Today we are taking a moment to remember Molly Holzschlag, an early pioneer of the web, who died in early September at age 60. Molly was a board member and instrumental in helping the World Organization of Webmasters (now Web Professionals Global) grow over the past decades, and she was a recipient of our Web Professional of the Year award in recognition for her passion for the web and forward thinking.
Our Executive Director, Mark DuBois, first met Molly in 2005 at a talk she gave at Joliet Junior College in Joliet, IL. Nicknamed “the fairy godmother of the web,” Molly was passionate about promoting web standards and accessibility long before others took up the cause. She traveled around the world to web conferences, always seeking opportunities to discuss the web and teach the next generation of web designers and developers.
She was a prolific author, writing over 30 books about the web. Her career included serving as Project Leader from 2004-2006 for the Web Standards Project (WaSP), a coalition that pushed browser makers such as Netscape and Opera to support modern web standards. Molly was an “invited expert” on the CSS Working Group of the World Wide Web Consortium, which is the body that determines the standards that run the web. Additionally, she served on the W3C HTML and GEO working groups and performed consulting services for multiple companies including Microsoft.
Molly never stopped fighting for her vision of a more egalitarian web and was once quoted as saying, “Anybody who creates a software product for the Web that is not usable and accessible by as many browsers as possible, by as many people as possible—we have failed the greater idea of the Internet.” Along with Dave Shea, she launched CSS Zen Garden in May 2003, which was “built to demonstrate what can be accomplished visually through CSS-based design.”
At Web Professionals Global, we will continue working toward web standards and accessibility, the causes that were so close to Molly during her life. Molly will be missed by our entire community of web professionals, and we offer our sincere condolences to all of her family and loved ones.
Hard to believe we are almost at the middle of 2023. Time flies. As we prepare for our 20th national web design and development competition in Atlanta (beginning June 20), we thought it might be useful to share some of the articles we have been reading.
AI and images
Before we cover those articles, we feel it is important to mention our featured image. This was generated using Adobe FireFly. We used the following text to have the image generated. Note that we were rather specific in what we asked for (and the technology complied).
Looking at a desktop holding a phone, tablet and laptop along with a notebook with a pen. The desktop has one succulent plant. Sunlight is coming through a window to the left of the desktop.
If you expand the image, you will note that there is a tag assigned in the lower left corner indicating this image was generated using AI. We never cease to be amazed at how quickly one can create images (and how detailed they are).
We recently became members of the Content Authenticity Initiative. As we have mentioned in earlier weblog posts, the purpose is “to provide media transparency to allow for better evaluation of content.” We encourage readers to check out this initiative (and consider becoming members). In our view, as AI generated images become more prevalent, it is important to inform everyone that the image has been computer generated. We view this in a vein similar to copyrights. If one uses something that has not been created by the author, it is important to inform (and respect) where the images come from. That is why we commit to not only providing the source, but the text used to generate these images.
For those who missed it, May 19 marked Global Accessibility Awareness Day. The GAAD Foundation was launched in 2021 to mark the 10th anniversary. The focus is to make accessibility a core requirement. We encourage you to review the site (and focus on accessibility every day, not just May 19th).
We recently encountered a nice review of what’s new in CSS and UI. The article outlines 20 recent developments.These include responsive design improvements (such as container queries and style queries). The :has( ) selector lets one check if a parent element has specific children. There are many other enhancements which professionals can take advantage of (either now or very soon). We encourage readers to review the article to learn more about changes happening this year.
Also, we recently learned that scoped CSS is back. “Scoped styles allow you to contain a set of styles within a single component on the page.” We encourage readers to review the capabilities discussed in this article. Some nice examples are also provided.
We also came across this article (written in January) discussing new CSS relative units. Did you know there are roughly 50 CSS length units?
National Web Competition
This year marks our 20th year of providing a national web design and development competition with SkillsUSA (yes, we started as a demonstration competition in 2004) and we have been running this ever since (even during the pandemic). We could not do this without the help of many people. We really appreciate their help and are posting additional articles. We managed to provide assistance to a number of states this year. We hope to see the winners of those state competitions at our national competition in June.
That is what we found interesting this month. As always, we are keen to learn what you found interesting (and what you would like to learn more about). Please let us know in the comments.
