Cheesetoast » General http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk Brain Food for Web Developers Mon, 07 Jul 2014 23:18:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.7 RSS Not Dead Yet http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/rss-not-dead-google-reader/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/rss-not-dead-google-reader/#comments Tue, 16 Apr 2013 20:03:41 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=1170 It's been over a month now since Google announced that it was shutting down Google Reader. The closing of the much loved RSS client has caused a lot of ripples in the online community. This post talks about a few of the alternatives to Google Reader. Continue reading

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Now that Google Reader is on the way out is this the end for RSS feeds?

It’s been over a month now since Google announced that it was shutting down Google Reader. The closing of the much loved RSS client has caused a lot of ripples in the online community. Some say this announcement marks the end of RSS feeds and that social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and even Google+ have replaced them as a source of syndication. Many who support RSS (myself included) are exploring the alternatives to Google Reader in the hopes that the popularity of RSS doesn’t dwindle any further. There’s also a lot of apathy from people who never saw the value of RSS in the first place.

The announcement that Digg is working on their own RSS reader raises my hopes that there is still life in RSS feeds yet. The Digg team has been gathering a lot of user feedback to learn what people really want from a reader and I’m very excited to see what they come up with.

Feedly RSS Reader App on a mobile device

Feedly RSS Reader App for mobile devices

Another beacon of hope comes from Feedly, whose sexy UI style appeals to those with a taste for aesthetics. It also has excellent app support for mobile devices.

Another alternative that has recently come to my attention is Skimr, a slick and simple RSS reader that displays the title and the first couple of sentences so that you can skim through a heap of feeds quickly. Read more about Skimr at Sitepoint.

Personally I hope that RSS feeds will still be supported for a long time yet. It’s a great way to gather and organize informative articles in one place. It’s important to remind ourselves though, that Really Simple Syndication is still at the heart of social media sites. RSS isn’t dying, it’s just changing the way it’s delivered to us.

Incidentally, if you’d like to get updates of posts from this site sign up to the RSS feed.

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Mobile Devices and Online Shopping Infographic http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/mobile-devices-online-shopping/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/mobile-devices-online-shopping/#comments Tue, 29 Jan 2013 18:10:19 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=1050 Check out this infographic from the daily egg which shows some interesting statistics on how consumers use their mobile devices for online shopping. Continue reading

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Check out this infographic from the daily egg which shows some interesting statistics on how consumers use their mobile devices for online shopping:

How Consumers Use Mobile In The Marketplace
Infographic brought to you by Crazy Egg Analytics

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Microsoft Shuts Down Messenger on March 15th http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/microsoft-shuts-messenger-march-15th/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/microsoft-shuts-messenger-march-15th/#comments Wed, 09 Jan 2013 19:41:31 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=1042 Microsoft will be officially shutting down Windows Live Messenger (formally MSN Messenger) on March 15th, 2013. Launched as MSN Messenger back in 1998, the messenger has become less popular since the release of alternative chat and video services like Skype and Google Hangout. Continue reading

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Microsoft will be officially shutting down Windows Live Messenger (formally MSN Messenger) on March 15th, 2013. Users will be  transitioned over to Skype, which Microsoft acquired back in 2011. Users can log into Skype with an Messenger ID where existing contacts will be retained.

Launched as MSN Messenger back in 1998, the messenger has become less popular since the release of alternative chat and video services like Skype and Google Hangout.

R.I.P. Messenger

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Recommended Web Design & Development Blogs http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/recommended-web-design-blogs/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/recommended-web-design-blogs/#comments Fri, 29 Jun 2012 16:35:48 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=461 Anyone who's into web design & development knows that it's important to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies. The best way to do this is to read quality blogs and online magazines. I've put together a list of the blogs I find are the most useful and interesting as a front end web developer. Continue reading

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Anyone who’s into web design & development knows that it’s important to keep up-to-date with the latest technologies. The best way to do this is to read quality blogs and online magazines. I’ve put together a list of the blogs I find are the most useful and interesting as a front end web developer.

