articles tagged with: technology
"We are drowning in information but starved for knowledge" - know who said that? You have two guesses... if neither of them were author John Naisbitt, you don't win a prize (well you don't win one either way but it feels good to be right doesn't it?)
Accessible Communications Consultant, Katie Grant, kicked off her engaging talk with that very quote. Katie quite rightly pointed out that information often comes at us faster than we can make sense of it, regardless of disability. So if you're the one dishing out all that know-how, you might want to consider whether it is meaning as much to your audience as it is to you. You should be thinking about:
Language - keep it clear and simple.
Tone of voice - is it appropriate to your audience and your organisation?
Message - should be clear and targeted.
Structure - have a clear intro and overview of the subject.
Content - keep complex data separate.
Readability - pitch at the correct reading level.
Web accessibility should focus on people with all types of disabilities - visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities - including older people with age-related impairments.
Potential audience groups who may benefit from an accessible website also include:
- people with long term health conditions.
- those for whom English is not their first language.
- people with low literacy levels / poor social access.
- people with neurodiversity conditions such as autism.
Some say what has caused a lack of awareness is a lack of empathy. Hearing from those who require accessible websites is so valuable and there was a lady present who kindly shared her needs and preferences with us. She has a few conditions including dyslexia and favours websites with accessibility bars that have the option to change the background colour (you can see this on many sites designed by Focus i.e. www.afclocaloffer.org.uk)
Focus work with many charities and enjoy enriching the lives of others through our technology but there are benefits to be had by all when accessibility is considered seriously. Legal & General spent a lot of time and money making their website accessible. In doing so they experienced many side benefits: visitor numbers almost doubled, maintenance costs halved and there was a huge increase in traffic to the site. Even though it's a few years old their case study is an inspiring read and you can view their case study online.
The message is simple. It's a pretty good idea to make accessibility the aim behind communicating any information. Whatever your reasons are for doing so, the benefits are countless.
Created on Monday June 01 2015 12:18 PM
Last week Jenny and I went along to the Bristol Health Tech meet up - an event exploring how health and technology are working together to share information and improve communication between different kinds of services.
Hosted at the Engine Shed, there was a big turnout with lot of networking and scoffing of bahjees, samosas and yummy fruit juices.
Kicking off the talks was Bristol Health Partners Director David Relph. He gave a really engaging presentation (seriously, one of the best I've ever seen) explaining how the NHS partners work together, and the different areas they cover in terms of service provision and location. We learnt how the pioneering technology project that Relph and his team are working on is changing not only the way patients are being treated, but also making the whole system far more efficient.
By joining up patient notes from every touch point that a patient has within the NHS - doctors, social workers, GPs and many other professionals can access a wealth of information from within one system, despite all 17 NHS partners individually using different systems! Currently in trials, the project so far sounds like it's proving successful. We'll be really keen to hear how it progresses over the coming 12 months.
After a networking and chocolate break :-), next up was Paul Wilson, CEO of Bristol Is Open. Used for research and development work, Bristol Is Open is an innovative experiment that connects partners together across a network using different elements of connectivity:
- A fibre-optic network running through ducts between the University of Bristol, At-Bristol, Watershed and Engine Shed
- A mesh network, using 1500 lamp-posts as a self-healing canopy of connectivity across the city
- A next generation (5G) wireless test running along the Brunel Mile (Temple Meads to the SS Great Britain).
All of this is controlled by a system running at University of Bristol. Customers get a virtual 'slice' of this network, to run and collaborate on their projects. An example of this is at Watershed - one of their cinemas has been upgraded to a high definition 4k projection environment.
Sounds techy - you bet it is! But it's super clever and part of Bristol's plan to be a smart city. Find out more on the Bristol Is Open website.
The event was a really good learning curve - and made me feel proud to be working and living in such a forward-thinking city, doing exciting work that is really shaping our future. Plus, Engine Shed is a pretty cool venue, too.
Created on Thursday April 30 2015 02:38 PM
There are so many ways a website can be rendered on screen. Not only is there a huge variety of phone shapes and sizes but all of these can have multiple browsers (e.g. Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer). Then there's the fact that they can display in landscape or portrait mode. Users aren’t using a mouse but are instead using their fingers (some with 'digits' a little less delicate than others!).
