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.