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Re: Accessible popup menus


From: Christian Heilmann
Date: Jul 29, 2005 12:59AM

> It does validate and it does meet accessibility standards without
> error. Whose real world are talking about :-)

I always thought WAI-3 is a guideline not a standard. I also thought
that it is a methodology that involves user testing?
And even if it applies to WAI-3, if it doesn't work in a real browser
environment then it is useless. WCAG2 is around the corner and there
are still a lot of inconsistencies in it. I guess as the real world
application is dependent on so many unknowns, they are guidelines, not

You can jump around in excitement and annoyance all you want, a
dropdown menu will never be accessible to all, unless it:

- Behaves the same regardless of input device and order you navigate through it
- Keeps a current state and shows me where I am on the current page
- Does not require overly elaborate hand-eye coordinatiton
- Does not depend on a fixed viewport

These are not from the guidelines but my personal user testing experiences.

Popup navigations with several levels
- Do depend on a fixed viewport size or cause scrollbars
- Have no current state and collapse on every page - unless you keep
the current section open
- Are arguably a violation of guidelines 14.3 and 13.4, as the
navigation does visibly change

I said it before in the other thread, there is just no way to please
alll with dropdowns, and it is not a programmatic issue, but one of
information architecture and of bad user agents.

In essence we offer a sitemap as the navigation, and those are two
different things. On a small site that is not that obvious, one one
encompassing 12343423 pages it is. All I need on a section is the main
navigation items and those of the section. Shortcuts to other
sub-sections are a nice to have, but might be more confusing than
helping. In some environments they may even lead to total confusion
as different sub-sections might have the same link wording as a
legal requirement (local councils).

The only option to follow WAI-3 and offer dropdown navigations seems
to be to offer them as "enhanced navigation" to be turned on and off
by the visitor.Even my AJAX idea of pulling in the sub menu items
onmouseover via JS and PHP could be triggered by a user agent that
cannot cope with it.

Multi level dropdown navigation is assuming that the visitor wants
more options than he needs without getting the chance to say no. It
is the same in some shops. Ever tried to get a "cheese sandwhich
with lettuce, tomato and no sauce" in Subway? You won't get it, as
the person behind the counter will go through all options with you
before handing you your sandwich and asking you if you want cookies
and a drink with it. Instead of getting your sandwich you answer 20
times yes or no and see your lunchbreak time tick away. They follow a
company guideline of asking you through their options the same way bad
call centres follow a flowchart no matter what your problem is. We
assume people want to navigate the whole site from every section -
they can, via the sitemap or the search, which is most likely what
they will do anyways. In the end the content of the page matters,
nobody but the developer and the tester (who hopefully are not the
same person) will use the navigation constantly. If your visitors
need to navigate all the time then your IA is messed up.

Asking the visitor what they want is never a bad idea, listening is
even better.

My favourite yesterday at Starbucks:
Me: "I'd like a Peppermint Mocha with Soy Milk please"
Clerk: "It is amazing how many people want Soy these days, why is that?`"
Me: "I have a dairy intolerrance, my body doesn't like it too much"
Clerk: "Oh, understandable then. You want cream on top?"
Me: (stunned) No, thanks
Clerk: "Alright, here you go, extra sugar, lids and cream are over there"

Chris Heilmann
Blog: http://www.wait-till-i.com
Writing: http://icant.co.uk/
Binaries: http://www.onlinetools.org/