I started to look into other features that we had implemented to help with accessibility and just to update my knowledge on the biggest problems for users with reduced access. There were several issues that you would expect to see high up the list, such as; missing alt tags, poor keyboard accessibility and inaccessible flash. The most problematic item however was captcha. Captcha is Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart, you will often see it when trying to complete forms.
Captcha has the issue of needing to provide security against bots whilst allowing users to still gain access. On some websites I will get the captcha wrong several times so I can imagine a user with poor eyesight would find it impossible. W3 suggests logic puzzles, sound output and non-interactive checks such as heuristic checks (detecting bots using the volume of data the user requests and other background methods) as good possible solutions to solve adding security to websites without reducing access.
We have been implementing a logic captcha gem which produces questions such as "In the following list how many animals are there: cat, blue, red, lion, yellow?" This gives the user the chance to prove they are not a bot but does not need any extra features for text only or high contrast versions. reCAPTCHA also has improved accessibility from previous versions, adding better keyboard support and sound output. There are several other implementations with positives and negatives as well.
The accessibility and usability of the websites we create will always be a high priority however we can only keep up these standards if our knowledge of what users need is up to date. Our 'next text captcha' is an example of how we try to implement accessibility best practices across our websites.
Created on Friday February 17 2012 02:41 PM
A lot of people are talking about the Facebook IPO and the changes that it may bring; THE social network will no longer be answerable to only themselves but will have opened up to the pressure of shareholders. I’ve worked for a public listed company – share price matters! If the share price drops someone has to take responsibility.
I’ve also noticed the last few weeks bring up some interesting articles on the new Timeline feature (I’m a huge fan, I have to say), but quite a few are slating the new profile style. It’s very Marmite.
2012 is going to be a huge turning point for Facebook. I’ve noticed a number of friends on Facebook saying that they are leaving and to contact them through email or phone. I myself went through a massive Facebook cull of old school friends or people I met years ago that I don’t speak to. I used the analogy of I was walking down the street would I stop and speak to these people or look the other and pray they didn’t notice me. I cut my friends list by over 100 people!
I’m not saying Facebook is going to nosedive like MySpace did, but I was on MySpace – I used it religiously for new music, talking with friends, etc. Now I use Facebook. A lot. I have the iPhone app, the iPad app, I log in on my laptop – I share news, photos, videos, I chat with friends in Australia, Asia, the Middle East and the Caribbean. I recently posted the 20 week scan picture of my new baby before I had told most people my partner was even expecting – it’s easier than multiple calls or texts.
It will be interesting to see the changes that happen this year and also next – will the pressure of shareholders drive visitor numbers away (which will change the landscape for businesses advertising on Facebook) or will the billion dollar revenues mean the company consistently innovates as it has been the last 6 years? Only time will tell.
Created on Friday February 10 2012 10:03 AM
No-one is going to argue that the better a site's design the easier it is to use. Understanding content, features and functionality on a badly designed website is hard. Getting excited about it is impossible. The mental hurdles your brain needs to go through to look beyond the way a site looks is too high for users to form an objective view. The same site with and without good design simply isn't the same. You can't expect people to be able to look beyond the difference.
So what to do when building a site where the branding requirement is near zero and the message is all important? We'd recommend a solution such as Twitter's Bootstrap project. It provides clean and professional styles for all the common elements a site needs. As well as this the styling is restrained enough that your message can shine through. Built to work in all major browsers to a very high standard it allows you to keep the time required to style a site to a minimum on projects for which the requirement for design is at a minimum!
Faced with this issue when building internal and demonstration sites we use Twitter's Bootstrap project.
Just because the design is irrelevant doesn't mean it's not important.
Created on Thursday February 02 2012 03:24 PM
So recently I've started thinking about our first camping trip of the year, maybe we'll be brave and go early Spring time. But before we can go we really need some new sleeping mats, one of ours has an undetectable leak and frankly they are horribly uncomfortable anyway.
We paid a visit to a couple of Outdoors shops after Christmas, and had a look at what was available in their sales. But this wasn't enough choice. So we've gone online and looked at their full range, plus some other high street retailers' websites. And then some other, online-only retailers. We now have a lot of choice, too much in fact.
So we've started reading reviews and feedback and scores-out-of-ten from users of various mats, which has been really interesting and informative, and given us ideas for other sleeping mats that we hadn't yet considered. We're checking Amazon and eBay for their best deals, and pricing comparison sites too. Just when we think we've made a decision, along comes a bad review, or a price discount on another mat that was originally out of our budget, and off we go again on the rollercoaster of indecision.
I love the internet, don't get me wrong. It never ceases to amaze me, it gives me options and solutions and endless knowledge. I'm empowered by facts, figures and statistics at my fingertips… plus the bargains can be incredible. And I know how lucky I am to have all this choice and be in a position to purchase. BUT. And it is a BUT. It's almost spoiled my shopping experience for these flipping sleeping mats. I'm now stuck in an endless cycle of reviews and best prices, and can't go camping until we get it sorted!