It’s difficult for us developers and designers at web design agencies to predict just how our latest website might look online. There are of course websites that are meant to emulate how it will look but they're not always accurate.
This is where Open Device Lab steps in to make life that little bit easier. We headed over to their offices at Aardman to test one of the responsive website designs we're currently working on. We were able to test it on multiple popular devices from the iPad to a Blackberry. In doing this we could avoid the on-line emulators, we didn't have to pester friends with a different phone to ours to "borrow it for a second".
At ODL we could use a pretty handy piece of kit called 'Ghostlab'. Ghostlab synchronises browser testing. It scrolls, clicks, reloads and form inputs across all connected clients. So what you're testing is not the simple page load, but the full user experience. We also had the option to abandon that and fiddle with each device individually which is good for spotting usability issues that could possibly go unnoticed otherwise.
ODL Bristol are sponsored by the digital marketing agency 'Noisy Little Monkey', these guys made us feel super welcome and we were comfortable knowing we had coffee and support at hand (if required). More importantly, we left feeling we had done a thorough job of testing for our client.
So what did this cost us?... absolutely nothing. We're not sure if that's ever due to change but at the moment so long as you book ahead, you're welcome to pay them a visit. A the moment this gem feels like our little secret but you know what we're like at Focus, we promise to keep you guys updated with all things digital and this is definitely worth 'whispering' about.
Created on Monday December 01 2014 04:42 PM
As most of us know, local authorities throughout the UK face making decisions that will affect the way they provide services and interact with stakeholders and citizens. Whilst budgets may be changing, legislation and statutory requirements remain.
One of the areas we at Focus have been working closely with local authorities since 2004 is making information available online - from promoting positive activities and events for young people through to information about service providers for families. In fact 1 Big Database, which has been developed on behalf of Bristol City, Bath and North East Somerset and South Gloucestershire Councils, is now the leading online resource for parents, carers and families throughout the West of England.
1 Big Database is a successful example of three local authorities joining forces to provide a relevant, up to date - and crucially local - directory of family information, supplemented by an events diary that lists hundreds of one off or regular activites taking place in the region. The partnership project has helped the council's save money and resource (such as administration) whilst maintaining control of the directory and keeping data within it in their hands.
March saw us launch a new version of the framework behind 1 Big Database - which included a number of new features and enhancements to existing functionality. The main development is a new dedicated section for managing and publishing Childcare data - and we've already hooked it up for automatic integration with Capita's ECD management software.
And because we understand the pressures that local authorities face with capital expenditure, we're making the directory and it's family of additional modules available under a 'software as a service' model - that is it's paid for on an ongoing basis as it's used. There's no up front development costs, just a regular affordable monthly amount that is paid for as long as the software is used - with no limits on numbers of records in the database or users administering it.
The team at Focus are happy to talk you through it if you've got any questions.
Created on Monday April 11 2011 03:24 PM
If you follow us on Twitter you may have seen our tweet stream go a little crazy last week. I was at Future of Web Apps - a 2 day conference for web developers (that’s me) featuring talks from the people behind some of the biggest companies on the web (Google, Opera, Mozilla, Flickr & TweetMeMe to name a few).
As the title implies, it’s all about web apps - web sites that deliver a product or service online and where the technologies behind them are going.
Here are a few highlights of the day.
The Future of HTML5, SVG and CSS3 (Brad Neuberg)
This talk was all about of future technologies of the web. I’ll try not to go all techie on this one, but basically the core technologies used to build websites are evolving. These progressions are allowing developers to build sites than run faster, look better and are more accessible. More features can be handled be your web browser without having to relay on third-party plugins (like flash). These features can include watching online video, easier to understand web pages for people using assistive technologies and amazing interactive animations in your web pages.
The 37signals way: A look into the design process of 37signals (Ryan Singer)
My favourite talk of the day, Ryan Singer is a product manager at 37 signals (the people behind Basecamp). This talk challenged the traditional wireframe, photoshop, code approach to the design process by almost turning whole thing on it’s head! The key points to take away were to focus on the business logic at the center first and get something running in the browser. Team members spend less time waiting on each other and your end design fits the content (rather than the other way round).