CSS-Tricks
If I ever need to search for anything on CSS, this is where I go first. It offers great online tutorials, code snippets, and video screencasts (+ awesome responsive layout). Several of the writers have recently launched Codepen, a site designed for building stuff with HTML, CSS & Javascript. From what I’ve seen so far, it’s an excellent way to learn and share code.
Smashing Magazine
Smashing Magazine is an excellent resource for web designers. It includes tutorials on coding, design, UX design, WordPress, and more. The magazine has published a high quality series of books/ebooks that are well worth reading. The website itself is also an outstanding example of responsive web design.
A List Apart
A List Apart is a well respected web magazine that explores the design, development, and meaning of web content, with a special focus on web standards and best practices.
Web Designer Wall
This one was of the first blogs I started following, back when I was new to web design. It’s still one of my all time favorite websites. Not only does author/artist Nick La write brilliant tutorials but the design of the site is inspirational. Every single post has something useful to offer.
Cats Who Code
Dedicated to people who create websites, Cats Who Code offers plenty of articles and code snippets for HTML, CSS, Javascript, WordPress, PHP, SQL and more! Also it has a cat.
Sitepoint
SitePoint is a fast growing online media company and information provider targeting the web professional market, specifically web developers and designers. As well as tutorials and articles on all things web, Sitepoint also has a great forum for discussion.
Nettuts+
Nettuts+ offers detailed tutorials and articles on HTML, CSS, Javascript, CMS’s, PHP, WordPress and Ruby on Rails. The in-depth tutorials include demos and source files so that learning is made easy. You can also upgrade to Tuts Premium, an online education platform (just make sure you don’t make a typo when you google ‘tuts premium’).
HTML5 Doctor
HTML5 Doctor was setup to shine a light on the hows and whys of implementing HTML5. They also welcome questions via an ‘Ask the Doctor’ section. Since the HTML5 specifications have yet to be finalized this site encourages discussion that may one day contribute to the future of the HTML.
1st WebDesigner
An excellent source of tutorials, articles, inspiration. Also includes freebies such as icons, color patterns, and HTML templates. I’ve read some really useful tutorials from this site!

Others

Paulund
I started following this blog about a month ago and I’ve come to find that every single post has been right up my alley. All of the code snippets and resources are useful and up-to-date. I highly recommend taking a look at this blog. Written by Paul Underwood.
CSS Zen Garden
Since the site was launched in 2003 it has been used to showcase what’s possible with CSS, using a single HTML markup page as a foundation for several different designs. Not technically a blog, but still worth mentioning.

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Is Responsive Web Design Important? http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/responsive-web-layout-design-important-useful/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/responsive-web-layout-design-important-useful/#comments Wed, 23 May 2012 16:32:44 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=380 There’s a huge buzz around responsive web design at the moment. As I mentioned in my previous article, mobile web browsing is expected to overtake desktop browsing within a few years. Now designers are using responsive design to ensure their sites adapt to different devices. But is it worth jumping onto the responsive bandwagon? Is responsive design an important step in the evolution of web design or is it just a gimmick? Continue reading

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There’s a huge buzz around responsive web design at the moment. As I mentioned in my previous article, mobile web browsing is expected to overtake desktop browsing within a few years. Now designers are using responsive design to ensure their sites adapt to different devices. But is it worth jumping onto the responsive bandwagon? Is responsive design an important step in the evolution of web design or is it just a gimmick?

“Day by day, the number of devices, platforms, and browsers that need to work with your site grows. Responsive web design represents a fundamental shift in how we’ll build websites for the decade to come.” Jeffrey Veen

Responsive design makes use of flexible grids and CSS media queries to make a website that responds to varying resolutions. Although fluid layouts have been around for over a decade now, responsive design takes things a step further. Not only is it used to change the basic structure of a page but it can also be very useful for re-scaling images, text, and video.