March has been a most interesting month in terms of new advancements in web design and development. Here are just a few articles we found interesting this month. Perhaps a bit of a directed stream of our thoughts supported by articles. Admittedly, some were published prior to March and we just encountered them. We encourage you to review these articles and follow along with the stream as we focus on:
- AI (and accessibility) – yes, they go together in many ways,
- Website sustainability.
AI (and accessibility)
First, let’s examine a recent post by Brad Frost concerning “design systems in the time of ai.” As mentioned at the end of the article “…AI makes it crystal-clear we need to be focusing on why we create things vs what/how we create.” In a nutshell, AI can be used to improve efficiency in what is created. We can be leveraging the power of AI to reduce the mundane tasks and focus on what is important.
So, what does AI have to do with accessibility? It can help tremendously. Last year, Accessibility.com published a great overview of “How Artificial Intelligence is Improving Accessibility.” This is a rapidly evolving landscape, and we can think in terms of AI-supported voice assistants helping those with visual impairments, AI driven transcribing can help with those experiencing hearing impairment. Likewise AI tools can help with speech impairments (think in terms of Parkinson’s or brain injuries)as well as mobility impairments. We encourage you to read the linked article to learn more.
Focusing solely on accessibility, we found the Guide to Accessible Form Validation by Sandrina Pereira to be most informative. She correctly asserts that when we build form validations from scratch we often overlook accessibility. Sandrina focuses on both usability and accessibility. We found this article to be a solid introduction and encourage aspiring web professionals to develop such an approach in all their work.
We also encountered this solid article dealing with color contrast. Yes, this is something everyone finds very annoying. We liked the subtitle – “Web Accessibility for Text & UI Design.” Good thesis – always make your UI components easy to identify.
Getting started with style queries by Una Kravets is a solid read also. The ability to query a parent object’s inline size along with container query unit values has achieved stable support in modern browser engines. Una covers the fundamentals of working with these and provides useful examples (including code snippets). Of course, this technology continues to expand and you should be come familiar with these approaches whether you are a practicing web professional or an aspiring one.
Alexander Dawson published an interesting article on the carbon impact of web standards in January, 2023 (yes, we just encountered this one and it is worth reading). Given that the Internet is a major source of carbon pollution, it is important to think in terms of sustainable web design. Yes, Greenpeace recently reported that if the Internet were a country, it would be in the top 10 carbon emitters. The BBC published an overview of the extent of the problem a few years ago. Yes, the WWW is highly dependent on electricity (and the source of much of that electricity is not carbon neutral). Alexander focused on HTML and CSS and how much energy was required to render a basic boilerplate. He relied on different browsers, different hosting providers, different equipment and different locations (among other variables).
His test suite consisted of nearly 300 HTML elements and attributes, over 500 CSS rule, selector, and property tests, and over 50 media and other specification tests. He noted that embedding interactive content caused the use of a significant amount of CPU, GPU, RAM, and data usage. Non-standard code triggered rendering issues as well. with respect to CSS, animation (specifically keyframe animation) and the use of custom fonts caused a dramatic impact. For media formats, SVG is the best. We thought his conclusion (below) summarized that major changes are needed.
Yes, that was a lot to examine this month. We are keen to learn what you liked and what areas you would like us to examine in greater detail. We look forward to your comments.
Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth sponsored the “Websites and Software Applications Accessibility Act‘ in September. This link will open in a new browser tab and is a synopsis. Although this is proposed legislation and we do not know if it will eventually become law, we (at Web Professionals Global) thought it important to mention this as we near the end of the year.
Although the future of this law is presently not known, it is important to note some of the key aspects of this proposed legislation. This would make it unlawful for entities covered by the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) “to maintain inaccessible websites and applications that exclude or otherwise discriminate against people with disabilities.” There would be a clear and enforceable accessibility standard with a technical assistance center and an advisory committee. The latter would provide advice on making websites and applications accessible. A study addressing emerging technologies would also be authorized. Quotes are from the above link.
Note the mention of clear and enforceable standards. In many cases, current laws seem vague and significantly lagging behind technology. Clarity will certainly help. Note also the proposed technical assistance center and advisory committee. In our opinion, these two items have been sorely lacking from most legislation. Most businesses simply lack the resources to “figure it out” on their own.
