Thoughts on branding, design, writing and life by Kevin Potts. Established 2003.

Unpaid Revamp

This past week I did something I’ve never done before. It was a personal agenda, a combination of portfolio polishing and accessibility karma.

This past week I did something I’ve never done before—I went back and changed a website that has long been finished and paid for. The client did not know I was making the changes, and I certainly did not charge for them. It was a personal agenda, a combination of portfolio polishing and accessibility karma.

KDM Global Partners hired me to put together a small, brochure-style website that gave a bird’s-eye view of their business and services. It was my first client site built with XHTML/CSS standards. Since this was in my “early” days of W3C-endorsed development (I’d been a table-whoring heathen for years prior), I spent a lot of time on cosmetics and less time on accessibility and proper SEO.

So last week I went through all seven (!) pages. I cleaned up the CSS and HTML, putting into practice several techniques learned in the past year or so and streamlining the files with less clutter (fewer <span> tags and “class” definitions). Not only did this bring down file sizes a few bytes, put it made the content far more crunchable for search bots.

But the most important site-wide alteration was the addition of accessibility features. I recently devoured Dive Into Accessibility, and adopted several important techniques into the KDM pages. Specifically:

  • All pages now have language declarations.
  • All pages now have navigation aids.
  • All pages have an invisible link to skip the navigation.
  • All links are clearly defined by bolding and underlined.
  • The contact form is totally revamped with <label> tags and a tab order. It’s still built with tables, so don’t beat me up over that.
  • The pages are perfectly acceptable with stylesheets turned off. I also used the ”@import” technique to hide the CSS from Netscape 4.

None of this affected the cosmetic appearance. Only the backend was changed, and every page displays perfectly in every browser tested, including IE5 – IE6, Opera 7.x and the Mozilla/Netscape family.

I initially did this to satisfy my own portfolio—“Look ma, I done built myself an accessible website!” But then I got to thinking. Most standards-aware web designers build accessibility features into their personal sites. This is good practice, but ultimately self-masturbatory. If the practice doesn’t make it to the real world, it might as well not exist.

Unlike graphicPUSH, whose audience (I assume) is comprised mostly of other designers, the KDM pages could be visited by anyone, and until last week, the site was not ready for that. Maybe the whole effort will amount to nothing, but maybe those few extra steps in accommodating less-accessible viewers will someday give a competitive edge.

Wishful thinking? Maybe. Responsible design? Definitely.

commentary + criticism

Alex Taylor

wrote the following on Thursday December 30, 2004

Good for you. Sometimes I look at the tables sites I have in my portfolio and wish I could go back and redo them.


wrote the following on Thursday December 30, 2004

It’s funny, I did the same thing to a site two days ago. I did mention it to them but I decided that switching them over to a CSS based site would be the nice thing to do. Since I used Dreamweaver templates to design the site initially (since someone else maintains it) I was able to remove the tabled layout in favor of CSS and do a site-wide find a replace to strip the font tags in about 25 minutes.

I felt that it was something good I could do for them for being a good client and for the world by making one more site built the right way. I may go back and redo a few other older sites the same way since it took so little time and effort to do and the accessibility improvements were so big.


wrote the following on Thursday December 30, 2004

I’ve just done the same job on a site I built for my father though I restyled it while I was at it. The only tables I used were for tabular data. I’m was happy to bring it up to the w3c standards and reckon it’ll be a stronger item on my CV too.
btw, no beating intended, but there’s a nice article on forms without tables on a list apart