Mozilla Labs Design Challenge 2009: Re-inventing Tabs

Whilst this blog generally focusses on all things accessible, this design challenge from Mozilla Labs caught my eye. Sometimes ensuring an application is accessible can be considered as a hindrance rather than an opportunity to show off design skills and develop new ways of working. However, good design can provide benefits to many users, not just those with disabilities.

One of the aims of the Mozilla Labs Design Challenge is to inspire future design directions for Firefox, the Mozilla project, and the Web as a whole. New ideas and mockups for the future of the Web are invited from designers, students and design-focused people. The focus is on finding creative solutions to the question: “Reinventing Tabs in the Browser – How can we create, navigate and manage multiple web sites within the same browser instance?”

The Challenge website states: “Today, 20+ parallel sessions are quite common; the browser is more of an operating system than a data display application; we use it to manage the web as a shared hard drive. However, if you have more than seven or eight tabs open they become pretty much useless. And tabs don’t work well if you use them with heterogeneous information. They’re a good solution to keep the screen tidy for the moment. And that’s just what they should continue doing”.

All you need to is create a mockup of your proposed solution in any format – from a napkin drawing, to a wireframe, to a polished graphic – and create a short video presenting the mockup, explaining your idea and how it works. The submission deadline is 21st June 2009.

Good luck!

New Digital Inclusion Forum Launched

A new Digital Inclusion Forum, led by Dr Jane Searle from the University of Southampton, has been launched by the TLRP (Teaching and Learning Research Programme). It aims to identify the key inclusion-related research questions and issues for TEL (Technology Enhanced Learning) research.

The introduction to the site states that the “forum will seek to discuss and evaluate the contribution that the TEL programme can make to the digital inclusion research agenda. The initial focus for activity will be the development of an online space for sharing resources, discussing inclusion-related issues and scoping priorities for digital inclusion research. In the longer term, the forum will be a platform for the collaborative writing of a contribution from TEL on the theme of inclusion”.

Accessible Twitter

If you’d love to inhabit the Twitosphere but find it somewhat inaccessible, then you might want to try Accessible Twitter. Among other features, it provides keyboard accessible links, a larger default text size, and audio cues which let you know when you’re reaching your character limit.

The application is still at alpha stage with more features at the task list and wish list stage. There’s also an interview with its creator, Dennis Lembree, over on the Accessify blog, which will give you a good insight into how the design came about.

Whilst most Web 2.0 apps are initially inaccessible, once they become mainstream, there does seem to be a drive by independent developers to try make them accessible (providing they can hook into the relevant bits of the backend code). So is this almost collaborative approach to producing accessible, usable apps the way forward rather than trying to do everything in-house?

AccessApps Wins Best Accessibility Solution Award

Those of you who attended last week’s JISC CETIS Accessibility SIG meeting and saw Craig Mill (from JISC RSC Scotland North and East) demonstrate the AccessApps toolset will be pleased to hear that it has won the Best Accessibility Solution award at the IMS Global Conference in Barcelona.

JISC describes AccessApps in their news story as “a collection of open source and freeware portable applications – all running from a USB stick and designed to give learners the tools they need to experience learning in the way that suits
them, when they need it”.

It was great to see how customisable the toolset can be and for those of you who couldn’t make it, I’m just in the process of writing up my notes from last week’s meeting. They should be ready in the next day or so.

Congratulations to Craig and the AccessApps team!