Given what we have experienced with the pandemic, we all should understand better what it is to be excluded from a digital environment. Accessibility is experiencing significantly increased interest and awareness these days. We suspect accessibility laws are only going to be strengthened in the near future. As practicing web professionals, we should be helping our clients understand the importance of making websites, apps, and emerging technologies accessible (augmented reality, virtual reality, NFTs and more).
Want to know more?
We recommend this great article by Lainey Feingold which discusses this legislation in much greater depth.
What are your thoughts on accessibility as it relates to emerging technologies? We look forward to reading your comments.
Here at Web Professionals Global, we hope everyone has been experiencing a successful November. It is time again to focus on a few items which caught our attention during the month. We never cease to be impressed at how quickly web technologies change. Let’s briefly focus on these areas for now:
- Accessibility, and
Browsers are beginning to support media query range syntax. Sure, it is not supported in all browsers on all devices yet, but knowing this is coming is huge. It should save significant time coding CSS. Instead of having to specify specific media sizes, we may soon be able to employ mathematical symbols such as >, <, <=, and so forth. Perhaps we can avoid min-width and similar bits as this is supported more and more. Readers are encouraged to follow the above link (it will open in a new tab) to learn more. Please let us know what you think about the possibilities of this via comments.
Adrian Roselli posted an article earlier this year on buttons, enter and space. From a user experience perspective, this is a great refresher on what happens when you use native keyboard interactions. Adrian even provides a working example (with counters). His last word in the article is something we advocate all the time – test. What are your thoughts about keyboard interactions?
Let’s not overlook e-commerce accessibility either. We came across this article specifying UI elements using roles. As many of our readers know, specifying the purpose of UI elements is critical when visitors to a site rely on assistive technologies. We thought this article provided a great number of insights and examples. We look forward to your thoughts on this topic as well.
As we approach the end of the year (and many of us have to provide tech support to family and friends as they receive new devices), it might be wise to bookmark the OUCH newsletter site. Disclosure, Mark (your executive director) is one of the monthly reviewers of these articles before they go live. Each month, a security professional provides a timely overview of one aspect on security. Articles are kept short and are suitable for sharing with those not as savvy in various aspects of technology.
That is all for our November desktop view. We know your time is valuable and appreciate you reading this post. If you would like us to include additional articles or focus on additional aspects, please let us know via your comments below. Until next time…
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals Global (aka World Organization of Webmasters)
It has been some time since I posted some thoughts on the current state of web technologies. A lot has happened during recent months. Let’s focus on several key areas:
- web accessibility,
- and CSS.
More areas may be the focus of subsequent articles. Stay tuned. As always, we at Web Professionals Global are interested in what you think. Let us know in the comments or contact us directly.
WCAG 3 has been released as a draft (published in December, 2021). Latest editors draft updated as of July, 2022. The approach is iterative with content ranging from temporary (just a placeholder for future content) to mature (ready for publication). This version is somewhat evolutionary in that it will be easy to understand and provide guidance. A key differentiator is that this version has a broader scope (beyond web content). I encourage you to view the above links and consider helping develop the next version of Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Of course, there is also a new ARIA authoring practices guide website. Lots of patterns and resources. Check it out.
As web professionals, we should remind ourselves (and our clients of some fundamental tactics which help mitigate these sorts of attacks.
At a minimum, never act on anything that purports to have an extreme sense of urgency. That is what malicious individuals want. Act before you have a chance to think about the implications. It is also good practice to never click on links in emails or text messages. Instead, open a browser and type the site directly (or use a reliable search engine). Lastly, only install updates from trusted sources (and use the traditional channels where those updates are distributed).
Remember the days of aural style sheets (yes, they were a thing). Of course, no browsers supported them. However, a recent article (October, 2022) has raised some hope for me again. Why we need CSS speech is the article. What are your thoughts about CSS speech? Again, reach out to us in the comments.
Of course, there are many enhancements in the works for CSS. These include items such as:
- The ability to nest selectors is presently in the works. This is possible a good way to organize your CSS code. Of course, no browsers yet support this.
- Cascade layers (which give authors the ability to group their CSS and affect how the cascade applies). The linked article should give you a much better understanding. This is like nesting selectors, but much more. Is this feature ready for prime time? No, but you might want to start learning about them.
- CSS subgrid allows for styling on a page to inherit the parent’s grid styling. MDN has a nice overview with examples. That is the reference linked at the start of this bullet.
Mark DuBois, Executive Director
Web Professionals Global (a.k.a. World Organization of Webmasters)