Archive for the 'accessibility web standards' Category

A11y Rocks – the album!

For those who don’t know, “a11y” is short for “accessibility” — the practice of ensuring web sites (and apps) are usable by people with disabilities.

Anyway, Heydon Pickering, a chum of mine from Bury St Somerset O’Groats in rural England, has collected some music made by people from the accessibility (and wider web standards) world, and is selling an album of it for £3, all of which will go to two worthy causes: NVDA, a free open-source screen reader to help people with visual disabilities access the web, and Parkinsons UK.

The track list is pretty varied, from novelty to folk to psychedelia. There’s even a song by me on it, called Imprecise and Infrared, which Heydon described: “Your song has been stuck in my head 4 days out of 5 for the last four months, you catchy fuck.”

It would make a lovely Xmas prezzy, and owning it will make you (up to) 74 times more sexually desirable. So why not buy it?

Reading List

Reading List

Ensuring a High Performing Web for the Next Billion People

Here’s a video of a keynote talk I gave on Friday at Velocity Conference, Amsterdam. It was my last conference talk of the season, and the end of 4 weeks on the road.

I’m quite proud of it, for a number of reasons; firstly, because I was nearly sick with nerves but I look quite relaxed. (Look at how many people were there – and this is only half the room! Photo by Scott Jenson)

giant room full of people

The second reason I’m pleased with it is because it explains why I (personally) do what I do. I was born in Yemen, lived in Africa and Asia and lament the Western-centricity of so many organisations, which manifests in their websites. It took a great deal of research, but it was worth it – some of the numbers, demographics and facts startled many audience members, and made a fair few of them realise that it truly is a worldwide web, not a wealthy western web.

Many people came up and expressed shock at the image of the true size of Africa. When people hear that the United Nations predicts the population of Africa will increase from its 1 billion now to 2 billion by 2050 and peak at 5 billion in 2100, they have visions of some Malthusian mass-starvation catastrophe. But, because of the Mercator Projection, few realise how damn big Africa is. For a fascinating and encouraging look at population trends, I thoroughly recommend Dr Hans Rosling’s 1 hour presentation Don’t Panic – The Facts About Population. It’s entertaining, evidence-driven and deeply, deeply humane.

There’s a 5MB PDF of the slides, too, containing links to resources. I also wrote an article Making websites that work well on Opera Mini.

Reading list

Reading List

Reading List

Reading List

Anachronistic Beard: a new methodology to make sites work anywhere

[The stage is bare. A single spotlight snaps on. Into it walks Bruce, in a black turtleneck top]

Are you ready, folks? [Apple WWDC-style whoops and squeaks]

Are you READY folks? [Shouts of “Yeah!” and “Righteous!”]

Do you want your websites to work EVERYWHERE? [people faint with excitement]

Are you ready to have your PARADIGMS SHIFTED? [Not a dry seat in the house now]

Today, we’re introducing a brand-new paradigm-shifting design methodology called…

Anachronistic Beard.


Logo: “Beard” By

What is “Anachronistic Beard”?

It’s a revolutionary way of making websites so they look good in iOS 9 with external fonts turned off, work well for Opera Mini’s 250+ million users, and in Chrome, Opera, Firefox, IE, Edge, whether you’re using a computer, a phone, a tablet, a phablet (you’re not, are you?), with or without assistive technology.

How can I leverage these game-changing synergies, going forward?

Glad you asked! Here are the technical details.

Why is it called “Anachronistic Beard”?

A previous version of Anachronistic Beard has been available, built into the very design of the web, for decades. But it was called “Progressive Enhancement”, which is boring, and it didn’t have a logo.

So, encouraged by the success of things like Moustache, it’s been rebranded by a team of expensive Birmingham-based Consumer Insight Engineers. With this new name, those of us who are too old to be hipsters can legitimately claim that we were doing Progressive Enhancement, before it was cool.

Join our revolution, before everyone else hears about it. Happy Bearding!

State of the Browser 5

My conference season kicked off with State of the Browser 5. I’d been accepted after a blind call for papers to present the snappily-titled Ensuring a performant web for the next billion people.

The venue was Conway Hall, which I’d heard of but couldn’t remember the context. It turned out to be the HQ of the Conway Hall Ethical Society, “the oldest surviving freethought organisation in the world”. So a historic venue (for bleeding-heart Guardianistas like me) with great acoustics and “To thine own self be true” inscribed above the stage.

State of the Browser this year had a wide variety of talks; from Seb Lee-Delisle amiably talking about lasers to Martin Jakl talking about WebKit’s garbage collection bugs on Raspberry Pi, with animation jank, keeping learning and modular design in between.

I enjoyed all the talks, but there were some standouts for me (not because any talks were “better” but some were more immediately useful to me in my browser geek-end of the spectrum). I want to congratulate Laura Elizabeth, who did her first ever public speaking with assurance and aplomb that suggested much more experience. There were shocks, too: for example, non-Jake Archibald people talking about Service Worker.

I was particularly agog/ aghast at Edd Sowden’s talk on what makes a <table> not a <table> in assistive technologies. There are lots if heuristics baked into browsers to guess which are data and which are layout tables. border-bottom and background-color makes it a table, border-collapse stops it being a table, display:block stops it being one (except in IE…). More than 20 rows, or zebra striping in CSS makes it a table, etcetera.

Here’s the video (and here are his slides):

Isn’t it tremendous that the UK government cares about assistive tech users on its new web properties?

I also learned a lot from Ada Rose Edwards who surprised me by explaining that reflowing text, if you animate widths of things that cause the browser to re-layout lots of words, is really slow – because of kerning, hinting etc. See her slides for more (video coming soon). I’d assumed because text is small (eg, 1024 letters of Latin text is 1K) that there’s no performance hit. But laying it out isn’t trivial. Throw justification into the mix, too (but please don’t) and you have a recipe for a hot phone battery.

There were lots of old chums in the audience, and new chums like Seren Davis and Claudia. Synergies were leveraged, too – I’ve got an Opera bug moving after being gently prompted by an attendee. There was even a party afterwards, with a free bar, and all for £30. So go next year!

State of the Browser is organised for love by the London Web Standards crew: Morena Fiore, Nick Smith, Dave Letorey, Ginestra Ferraro, Steve Workman, Rupert Bowater and Marco Cedaro. Morena wrote up the day too. Thanks very much to all of them, and all who came to listen.