Ironically, HTML has always been responsive. It was only when CSS popularized fixed widths that layouts became less flexible. Now CSS media queries aim to solve the problem of rigid layouts. To learn more about the subject I recommend you read this article from Smashing Magazine.

Usability Benefits

The whole point of responsive design is to improve the user experience through flexibility. The page adapts to the screen size to better suit the way the user interacts with it. Although smart phones have the ability to zoom, either by multi-touch ‘pinching’ or the double-tap, it’s not without problems. This is especially apparent when filling out forms, the process of which can be cumbersome and frustrating.

Here are some of the benefits of adopting a responsive design:

Future Proofing
As mentioned earlier, mobile browsing is set to overtake desktop browsing. To accommodate mobile users it’s important to design for smaller screens and touch based interaction. While some experts recommend developing a separate mobile-optimized site, a responsive approach is usually much less time consuming and less expensive.
Reduce Download Times
To improve download times on mobile devices designers can be use ‘adaptive images’ whereby image files can be optimized for mobile devices. Unfortunately this technique hasn’t been perfected yet, as it requires javascript that isn’t quite semantic. Luckily, those working on the issue have formed the Responsive Images Community Group (RICG) to “facilitate conversations with standards bodies and browser representatives”.
Creativity
The great thing about responsive design is that it urges designers to put more thought into what’s really important on the page. Unnecessary clutter can be scrapped and navigation elements can be made larger for mobile devices with touch screen interfaces.
Responsive Presentation
To improve usability on a site, it’s important to consider not only the device, but the user requirements and the context of use. Mobile users tend to spend less time browsing a site so it’s important to implement simple navigation and quicker conversion funnels. Responsive layout allows designers to optimize presentation for mobile users.

“Taking the user’s needs into account doesn’t just mean adapting your content to the screen size. It also means thinking about what that mobile user will require first when visiting your site and then laying out the content accordingly. Maybe you’ll present the information in a different order.” Katrien De Graeve

Not For Everyone

Although there are obvious benefits to using a responsive layout, it’s definitely not for everyone.

Aesthetics
Some designers, who put a lot of work into creating expansive, artistic layouts might not want to sacrifice their canvas for a narrower window where navigation takes center stage. Although responsive design can be used to improve UX, it can dramatically alter the visual appeal of the site. The balance between aesthetics and usability is a subject rife with debate.
Tables
It’s not just aesthetics that conflicts with responsive layouts. Tables are notoriously difficult to display well on smaller screens. Although there are some very elegant solutions to the problem, they don’t work across all browsers yet.
Time/Money
Going all-out to design for phones, tablets, desktop monitors and uber desktop monitors essentially involves designing 4 separate layouts. If you’re one of those people or organizations where time = money, this can be a major concern.

Conclusion

Although responsive design isn’t suitable for all websites, it’s definitely something to consider due to the relative ease at which it can be setup and benefits it can offer. It’s important for designers to keep up with the latest technology and responsive design is a great way to accommodate for the shift in browsing devices.

A lot of people seem to be concerned that through responsive design mobile browsers are given a stripped down version of the site. I agree that is most cases this should not be the case; mobile users shouldn’t be excluded from content. However, designers are given the opportunity to optimize the user experience by customizing aspects such as navigation, and this should be embraced.

Responsive web design is cheaper and less time consuming than developing a separate mobile-optimized website and with loads of great responsive WordPress themes out there it doesn’t take much to get setup.

Here are just a few examples of great wordpress themes that offer responsive layout:

If you have any thoughts about this post I’d love to hear about them!

Update: For an interesting discussion on Responsive Layout you can read and comment on the article “5 Reasons Why Responsive Design is Not Worth It“.

