Business 2.0, Design, Software & web applications, Standards

Ubi — how ubiquitous computing might advance web accessibility

Ross Dawson posted about an interesting Kickstarter project, Ubi which provides a device that plugs into an electrical outlet and provides voice-activated access to a variety of services, including the internet.

While there is reference to a key target group for the device being people with visual, hearing, or mobility impairments, the example photos and use scenarios outlined in the video and on the Kickstarter page point to a much broader audience and set of uses.

Thinking about the ability for browsing the internet using such a device, I’m reminded of the importance for developers of sites to ensure they’re using web standards and best practices to ensure the accessibility of their sites, and to provide open APIs to key data to enable custom applications that would run on devices like the Ubi to access relevant data. The reason I suggest this is, essentially, the device is a screen reader applied in quite a different context/use case to what such technology would traditionally be considered in.

I’m intrigued by the possibilities that a device like the Ubi presents. It will be interesting to see how these types of devices evolve and proliferate in the coming years, and how that further impacts the development of online applications and websites for the delivery of services and social innovations.

Code, Standards, Tips

Exploring SEO – Part 6: Technical matters – the invisible

It’s been, like, forever, since my last post in this series – feels like time to pick it up again and finish the series…

The suggestions in this post are focused on the “behind-the-scenes” elements of your site – to the untrained eye they may not be visible/obvious.

This post definitely sways towards the geek end of the spectrum (just a fair warning if that’s not your thing). However, even if you’re in management, it helps to understand these things for when you’re briefing your tech team.

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Code, NGOs & Nonprofits, Standards


Just a quick note to say that the Web Standards Group FullCodePress is happening again in May this year. What’s FullCodePress?

Web teams from different countries take each other on to build a complete website for a charity in 24 hours. No excuses, no extensions, no budget overruns.

If you’re in a non-profit and would like to apply to be the lucky charity, check out the details and apply before Friday 17 Apr 2009…


Designing for the device

I just attended the Web Standards Group Sydney meetup and saw another set of great presentations. The two on mobile development were of particular interest, though – a) because I’m presenting at Web Directions South in the same session time as Tim and Pete’s ‘Developing for the iPhone’ presentation (of which tonight’s was a preview); and b) because I’m interested in developing for the new breed of browsers coming on the market.

Ever since the iPhone was released my interest has focused around how the change in context will impact behaviour and usage of such a device (Tim and Pete’s presentation had some interesting stats on this front – tease). The iPhone is not just a phone – and it’s the context of use of having a usable, internet enabled device with a well designed and innovative interface (the multi-touch screen) that I’m really keen to both experience and design/develop for.

Tim, Pete and the team at have done a great job with the iPhone specific UI for News Limited – I really appreciate the iterative approach they outlined and how that has resulted in quite a nice interpretation.

During both mobile related presentations tonight the idea of developing a UI for a specific device was raised as both essential – to leverage the capabilities native to the device, such as the multi-touch screen and click to call in the iPhone’s case – and problematic – from the standpoint of standards-based development and the overhead of developing for multiple platforms.

I think that the experience demonstrates that standards will still play an important role – peeking under the hood of the iPhone version still shows an awful lot of standards-savvy markup, and from the sound of things it should be possible to “port” the iPhone version to other enhanced mobile browsers in due course.

But I suspect it will be some time before mobile-oriented development will standardise to the point of traditional web browsers. With a PC/Mac/Linux etc. there’s a core, dominant interaction paradigm in place – a mouse, a window, a browser, common UI elements. With mobile devices, that completely changes. The interaction paradigms are quite different between platforms – using a joystick vs. buttons vs. a numeric keypad vs. a QWERTY keyboard vs. a touch-screen etc.

Some level of customisation will be required to make the user experience a positive one on different classes of devices. Hopefully, though, these different classes will start to consolidate fairly quickly, so we can target groups of devices – i.e. multi-touch (see the Nokia iPhone for example) vs. QWERTY vs. tradition – rather than having to support each individual device from each manufacturer.