Jan 13, 2017

Hey! Web Designers, WHY DO YOU HATE ME???

Ok, I've had it. You may have noticed that I have not been posting much the last few months. There are several reasons for that... But, one is that it is actually physically painful for me to use Google any more. It isn't just Google... it is also Wells Fargo and just about all other web sites that have gone through a recent redesign.

You see (probably better than I do), I have several vision problems. One is just called old age, everyone gets cataracts. Everyone. Well,  everyone who lives long enough. Mild cataracts make things just a little blurry. I have mild cataracts. My opthamologist says I will need cataract surgery in 15 or 20 years. That is some time my mid '80s.

The trouble is that even now I have trouble seeing the tiny fonts that people use on modern web sites. They are just indistinct blobs. My vision in the one eye that works is 20/10. I can see just fine. But, I can't read the text on many web sites. To try to fix the problem I have a 32 inch monitor, I have set my desk top to scale everything up by 25%, I have Chrome set by default to magnify everything on the web by another 25%. So... by default I have to scale up the web by 56%. But, since Google uses such tiny tiny fonts I have to scale up by 50%. That means that to see the fonts on Google I have to scale every thing up by 86%.

Yeah, look at that again. I have a 32 inch HD screen with everything on it scaled up by 1.25 and then in the web browser everything is scaled up by between 1.25  and 1.5 larger than that.

Just. So. I. Can. See. The. Text.

Now that isn't half the problem. That isn't even the worst part of the problem. Even after all of that I often can not even find the text. What? Why not? The big new thing in web design is to use  soft grey, or soft blue grey text on a bright white background.

The bright white background causes me so much eye pain that I have to have the brightness on my monitor turned down to 20% of normal. Put soft grey or blue grey text on a bright white screen, turn the brightness down to 20% and see if you can find it. I can not.

Google is by far the worst offender that I deal with. Wells Fargo, which up until recently was my bank.... Is the second worst. I say second worst because Wells Fargo actually responds to complaints from old farts. I have had several nice conversations with people at Wells Fargo who have the job of keeping the company from facing huge class action law suits. They were not happy to find out that their new site is in violation of the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act). They are also facing charges of age discrimination over their new site. They are losing customers over their new site. Wells Fargo cares.

Google does not care. They do NOT reply to complaints. They do not make changes to make their sites more usable. It is hard to believe they have ever heard of the ADA and if they have they do not care about it. I'm really starting to hate Google. They used to be one of my favorite companies. Not any more.

To Google a customer is just a statistical abstraction. They do not have to deal with customers face to face. Wells Fargo does have to deal with individual human beings all day, every day. They have to care about the individual human beings who walk in and scream at them.

I wish I could say this is a problem of just a few bad companies. But, it isn't. Web design follows fads. There is almost 0(zero) innovation in web design. One designer does something slightly new and every one copies it. Right now the fad is sites designed for the 16 year old eye. The designers do not care about accessibility, they are not taught about it in school (if they went to school). It is not talked about in books, if they read books. But worse, the CEOs, COOs, CFOs, CTOs of the companies that hire web designers do not care about accessibility. Expect a LOT of very large class actions law suits to hit the Internet very soon.

Oh, I should mention some good sites. If you want to see a site that is designed to be accessible take a look at Amazon.com, take a look at NewEgg.com. Well designed, highly usable sites. I can spend as long as I want on those sites and I get no eye pain. Sure tells you where I spend my money.

I'll finish up with my favorite memory of talking to the very nice and highly professional lady from Wells Fargo:

Her: Our designers are surprised that people have so much trouble seeing the site. They say none of them have any trouble seeing it.

Me: Ahhh... Designers tend to have exceptional color and detail perception, otherwise they would not be designers. Anyway... if they had trouble with the site they would not have designed it that way.

Her: Oh....

Me: How old are the designers? Are any of them over 30?

Her: I don't know.... I don't think so.

Me: How much focus group testing did you do before you rolled out the new site?

I wound up teaching her about user interface focus group testing. I also sent her a list of ADA documents covering requirements for accessible web site design.

I guess I should not take it personally. The people I have come to hate do not care about me or anyone like me. They will not care until they wind up paying billions to settle the suits that I am sure are coming. This is an area where some smart lawyers can get very very rich in a short time. More power to 'em.


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