Oh yes, I’m working for the government. Making the web site of one of the main government departments accessible. Well, more accessible than it is at present. Full accessibility will wait until a new site is launched sometime next year.

Yesterday someone came in to say hello and saw a sketch of many nested rectangles I’d made on paper.

“Is that our template?”

“That’s part of your template.”

Then I showed him what I’d been working on – Firefox with the Web Developer extension and the “Outline Table Cells” option enabled. In one tab I had a page from the live site and in another tab I had a copy of the same page that I had been working one. One was almost totally red the other wasn’t.

In one place I’d replaced five levels of nested tables with a single div.

The brief is accessibility, and the nested tables, although excessive, did linearise acceptably and were mostly sized with percentages. So why did I bother? Accessibility it not just about users with disabilities. It’s about users who, for any reason, have problems accessing the site. Any user on dialup will see the difference – the page has gone from 51kb to 36kb already and I’m sure that I’ll be making further reductions.

And there’s more: the div version looks better (both tidier and truer to the design) in Netscape 4.x than the table version did. Backwards compatability by using more modern code.

Your tax money = my beer money + a faster, more compatible, more accessible web site.

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