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Automatically Post to Social Networking Sites From Your Blog http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/automatically-post-social-media-blog/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/automatically-post-social-media-blog/#comments Sun, 25 Mar 2012 21:28:11 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=315 Use Twitterfeed to automatically update your social networking websites directly from your blog!
Twitterfeed is a social media publishing tool that can handle multiple social networking accounts on your behalf! It keeps a close eye on your blog's RSS feed and posts new entries to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It's easy to setup and you can create multiple feeds to different blog categories. Continue reading

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Twitterfeed

Use Twitterfeed to automatically update your social networking websites directly from your blog!

Now that the Internet can be accessed from your desktop computer, your phone, your tablet, and even your fridge it’s more important than ever for a lot of professionals to establish their online presence. One of the best ways to get noticed is to sign up to a whole bunch of social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Delicious, etc. (the list is very long). The obvious problem is that the more networking sites you sign up for, the more work is involved in updating them all. Without regular updates there’s a good chance your online presence will start to go stale.

Luckily, Twitterfeed can post to multiple social networking accounts on your behalf. It’s a social media publishing tool which keeps a close eye on your blog’s RSS feed and posts new entries to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn accounts. It’s easy to setup and you can use multiple feeds for different blog categories.

As well as posting automatically, Twitterfeed also keeps track of the number of clicks per link so that you can monitor how much attention you’re getting.

If you’re interested in getting started visit Twitterfeed.com and sign up for a free account (you can even sign in using an OpenID).

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SEO – Optimize Your Website for Search Engines http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/seo-optimize-your-website-for-search-engines/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/seo-optimize-your-website-for-search-engines/#comments Sun, 10 Jul 2011 18:46:51 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/cheesepress/?p=136 If you want to improve your search engine ranking, here are some tips for search engine optimization (SEO).

This article talks about how to write well written content, how interlinking can help with page rankings and, if you're using Wordpress, which plugins can help.

Continue reading

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Looking to improve your search engine ranking? Here are some tips on how to optimize your site for search engines such as Google, Yahoo! and Bing.

Well Written Content

A lot of people look for shortcuts to give their site a high search ranking but the truth is that one of the best ways to get your site a good spot on Google is simply to produce good, well written content.

By writing detailed, useful information you’ll not only engage your users but you’ll be populating your pages with relevant key words and phrases. If your content is interesting, your users are more likely to recommend it to other people and link to your site.

Inverted Pyramid

The Inverted Pyramid

To write well written content you should use the ‘inverted pyramid’ style of writing. This style is used by in newspapers and involves putting the most important information at the top of the page and with additional information following in descending order of importance.

Since users generally scan content, instead of reading everything on the page, writing in this style will ensure that they get the most out of the article (especially if there is content beneath the ‘fold’). Make sure that you’re using header tags (e.g. <h2></h2>) where appropriate.

I wrote more about this style of writing in a previous article called ‘What Makes Good Usability?’. For more tips on how to produce well written content, I recommend reading “Writing for the Web” by Jacob Neilsen, especially his article on How Users Read on the Web.

You should also bear in mind that a picture is worth o words to search bots. Images and flash elements cannot be interpreted by search engines (with the exception of HTML tags).

Interlinking

Have you ever gone onto Wikipedia to look up an article and found that you just kept bouncing from article to article. That’s because Wikipedia has fantastic interlinking (linking within the page content) that makes it easy to find related content. Not only does interlinking make navigation easier for users, but it will contribute to your search rankings.

Here are a few interesting bits of information you may not have known about:

  • Links originating from the main body of your page will generally hold more sway than those in sidebars and footers.
  • Links higher up in the markup will count for more than those lower down.
  • Links to external sites will be more influential than internal links.

Speaking of external links, you may be interested in this article from seomoz which goes into more detail about linking.

Titles and Descriptions

It’s always good to give your pages relevant titles and descriptions. Ideally each one of your pages should have it’s own title and description. If you’re coding your own site then you’ll need to use the following code at the top of your HTML code (between <head> and </head>):

<title>[Page Title goes here]</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”[Description of page goes here]” />

Your title should be 60 characters or less and your description should be 160 characters or less. Make good use of your characters; make them keyword rich, but don’t overdo it.

