Ok, so for whatever crazy reason, I decided to take on some studying. I figured that since I have been testing websites for several years now, purely from a usability perspective, I should learn more about the technical stuff. User testing is great, but I have been finding it hard to give advice to people on how to improve without knowing how to speak the wonderful computer language of HTML. I can tell you all day long that you need to put alt text on your images, but I had no clue what that really meant. I am still very new to it, so my skills are at the most basic level, but I have been actually enjoying the learning process.
The first thing I did was perform a Google search on basic html, and of course several thousand results came up. I looked at the beginner level of the W3C HTML Tutorial, actually went through its steps and learned from the first chapter or 2. I found another site called HTMLDog that had a really great tutorial with a lot of examples in the beginner levels, so that I could actually look at the code one character at a time. Once I learned some basics, I made my first page, which incorporated the use of paragraphs, headings, lists both ordered and unordered, a basic table and a small form. I find it fun and fascinating to view the source codes for websites and try to figure out how they tagged certain elements. I also have one more big advantage as I learn, and that is the great and vast knowledge of my husband, who has been very patient as I try to explain out loud what I am discovering.
I really have been enjoying it, believe it or not. This knowledge was very helpful at AccessU last week, where I began to understand the language as everyone talked about tags, coding, etc. Hopefully, my results in website testing will also be more thorough and full of technical language to go along with my user experiences. I know I have a long way to go, but at least I have a starting point. The basics, using a text editor, are fairly easy and indeed possible to do with Jaws or any other Screen Reader. It can be a little time consuming, listening to each character, but well worth it to me. It’s kind of like Sudoku, a little more effort is needed at times, but a lot of fun anyway. It may take me a bit longer to ensure I have coded things correctly, but speed will surely come with practice. So don’t be surprised if you start seeing some different formatting in future blog entries.