I recently wrote that my new, long-term mission would be to get the administration area of my CMS working with both the WCAG and ATAG.
Truth be told, I haven’t yet made any progress with this, other than to give some of the issues rather more thought. In doing so, however, I’m already being pulled in two different directions.
On the other hand, I’m falling in love with script.aculo.us. Some well-placed visual effects here and there, and a little bit of AJAX magic in the right places, can work wonders on overall usability.
Equally, The Woking Forum has a bunch of ongoing discussions with many, many responses. On page load, messages older than three weeks aren’t included, but a little AJAX incorporates them into the page if you want them.
In the context of the Administration Shell, there are a number of places where these kinds of technique would improve usability in general. For example, the Shell includes an expandable sitemap to help the publisher select the page they want to edit. Although it already takes some steps to split the DOM manipulation required to open and close levels of the hierarchy into manageable chunks, everything would be so much snappier if levels of the sitemap were only loaded when expanded, using AJAX.
The Shell also has a number of places where the publisher is asked to sort a list of items as they choose. For example, a navigation list for a level in the site hierarchy isn’t generally sorted alphabetically, or by date, but according to an arbitrary sort order of the publisher’s choosing. Coding a usable interface for this kind of thing isn’t easy.
Except, of course, it is. The current Administration Shell doesn’t use a drag-and-drop list. Instead, it uses a series of buttons marked “here” for the publisher to indicate where they want to position an item within a list. But this is terribly clumsy, means that anything other than the shortest list takes up an acre of screen space, and means that it’s impossible to alter the position of more than one item at a time.
The main problem with scrip.aculo.us’s drag-and-drop sortable lists, however, is that in being drag-and-drop, they’re as far from being device-independent as you can get. It’s not possible to use the keyboard to sort one of these lists. I had hoped to improve accessibility within the Shell, not make it worse.
So, on the one hand, I want to be able to claim WCAG compliance for the Administration Shell. I want to be able to lift the browser-sniffing on the Shell for Window on Woking. I want to be able to apply the same rigour to the back-end of sites that I’ve started to apply to the front-end.
But, equally, I want to make the Shell as easy an environment to use as possible. I want to be able to take advantage of the good things to come out of “Web 2.0” (but not the name).