If you’re using WordPress then you can (and should) use the ‘All in One SEO’ plugin (I’ll go into more detail about this further down).

It’s also important to give your images relevant filenames as well as descriptive alt tags. In addition to helping with SEO, it’s also very important for accessibility; users with screen readers rely on these alt tags so don’t overlook them.

SEO for WordPress

WordPress Plugins – All in One SEO Pack & Google XML Sitemap

If you’re using a WordPress site then these plugins are a good place to start. The ‘All in one SEO pack’ will give you greater control over your titles, descriptions and keywords. It also helps by limiting duplicate content that wordpress creates by archiving. The XML sitemap plugin creates a search engine readable file in your sites root directory that helps with your rankings.

Update: Yoast has developed a plugin called WordPress SEO which offers complete search engine optimization for WordPress. It combines many of the features from All in One SEO Pack and Google XML Sitemaps (page titles, meta descriptions, XML sitemap generation, etc.), while adding new features such as robot meta and .htaccess configuration, breadcrumbs and more.

Note: If you’re using All in One SEO Pack or Headspace and want to switch over to WordPress SEO, it also comes with a migration option that makes it easy. If you want to want to read more about migration or have any concerns about switching over, read the Yoast migration article and check out the comments too.

For more tips I recommend you read this article from Yoast on SEO.

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Cheesetoast has Switched to WordPress http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/cheesetoast-has-switched-to-wordpress/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/cheesetoast-has-switched-to-wordpress/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2011 02:07:20 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/?p=152 Cheesetoast has moved from Joomla over to WordPress! Having become more proficient with using WordPress I decided to make the switch.  Joomla is a great CMS, but WordPress is just way more fun to play around with.  

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Cheesetoast has moved from Joomla over to WordPress!

Having become more proficient with using WordPress I decided to make the switch.  Joomla is a great CMS, but WordPress is just way more fun to play around with.

 

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Aesthetics and Usability http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/aesthetics-and-usability/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/aesthetics-and-usability/#comments Sat, 30 Oct 2010 22:11:21 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/cheesepress/?p=50 If a web page is made more attractive, does that make it easier to use? Usability and aesthetics have been the topic of much discussion with designers. The word 'aesthetics' can be defined as the study of beauty and artistic taste. Unlike usability, aesthetic appeal is not something which can be easily measured or quantified as it is largely based on personal preference. Beauty itself is a combination of shape, colour and form and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. People like to see attractive websites because they are visually stimulated by them. What researchers are trying to determine is if visual attractiveness aids the usability of a site or if it acts as a distraction. Continue reading

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If a web page is made more attractive, does that make it easier to use? Usability and aesthetics have been the topic of much discussion with designers. The word ‘aesthetics’ can be defined as the study of beauty and artistic taste. Unlike usability, aesthetic appeal is not something which can be easily measured or quantified as it is largely based on personal preference. Beauty itself is a combination of shape, colour and form and can be interpreted in a variety of ways. People like to see attractive websites because they are visually stimulated by them. What researchers are trying to determine is if visual attractiveness aids the usability of a site or if it acts as a distraction.

Current usability tests are intended to measure the speed, efficiency and errors made by the user but human perceptions are designed to pick up on inconsistencies, and often well designed web systems are those which go unnoticed. There has often been a conflict of interests between usability experts and graphic designers. On one hand, usability experts have lists of principles and guidelines for simplicity, speed and efficiency. On the other hand, graphic designers have a desire to create something visually stunning, unique and entertaining. Over the years social psychology has shown that a sources credibility can be positively influenced by its attractiveness. In 2009, Sqaak et al. reported their findings from a study that found that a person’s trust in an organisation has a strong relationship with the visual appeal of their website.

