog post. I want to raise awareness about these issues and thought they deserved more than 140 characters. I felt a need to share them in the hope that others out there talk and think about these issues. Maybe one of us will have a constructive idea and a way to carry it out.

One way to start this conversation is showing a lot more respect toward each other. Stop the labels! I’ll close with one more thought-provoking piece – a 2006 blog post from Ted Drake that Jennifer Sutton shared on Twitter. It’s about racial comments, but I think it applies to any of the labels we apply, consciously or subconsiously, throughout our day.

Come on, people. Let’s be nice out there.