Usability over ‘accessibility’ and web standards any day

Accessibility has won the political battle and web standards have won the hearts and minds of many developers and designers. Unfortunately usability is the poor relation which is a shame as it is by far the most important of the three.

I would like to add the qualification that I am a whole-hearted supported of accessibility. Hence the use of scare quotes as what actually gets implemented is usually a combination of token gesture, unquestioned myths and box-ticking. 80% of what’s actually useful for people with disabilities can be achieved by common sense, clean design and the application of basic usability principles.

Web standards – I’m talking about the followers of semantic purity and the ‘oh my god – there’s a HTML table in his code!’ Give me a practical benefit – your site works properly cross-browser, there’s genuine benefits in maintainability, the semantics are actually going to be used by someone other than yourself – and I’m a true believer too. But no – the web isn’t going to become onmiscient tomorrow because you’ve used a few cite tags in the right place…

Usability, on the other hand, benefits everyone who uses you site and it benefits them immediately in tangible ways.

Unfortunately it requires the occasional bit of testing which might involve talking to another human being which is rather more daunting than just skim reading W3C specs or WAI crib sheets.