Usability expert Jakob Nielsen has voiced his opinion (based on eye tracking studies) that graphics that are used solely for aesthetic appeal are ignored by users and are therefore useless. While the results of these studies are of great importance, the conclusion Nielsen draws is under debate. In psychology, emotional reactions are known as affective responses. These reactions happen extremely quickly and are largely unconscious. Research by Gitte Lindgaard has shown that users can make a decision about the visual appeal of a website in 50 milliseconds. Although Lindagaard admits that further research is required to determine how this reaction relates to usability, there is clearly an unconscious element that is worth consideration.

Visual appeal can also have an effect on the time the user looks at a page and stimulates inquisitiveness, which leads to exploration. What interests some researchers in this area is that they can test not only for usability, but the perceived usability and the role that aesthetics has to play  The notion that users will perceive systems of greater aesthetic appeal to be more usable is subject of much research. In 2000, Tractinsky, et al., carried out an experiment in which ATM user interfaces were tested to find a relationship between the test subjects’ perception of its beauty and the perceived usability. The user interfaces which were regarded as being more attractive were considered more usable, despite the fact they had longer response times and more errors than those interfaces which were deemed less attractive. What this experiment demonstrates is that users perceive things of beauty to have a higher degree of usability, even when they do not.

It is important to design websites that balance usability principles and aesthetic appeal to ensure that pages are visually attractive as well as easy to use. Usability experts urge designers to standardise and build with consistency in mind. While these recommendations are important, taken too far, websites on the Internet could lose their individuality and much of their appeal. Since good usability is invisible, aesthetics are used to stimulate the user and arouse their attention.

 

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Accessibility Online http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/accessibility-online/ http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/accessibility-online/#comments Fri, 29 Oct 2010 23:09:15 +0000 http://www.cheesetoast.co.uk/cheesepress/?p=48 For people with disabilities surfing the web can be difficult, if not impossible. Common tasks that most people take for granted such as reading, typing or online purchasing can become complex, time consuming endeavours for people who are less capable.
Making websites usable involves taking into consideration the disabilities of the users. Continue reading

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For people with disabilities surfing the web can be difficult, if not impossible. Common tasks that most people take for granted such as reading, typing or online purchasing can become complex, time consuming endeavours for people who are less capable. Disabilities may include blindness, deafness or hard of hearing. With ever more elaborate media types being introduced to the Internet, the harder it becomes for disabled users to interact on the web.

Making websites usable involves taking into consideration the disabilities of the users. Designing for people with disabilities makes good business sense. As well as catering for a wider range of people, disabled users are likely to become loyal to sites who meet their special needs. Many websites are required to comply with legislation on accessibility and look to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) for guidance and international standards.

The W3C supplies guidelines for accessibility through the Web Accessibility Initiative (WAI). The W3C encourages the use of correctly coded HTML (Hypertext Mark-up Language) to construct web pages. HTML was designed as a way to create structured documents through the use of semantics, thereby conveying meaning rather than presentation. Strictly coded HTML can then be interpreted by different types of browsers and presented in a way that suits the user, whilst still conveying the same meaning.

Despite these guidelines being in place for accessibility, there are still limitations on how graphical elements (such as images, tables, maps, graphs and multimedia) are displayed for users with visual impairments. The W3C guidelines declares that images and other graphical elements must contain ‘alt’ tags in the HTML code, which give a brief description of the element for cases where the image cannot be displayed (for instance, text only browsers or assistive technology). Graphs are especially complicated, as they condense a great deal of data into one image and a short textual description cannot always convey all the information. Another attempt to describe visual elements in HTML is the ‘longdesc’ attribute, one that provides a link to a longer description of the image, although the developers portal W3schools describes this this attribute as being, “so poorly supported that it should not be used”. None the less, it is important to design with the needs of disabled users in mind. Not only is this better from a moral perspective, but it can increase the number of people able to use the site.

 

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