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RE: Question from client on webaim


From: John Foliot - WATS.ca
Date: Apr 18, 2005 6:35AM

Jason Taylor wrote:

>> This new technology group is known as Transcoders - they have
>> the ability to dynamically create different interfaces off the current
>> web content for different user groups as well as insert required content,


>> navigation aids and bridge typical technology (javascript,
>> flash) issues between specialized browsers and the live web server. The

result is an

>> optimized view of the site for that user group.

...provided of course that the *content* that is being "Transcoded" (my
mental image is of a rube-goldberg / microwave-y contraption with gears and
a steam whistle on top) is useful and appropriate in the first place. The
old phase of "garbage in = garbage out" keeps ringing in my ears...

The basic problem with these types of "solutions" is that they are really
not solutions in the long term, they are band-aids... they give IT managers
a sense of "doing something" without actually addressing the root of the

I'm realistic, and having a university or corporate legacy site with
hundreds of thousands of poorly developed source material requires quick,
temporary responses; these tools may help bridge that gap. But I would
suggest that when this type of solution is employed, it be done so under two
provisions: a) all new content moving forward must specifically *not* need
to use this "transformer" type solution (in other words, stop producing the
crud that requires it), and b) that all legacy content which *must* remain
publicly facing be re-written to move it into the 21st century (<grin>).
I'm not saying toss the old legacy stuff, but archive it properly if it does
not receive the amount or regular traffic the more public pages do. Think
museum collections, or serious libraries: not everything is available to the
general public. Task the development department to achieve this goal in an
appropriate time frame, and mandate it so. Sitting back and thinking that
"the magic pill" has solved your problems is a false hope for all.

>> This new way of providing an "assistive friendly" view is supported in
>> part by Usability expects including Jakob Nielsen - in one of
>> his alert
>> boxes he highlights the point that maybe one-fit-all coding is not the
>> ONLY solution and having the ability to provide an
>> "Alternative Interfaces
>> for Accessibility" of a web site could help deal with many of
>> the issues
>> that result in poorly supported user groups (assistive being
>> one by PDA's
>> are another). See the alert box:
>> http://www.useit.com/alertbox/20030407.html

April 7, 2003... A two year old article? C'mon - in internet time that's
ancient history...

Part of the "issue" is that Jacob still thinks in terms of "design", and not
development. Properly developed web content encompasses both visual design
and structural design, but keeps these concepts separate - CSS remember?
Properly designed/developed source material does not (should not) require
any further pre-processing from the provider, that falls to the end user.
Even Jacob says (in this article), "...all designs must offer the same
functionality and provide access to the same content." Can you be 100% sure
that your "transformer" is providing this? If the tool is not, is it really
worth the investment? I have yet to see a tool pass this test (but am
prepared to be enlightened).

Web Accessibility Specialist / Co-founder of WATS.ca
Web Accessibility Testing and Services
Phone: 1-613-267-1983 / 1-866-932-4878 (North America)