I'm sure we'll give ourselves a deadline, and the decision we make will be all the more rounded and satisfactory, knowing we know all we can possibly know about the mats' thickness, durability, weight, inside leg measurement… And then we'll be onto choosing a campsite. Uh-oh. Here we go again…
Created on Monday January 23 2012 01:21 PM
I spend a large part of my evening juggling jobs, making tea, helping with homework and finding swimming goggles - amongst other things - so when my 5 year old daughter wanted to play some games on my laptop that she had played at school that day, I was glad of the brief sit down to look at them with her.
After 5 minutess of realising these games were just on the school computers, up popped a Barbie game which immediately took her interest away from "educational" games! With only 10 mins 'till dinner I left her happily sitting at the table, dressing Barbie in different outfits and thinking that I had found something else to occupy her in those few minutes in between other activities.
This morning whilst looking at the news I came across an article on the BBC website about hackers targeting children’s websites; the example they use was a Dora the Explorer cooking game (which I would say is aimed at 4 to 6 year olds). The article was basically saying we need to teach our younger kids about hackers - but at what age do they think children understand this? My 8 year old already has a list at home from school, which we have to fill in every time he learns a "responsibility" about the internet. I am not convinced he totally understands but at least he has an idea - a 5 year old is something else!
So now as well as learning to read and write, does she need to learn about hackers too? Or can that go on my ever increasing list of things to do...
Created on Tuesday January 17 2012 01:32 PM
I like most people have read the countless amounts of predictions for 2012, most, if not all, mention how mobile is going to make a large impact on the future of online. I wrote a blog article last year saying that sites should consider mobile to complement desktop development. This year companies will see that they need to evolve their web presence to incorporate mobile or be missed by a large number of visitors. Visitors will spend less time, visit fewer pages and bounce more from sites they cannot view through mobile devices.
Smartphone and iPhone use in the UK is growing at a huge rate almost on a daily basis – I saw a figure this week that over 6m iOS devices were registered on Christmas Day, imagine the figure for Android devices!
People are also coming round to the idea of tablets; many were sceptical if there was a marketplace for such a device. I was one of these…until I got my iPad. I hardly use my laptop now.
Another big change, maybe not to web development, but to the way people interact with online is going to be smart TV’s. They’ve been around for a while, but this year it’s going to enter the mainstream. With the Olympics, Euro 2012 and the Diamond Jubilee retailers are going to be slashing prices and pushing us all to buy that new 50” TV. There have been some interesting developments this week from the CES conference...talk of a Google TV, Apple TV set and an Angry Birds app! I have a TiVo box from Virgin and I can now watch YouTube videos, catch up on missed programs or radio shows through the iPlayer, I could even view photos on Facebook or post updates to Twitter – all through my TV.
Online is being integrated into our lives on a daily basis and 2012 will bring with it many changes – some of which could be game changers whether we are users, web developers or designers……interesting times ahead for us all!
Created on Wednesday January 11 2012 10:37 AM
So it’s here 2012, the year that promises much. The Olympics comes to Britain, the Queen celebrates her Diamond Jubilee, and the nation’s expectations will once again be on the national football team in Poland and Ukraine during the summer months.
2012 also represents a significant year in Focus’s long history, we are going to be launching a new of services during the year and have some very exciting things lined up! We’ll be spreading the word on this throughout the year. We also think that 2012 is going to be a BIG year for digital – the internet is maturing, social media is heading into its teenage years and mobile is growing and growing.
We hope 2012 is a great year for you all!
Created on Tuesday January 03 2012 02:33 PM
A massive thank you to Barriers Direct for our Christmas present which arrived this morning!
Created on Tuesday December 20 2011 01:17 PM
2012 will see us launch 'focusconnect' - a new way for local authorities to manage and publish family information online.
focusconnect is built around the principle of a centralised database that provides information through dedicated web sites - with each site tailored to a specific audience such as young people, or parents with disabled children, or adults with mental health problems. It's designed to help local authorities save money whilst maintaining flexibility and control over their data.
We'll be shouting loudly about focusconnect come the new year where we'll be bursting with case studies and running workshops and seminars across the country - but in the meantime if you'd like any information right now then please email us at:
and we'll be in touch!
Watch this space for more about focusconnect.
Created on Tuesday December 20 2011 11:13 AM
Can it really be twelve months since we last wrote a blog article wishing everyone a happy Christmas? Time has flown, and we haven't had a chance to tell anyone about the things we've been up to during a very busy 2011 - but we've all made new years resolutions to make sure we shout more in 2012.
So the studio is effectively closed over the festive period from 3pm on Friday 23rd December until Tuesday 3rd January 2012 but we will have an emergency email address in operation for anyone needing to contact us instead of drinking and eating turkey - we can't promise an immediate response but we'll do our best to help. Please use:
All that remains is for us to wish you all an excellent Christmas and New Year and we look forward to seeing you in 2012.
Created on Tuesday December 20 2011 09:47 AM
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