YOUR NEUTRAL APOSTROPHES SICKEN ME

Accessibility is not just about blind people, and anyway, as I keep saying, low-vision kids love digicams. Flickr could be described as a semi-accessible Web site. The HTML is not unbelievably bad and could be cleaned up quickly (little navbars as styled lists; use of better form markup including optgroup; stop using inline styles and blockquote for indention). There are a few bigger problems, like styling really good semantic HTML for full pages of photos and contacts.

I have found Flickr HQ™ pretty responsive to suggestions. When my esteemed colleague couldn’t figure out what the hell “This photo has notes” meant, I wrote in with suggested rewording and two days later it was changed (“This photo has notes. Move your mouse over the photo to see them”). Now, that’s service.

However: If you’re a standardista and you only put out accessible documents but you also take a shitload of photos and think Flickr is the greatest, you have to make some compromises. What follows is the way I handle accessibility at Flickr. It is an area I would like to fix, actually, but here’s what I can state at present.

What you can’t do

  1. Add language tagging to anything
  2. Use anything but really simple, mostly presentational HTML
  3. Use HTML in a photo title, a limitation that *gets* in the *way*
  4. Carry out pretty much any task using only the keyboard, save for tabbing from field to field in an upload screen (a browser feature)

What you can do

  1. Add something vaguely equivalent to an alt text in the description field (but if you also want a description, you have to load it up there, too, or add a comment to your own photo)
  2. Write such an alternative text in the first photo in a series of identical subjects, then use the image title to explain what’s different about each additional photo
  3. Use the description field of an entire set as kind of a long description

This is not medal-winning performance, but it is adequate much of the time. Just as an example, I located most of the hyperlinks I used in this post by browsing Flickr in Lynx. (Yes, I’m the one!)

Flickr is fixable

Any reasonably competent standardista (not necessarily me, but I am available) could probably fix Flickr’s templates without significant problem. (A lot of issues are those of simple validation, which Glish admitted is a weakness.) It’s all part of the inexorable march to Web standards, as when Flickr converted some functions from Flash to DHTML.

And, for the love of God, will you fix this?

Flickr has a much wider range of usability flaws than is generally discussed. Let’s start with the biggest: Stop hiding the frigging search function in a tiny item in the page footer, which in itself is a usability minefield. (My giant footer is only marginally better, I know.)

The foregoing posting appeared on Joe Clark’s personal Weblog on 2006.03.19 17:33. This presentation was designed for printing and omits components that make sense only onscreen. (If you are seeing this on a screen, then the page stylesheet was not loaded or not loaded properly.) The permanent link is:
https://blog.fawny.org/2006/03/19/flickr-access/

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