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This course focuses on two elements of web development: accessibility and search engine optimization (SEO), demonstrating why they are important and how they work. Author Morten Rand-Hendriksen also shows how good coding practices and modern web standards can make a site accessible and more visible to search engines and social networks.
To better understand why accessibility exists in the first place, let's take a look at a website that was set up without accessibility in mind. What you see in the browser is the project we're going to be working with throughout this course. It's a standard website built without accessibility in mind, but in a regular visual browser it works just fine. As you can see, when I navigate it, the header is clickable, it's a link, the links on the main menu highlight when I hover over them, and I can scroll up and down and see all the content.
That's all fine because I am using a mouse and a regular visual browser. But not everyone can do this. For example, a lot of people can't use a mouse to access the website. There might be many reasons for this. Either there is no mouse available or there might not be a mouse or mouse type input device connected to the computer. They might be unable to use a mouse because of a handicap, or there may be other reasons why they can't use a mouse. For those people the keyboard is the natural way to access the site. The problem is if you use the keyboard to access this site, it's very hard understand where you are and what you're doing. I'll show you what I mean.
If I hit the Tab key, I should be navigating from link to link to link, and I can visit those links by hitting the enter key. But when I hit the Tab key, although I'm hitting separate links, I can't actually see what links I am on. Clearly, I am navigating through the site, because you can see it moving, but at any one time I don't know what link I'm currently pointing at, and if I hit Enter I don't know where I am going to end up. This is a major problem, but it's nothing compared to what this website is like if you're blind and using a text-to-speech browser.
So let's experience this website, the inaccessible website, using text-to-speech browser. I've booted up my screen reader, and now I am going to use it to simply read the screen. I am going to cover screen readers later on in this course; for now this is just a demo. (Screen reader reading) Getting the site read back to you brings up a lot of issues.
First of all, you may have noticed that this site doesn't seem to have a title. In fact, the first thing that was read out was Untitled 1, and you notice that at no point did it say "hansel & petal" or the subtitle "from our garden to your home." In addition, you may have noticed that there was no mention of a heading and the image of this yellow plant was never mentioned at all. Now let's see what happens if I try to navigate this page using the Tab keys. I should be able to access each individual link and get more information about that link, so I know where I'm going.
(Screen reader: Untitled 1 document link graphic inaccessible.) So, I'm assuming that graphic inaccessible must be the Home link at the top of the page, because it's a huge graphic. But clearly, that's not enough information for me to know where I am supposed to be going with this link, but let's continue anyway. (Screen reader: Navigation unmarked list with eleven items. Home link.) Home link. (Screen reader: Flowers link.) Flowers. (Screen reader: Tips and Tricks link.) Okay, so it's just reading through the menu, that's fine. (Screen reader: Garden Talk link. About Us link. Contact link.) Alright, so let's see the content itself.
(Screen reader: Out of list, complementary unmarked Garden Talk, In the Coppice.) (Complementary unmarked published on October 12, 2011 at 5:32 p.m. by Arthur O'Cooke.) [00:03:40:48] Okay, it's not clear to me where the heading is here, but just listening to it-- (Screen reader: In the Coppice) I would assume-- (Screen reader: Complementary unmarked Garden Talk) It's either Garden Talk or-- (Screen reader: In the Coppice. Complementary unmarked published on October 12, 2011 at 5:32 by Arthur O'Cooke.) Okay, so let's continue and see the actual content.
(Screen reader: Outside the front door of link Willow Farm, complementary unmarked) Whoa! Wait a second. The reader is reading back to me the text, but the article starts with an image. Where is the image? (Screen reader: In the Coppice. Complementary published on October 12, 2011 at 5:32 by Arthur O'Cooke.) (Outside the front door of link Willow Farm is a broad curving gravel drive, at the far end--) So, clearly something went wrong here and the reader can't see that there's an image at all. That's unfortunate, but at least we can read the content itself.
However, if we scroll down on the page, you'll see that we have another set of links here. You see these three images; there is a pink flower, a white flower, and a cactus. Each of these three images points to the Wikipedia article for that flower. So let's see what happens when I get to these images and if they tell me where I land if I follow the link. (Screen reader: List with three items: bougainvillea link, chrysanthemum link, Golden Barrel Cactus link.) So as you can see, the reader is telling me there's a graphic, it has a link around it, but it's not saying anything about where that link is going.
For all I know, when I click on the chrysanthemum link, I end up on a picture of chrysanthemum. I never get told that this is actually pointing to Wikipedia. And that's kind of the point of this whole exercise. As you can tell, this page, although it looks fine for the person who can see all the content, is in fact extremely inaccessible. It's very hard to understand what's going on, it's hard to follow the links and it's hard to read the content itself. This is a perfect example of an inaccessible site. This experience illustrates two things-- how the website is experienced for someone using a text-to-speak browser, and how the website is experienced by a computer or other entity looking at only the text content and not the styles of images.
That other entity might very well be Google. And as you can see, if you ignore accessibility, the experience can be quite painful, but it doesn't have to be, and that's what we are going to fix in this course.
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