Location, Location, Location (Joe Stump)
There’s no doubt the future of web is mobile. The iPhone started the smart-phone revolution in 2007 and in the next couple of years mobile web browsing is expected to surpass browsing from the desktop. Whereas with the desktop web content was king, with the mobile web context is the new king. This is because the amount of data we’re producing is growing exponentially (side note: Joe claimed that every two days 2.6 million terabytes of data - which is the same amount we produced up until 2003). Without providing context to all the data we’re producing it’s useless.
The title is a little cryptic, but this talk introduced a very powerful tool for developing the latest generation of mobile web apps. The jQueryMobile project aims to provide a set of tools for creating great looking user interfaces across a plethora of mobile devices. The idea being developers can spend more time focused on implementing great features and less time debugging different devices. The ‘alpha’ release is due next week with the finished ‘1.0’ release in January.
Created on Monday October 18 2010 10:00 AM
So... it’s all over again for another year... no more turkey, mince pies or mulled wine for another 12 months. We’re all agreed here that this is not entirely a bad thing! With Christmas over and done with, it’s time to look forward to the New Year!
Things we’re looking forward to in 2010:
- Google’s Nexus One Phone. Launching today – likely to well and truly divide the camp here. So long iPhone? The jury’s out as yet.
- Celebrity Big Brother. Or the backlash anyway. At the very least, we can be pleased that it’s the last one. EVER.
- Real – time search taking off. Still not sure whether I need to know everybody on Twitter’s opinion on my desired search term, but could be a giggle to start with.
- Onwards and upwards for Focus. We’ve had a great 2009, with a bit of a team reshuffle, and we’re looking forward to a cracking 2010.
Created on Tuesday January 05 2010 01:00 PM
Rather impressed by the Google Wave demo, launched just before the weekend. The product promises to revolutionise communication, and it very well may prove to do just that!
Elements we like:
- Real-time typing, together with the contextual spellcheck. No more enigmatic pen shuffling nonsense - participants will see the message appear in the wave as soon as it is created.
- Drag and drop features - where anything on your desktop, file or previous wave can be dragged into a new one, and edited by anyone connected to the wave.
- The potential for collaboration. This just takes Google Docs to an entirely different level!
- Playback allows you to catch up on how the wave developed, following sequential additions from the whole group, or individual participants. This also facilitates accountability as each wave can be audited (inspired by version control).
Wave looks like a gigantic leap forward in terms of web development, with the race to create the first apps already well under way.
Created on Monday June 01 2009 07:06 AM
Twitter was something we avoided as a company for quite a while for two main reasons:
1. Time and productivity can very easily get sucked away by hours of endless tweeting.
2. No one's really interested in the minutiae of our working days (let's face it - we're not as important as this guy).
Thankfully, we finally overcame our reservations a while back and now use Twitter both as a quick way to link through to useful finds on the web and to update followers on our latest news and blog posts. We're finding it most useful as a neat RSS feed for industry news.
Created on Sunday May 31 2009 08:03 PM
Even though a European directive has required us to recycle electronic waste since early 2007, the UK is still lagging desperately behind the rest of Europe, the BBC unveils today. Apparently fewer than half of us recycle our electronic equipment, compared to 80% of Germans.
While this is an embarrassing statistic, I think the lack of kerbside collection and inner city recycling facilities for this type of waste could be to blame. A quick postcode search for places designed to take this sort of rubbish reveals a disparate picture of sites well outside main conurbations. With households containing:
"an average of 2.4 TVs, 1.6 computers, 2.4 games consoles, 3 mobile phones, and 2.2 MP3 players,"
the case for providing more urban recycling points and kerbside collections looks very strong.
Created on Tuesday May 26 2009 01:28 PM
We've all been impressed by a new website launched by the British Red Cross this week. Its main aim is to provide parents with free, simple, trustworthy advice on emergency first aid that could one day help to save their child or baby's life.
What struck us was the level of accessibility incorporated into such a media rich site. As well as including well-known text-resizing functionality, they have also added subtitles to videos and sensible title tags on navigational links.
It's clear that they have thought about the whole range of potential site visitors, from the visually impaired to dyslexic and hard of hearing users.
What's slightly disappointing is that they fail to meet the basic validation requirements set out by w3c. Hopefully this is just a 'work in progress' glitch - it is after all mentioned on their main website that accessibility is something they are constantly trying to improve.
At a time when all web developers should be getting to grips with the new WCAG 2.0 guidelines, this site is a lovely example of user inclusivity.
Created on Wednesday May 20 2009 04:32 PM
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