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Some Thoughts...

This Site’s Updates (2002.02.15)

So, over the past few days I’ve been making behind-the-scenes structural changes to my site. Some of it you may notice (like using new “curly” quotes), and some of it you may not. I’ve been doing these changes to make my site even more usable, more accessible, and more better. (Did he just say “more better”? Yes, I did. But I’m just thinking out loud here so I’ll allow it.)

In this process, I’ve also been checking my site with Bobby, a site where you can check if your site conforms to accessibility guidelines. Well, thinking that I had a very sleek site that doesn’t rely on graphics for navigation and other such stuff, I thought that I would automatically have Bobby approval. It turns out that I didn’t. Why? Just one check: having a default value for form fields.

That’s it? That’s it. All because I was leaving the search box on this site empty—so that when you click in the search box you can begin typing your search text without having to first delete anything already there. But, for Bobby approval, you have to have something in any input box. So where did this leave me if I wanted Bobby approval (and why do I want it you might ask... “just because” is the best answer I can give you. Just because if I want to sell my skills at being a Web programmer who’s skilled in making sites usable and accessible, I have to make sure that my own site lives up to what I preach), in order for my site to have Bobby approval I had to put some default text into the search input box.

So what did I put? Well, with the width of the menu I didn’t have much room for text in there, plus I didn’t just want to use the text “search” since that’s already the text leading up to the search box. So, I decided on using the text “input query” in order to get Bobby approval and have the text something people would hopefully understand (i.e. “here is where you input your search query”). I also, for browsers equipped with JavaScript, put in some JavaScript code so that, when you click into the search box, the browser will automatically highlight the text inside there, so that you don’t have to delete it, you can just start typing and it will replace what’s in there with what you’re typing.

Sounds good so far? I thought so too. Until just the other day when I checked my search report to see what people are searching my site for. Well, thank’s to Valentine’s Day I got a lot of people coming to my site (and searching my site) because of my poem A Valentine’s Poem. But, you know what got more searches than anything dealing with Valentine’s? Two words: “input query”. I got ten searches for “input query” since I made that change for Bobby Approval. I even got one search for “input query for dad”.

So, where does all this leave me? Well, for starters, it makes me question Bobby’s reasoning (and I know it’s not specifically Bobby, and that it’s really the W3C’s Web Accessibility Initiative) for requiring that input boxes should have default text already inside of them. (What about forms on e-commerce sites where you have to fill out your shipping information? Should there already be text in each field (name, address, city, state, zip, etc) that you have to delete first before you type in our own? Sure, having default text sounds good for accessibility, but it doesn’t sound all that good for usability.) Seeing all these searches for “input query” also leaves me with a headache of me trying to figure out what else I can do so that people won’t search for “input query”, why don’t other sites try to get this Bobby approval (are they just trying to avoid the headache I’m going through), and why why why is default text required!?!

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