A Web For Everyone

5 comments | Posted: 25 January 06 in General, by Justin Thorp

Over the last few years, the web has become an essential aspect of our lives and a ubiqutous part of our culture. Everyday on the web information is getting published, projects are being collaborated on, and commerce is taking place. At the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Terry Semel, the Chairman of Yahoo, said in his keynote, “We think the Internet isn’t a Web page anymore, it’s a vehicle for delivering…”

Slowly churches are starting to move in the direction of having presences on the web. Some are seeing great opportunities with pursuing the web as an avenue of fellowship, discipleship, and evangelism. Churches are podcasting sermons, putting up Bible study lessons, and creating ways for people to electronically share prayer requests. Churches are starting to see the web as a “vehicle for delivering” the Gospel message.

With this happening, it is essential, especially in the church, for everyone to be able to have access to the web regardless of their disability. We do not want someone to miss the power of the Gospel message just because someone was too lazy to do something like putting alt text on their images or some other web accessibility best practice. Tim Berners Lee, Director of the W3C and Inventor of the World Wide Web once said, “The power of the Web is in its universality. Access by everyone regardless of disability is an essential aspect.”

Beyond your web site becoming accessible to people with disabilities, making your web site accessible has many other positive factors that will help your church. It can help to decrease cost of maintenance and bandwidth, help prepare for further web and technological innovations, and to get better ranking on search engine listings (search engine optimization.) As Berners-Lee said, Web accessibility is an important part of the web and its universal nature. For more information on the benefits of making your website accessible, check out the W3C’s business case for organizational web standards.

The W3C has and continues to work hard at providing great resources to help in the process once there has been a decision to work towards an accessible web presence. The W3C has developed the WCAG as a set of checkpoints that can be followed to help make your web site accessible to the broadest possible audience. The checkpoints are split into three levels. This will help you to prioritize what checkpoints are feasible to implement. They have also developed detailed techniques to help with development of accessible HTML pages and CSS documents.

Making a web site accessible helps to take the web as a whole to the next level of where it can go. The church, ever since Martin Luther and the printing press, has played a significant role in helping to take communication with people to the next level. As Terry Semel of Yahoo said, we have this amazing “vehicle for delivering” content in the web. We have the tools that we need to help us to make web sites that will be seen by the broadest possible audience. Let’s harness the web and these tools to spread the Gospel and reach lots of people for Christ.

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Discuss This Topic

  1. 1 Yannick

    Ahh yes accessibility, something I am still trying to improve on the sites I work on. I definitely try to do it, but I think there is more that I can do.

    Nice article Justin. You have given me some more food for thought and also good links for further reading on the topic.

    Peace and God Bless.

     
  2. 2 Heiko

    Very interesting and important article Justin, but a web for everyone is far away I guess. Unfortunately there are to many developers who doesn’t care about webstandards, usability and accessibilty.

     
  3. 3 Andy

    Thanks, Justin. Good work

    I was talking to a web design and marketing company the other day who has lots of very large clients. We are thinking about getting their expertise to help us redesign Lifetime Guarantee’s homepage. Well, in looking through this marketing companies’ portfolio, most all of their sites are inaccessible, don’t put alt tags on images, and use tables and spacer gifs, instead of CSS, for layout.

    When I told them that we would want Lifetime.org’s redesigned homepage to be laid out with CSS, their developer never flinched. He said he could do it. I asked him why it’s not their normal practice, and he said that it’s because they like their designs to be 100% consistent on all browsers. The problem is, they might think they can achieve that without CSS, but in reality they are forgetting about screen reader browsers, mobile phone browsers, text-only browsers, and the most critical blind user of all: Google.

    After the conversation I began explaining to the president of our ministry why web standards are so essential and why our last redesign used them, and he totally got it. For support though, I’m going to send him this article that you referenced about the “W3C’s business case for organizational standards.”

     
  4. 4 Nate Klaiber

    A sad state really. Our church recently rebuilt their website. Try validating the CSS, html, and section 508 on this one. I was initially on the project team to help rebuild the website – but then decided to step down after I felt what I was expressing to them about the importance of web standards was falling on deaf ears.

    I wish they could understand this, but im not sure they ever will. The designer of the site was my father-in-law, and even trying to express the importance to him meant nothing. The whole team was about ‘Lets make the site look good, that will make our users like us.’ No one looks down the road – after the ‘pretty’ design fades away. Then what? Why will users visit your site? There needs to be something there for them to use (no matter what browser/platform/etc).

    So now, instead of seeing a great usable, standards based site – there is a site that is riddled with invalid markup, invalid CSS, Flash, and the use of frames on their calendar pages. The calendar pages were generated from a purchased calendar system that they haven’t edited the main template – so it is becoming a hodge podge of other code only amplifying the issue at hand.

    Just as Heiko said above – unfortunately, there are too many people who just don’t care or won’t take the time.

     
  5. 5 Nate Klaiber

    The links for reference in my above post are:

    Church site: http://www.npnaz.org
    Designer site: http://www.celuch.com

     

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