Simon Willison’s Weblog

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20th December 2002

Someone, please, tell me UsabilityNet is a joke. Spotted via an article on, UsabilityNet (apparently recently redesigned) claims to be “a project funded by the European Union to provide resources and networking for usability practitioners, managers and EU projects”. Again, IANAUE but here are some things wrong with it just off the top of my head:

  • The site uses Flash for all of the navigation (including the stuff on the front page), apparently for the sole reason of providing a rollover effect for links. This comes at the cost of requiring a plugin (sure Flash has something like a 95% market share, but try telling that to someone who browses with Lynx), making the site far less attractive to search engines and, most importantly of all, disabling my right mouse button. I can’t open links in new windows, I can’t open links in new tabs and I can’t copy the URL of a link to the clipboard without following the link first.
  • “Help us improve our site: click the WAMMI button”. The WAMMI button is a big grey square with “WAMMI” written on it. It links to a questionaire about the site, but the actual text of the button (an acronym which is not explained anywhere) fails to indicate what it does completely.
  • The site replicates Jakob Nielsen’s Top Ten Mistakes in Web Design and then blatantly ignores mistake 8, which warns against breaking the browser’s ability to distinguish between visited and non visited links (the site uses the same colour for both in the HTML, and Flash does not have the capability to distinguish between them in the first place).

It’s not all bad—once you get over the utterly bizzare decision to use Flash for the primary navigation it is relatively easy to navigate the site, understand what it has to offer and find the information you are looking for. The site claims to have been designed with accessibility in mind so it is likely that they have implemented Flash MX’s accessibility features (I have no way of testing this) but Flash is still inherently less accessible than plain HTML thanks to its graphical nature and reliance on a plugin. The thing that baffles me most is that the Flash used on the site is completely reproducable in standard HTML.

This is rant by Simon Willison, posted on 20th December 2002.

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