Wendy Chisholm

Stairs make the building inaccessible, not the wheelchair. Co-author of Universal Design for Web Applications. Strategist for Microsoft. @wendyabc at twitter.

Archive for the ‘design’ tag

cheap and easy?

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At barcampSeattle, Bryan, Dylan, Matt, I, and several others started a dialog about helping people adopt accessible design practices. The summary of our discussion was, “make it cheap and easy.” Last week, inspired by a comment from tantek, the dialog continued on twitter. We compared accessible design to green/environmentally-friendly design….and doughnuts. :)

I’ve been working on a mental stew with the following ingredients:

  • “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” about one family’s year-long localvore experiement – eating foods raised by themselves or neighbors and minimizing the cost of fuel used to produce and consume the foods they eat.
  • “Vegetable Gardening West of the Cascades” about the benefits of gardening in the Seattle area and how we could eat fresh veggies from our gardens year-round…assuming climate change doesn’t shift our winter temperatures too many degrees.
  • We’re preparing to paint the outside of our house and I’ve been researching the greenest option – paint or stain. Which lasts longer? What are the effects on the environment? Where are the materials produced and how much fuel will it take to ship to our painter? The costs and products are not quite there yet, which is frustrating for me as a consumer.
  • My son is toilet training which means many more flushes of our toilets. We received the water bill yesterday and are consuming noticebly more gallons of water *per day.* What if we only had so much water in a cistern or a well and couldn’t just pull more from the city? When will I be able to view our water supply like I do our bank account? When we overdraw, it has to come from somewhere.
  • I’m co-writing a book on Universal Design of web applications and I’ve been tearing apart, challenging, and reconstructing my knowledge about accessibility, disability studies, culture, and web technologies.

As a consumer, I *want* to do the green thing. I want to buy efficient toilets and use the least toxic paint. I am driven by making the world a better place, not only for myself, but for my son. What holds me back are costs and fears. The fears are: How long will the water-based paints last? Will they protect my house as well as paints with pest/herbicides? In Seattle, where there is so much water on wood, this is a big question. The costs are: Water-based paints costs almost twice per gallon than latex paints. Stains need to be reapplied more often. Then, there’s what I prefer. I like the way paint looks.

I am trying to understand the point of view of designers and developers who have not whole-heartedly adopted web standards and accessibility. I think they have similar struggles with fears and costs. I believe that most people want to do the right thing but they aren’t sure they know how, don’t have the time to find out, and fear the costs.

If I were to put in more efficient toilets, the city of Seattle would give me a rebate. I assume the reasoning by The City of Seattle goes something like: We’re all in this together, so if more people save water there will be more water for all of us. I guess I get my own tax dollars back when I contribute to the greater good.

While I think there are plenty of reasons to make your sites accessible, perhaps monetary incentives would help. I don’t know where we’d get the funding, but imagine if you added appropriate alt-text to all of the images on your site, you could get a rebate. What do you think? Would it work? If we could raise the money, is there a better way to spend it (like buying technology for people with disabilities)? do you have other ideas to make accessible design “cheap and easy?” Is that the right target? Other thoughts?

Written by wendy

July 2nd, 2008 at 6:51 pm

Posted in musings

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another dumb user – me

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I am schooled in the ways of human factors. I know that if your user feels dumb, there is probably something wrong with your system. I know that you should give your user a way to back out of a mistake. I know that most of the “user errors” that cause harm could have been prevented by better design.

I feel dumb.

Here’s my situation: Yesterday, I tried to transfer money from my checking account to my paypal account. It didn’t show up. I poked around and finally noticed the “details” link on the transaction and learned it was going to take 3-5 business days to transfer the money. That wasn’t what I had in mind. I searched for a way to cancel the transaction. No dice.

I called my bank. “Nothing we can do.”

I called paypal. “It takes 3-5 business days. Nothing we can do.”
me: “Why does it take 3-5 business days?”
service rep: “It takes 3-5 business days. Nothing we can do.”
me: “May I talk to your supervisor?”
service rep: “Sure. But she’ll tell you the same thing.”
me: “Ok. I’d like to hear it from someone else.”
service rep’s supervisor: “3-5 business days. Nothing we can do. It’s a process. If you want to complain you can print this form and mail it in.”
me: “You are an online service and you want me to print and mail something?”
service rep’s supervisor: “You could email service@paypal.com”
me: “Right. That sounds really helpful. Thanks.”

I was kind of huffy at this point and sent out a couple tweets. Then, here’s where I feel really dumb: On the “Add funds by electronic transfer” page in paypal, just above the drop-down and text entry field is this line, “It takes 3-5 business days to electronically transfer funds from your bank account to your PayPal account.”

Ok. You told me. But, I missed it. I’m dumb. And that mistake will cost me 6-10 days without access to my money while it sits in limbo to transfer from my bank to paypal then more limbo when I transfer it back to my bank account.

I get it. Dumb. But, how is it that when I buy my groceries down the road the transaction shows up in my online checking account before I’m home? How is it that when I pay my bills online, the payment is taken out of my account the day that I say I want it taken out of my account and it doesn’t take 3-5 business days for the company I’m paying to receive the payment? How is it that if I make an error in paying someone, I can call my bank and say, “don’t let that one go through?”

Ideally, I’d like a way to stop a process and don’t understand why paypal can’t stop a process that they initiate. (Could someone explain that one to me?)

At a minimum, could they give me some sort of alert message after I click, “submit” that says, “Are you sure? Are you really really sure? Go back and read the terms, dummy.”

Written by wendy

April 11th, 2008 at 5:26 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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