Accessibility Branding Strategy

    February 16, 2005

Lately I’ve been thinking about css based layouts and how everyone and their brother are jumping on the css bandwagon.

I don’t think that’s a bad thing but I think there’s a portion of the css discussion that’s always left out. That’s incorporating accessibility as part of an overall branding strategy or marketing tactic.

Does Accessibility Branding Matter?
I think so. Every time I see a new web based application come out, one of the first things I do is look at the source code of the main site for the new product. I analyze it to see if they’re using a css based layout or if they’re strictly using a tables based layout. I make a mental note about whether or not they’re including accessibility as part of their branding efforts. If the site isn’t accessible or css based then I make a negative mental note. However, if the site is pure, crisp, clean css then I make a positive mental note. I know it doesn’t sound like it should make a difference but it does to me and I’m sure I’m not the only person that thinks this way.

What Does CSS Say About Your Product?
If you employ a css based layout then it says several things about you, your product and your company as well as the dedication to quality of your work rather than quantity of your work.

  1. You’re forward thinking and on the cutting edge of design.
  2. You’ve taken the time to train your designers on a new web design technique which means you care about your employees. If on the other hand, you’ve subcontracted the work out, then that says you’re well connected enough to find a good css designer and care enough to bring in the best on your projects.
  3. Accessibility matters to your audience which means your audience matters to you.
  4. You’re making an extra effort to make your site accessible. Most people know table based layouts are easier to construct than css based layouts using primarily divs and lists so this says a lot about the type of company you operate or the person behind the site.

Good Example: Yesterday I looked at SixApart’s new site. Yeah, there old site was done in css but so is their new site. The new site is leaner and cleaner than the old site and done completely in css. I knew that would be the case when I looked at their code but when I viewed the source it acted as a confirmation that they’re once again improving on an already good / clean / lean css layout in an effort to improve. It’s that kind of thinking that sets SixApart [apart] from other sites with cool and useful products.

Bad Example: Take Teleo , Scoble blogged about Teleo being a possible Skype Killer and about how they were demoing at Demo two days ago. But then I went to their site and saw they’re using a tables based layout, embedding js at the top of and throughout the body of their site and I was immediately turned off. That made the difference between me trying out their product and possibly becoming a customer and deciding to wait it out and possibly try it out later.

Another Bad Example that comes to mind is iUpload. I was eagerly wanting to demo their new enterprise blogging software [even though I have less than no time right now] but then I looked at their source code. Old Skool tables and such and I was turned off and now that demo is at the bottom of my “top priority” list. And that’s even after Renee Blodgett told me that she’d be on stage at Demo showing how to use iUpload’s latest app. In this case, I’m actually putting my preference for css friendly companies above the recommendation of an A-List blogger. That scares me a bit but it’s just a fact of my life and probably others as well.

You’re probably thinking I’m pretty strict with this css thing but the nature of css is strict as well, it either validates or it doesn’t. Maybe that’s why I like it so much and why I place so much importance on working with others who’s sites use css because at some primary level I know they have a good chance of validating.

All that was to make a point to you and a reminder to myself that css matters to me. I’m really quite certain I’m not alone in this belief but I believe it’s more of a subconscious decision we make rather than a conscious effort when we’re gallavanting around online. However, by bringing this prinsiple to the forefront of your mind and making you think about what css means to you, then it will no longer be subconscious. Then you’ll begin to think about it just like you think about ROI, Ad Spend, SEM or even product packaging. From there you can improve on what you already know and share those thoughts with others.

Jason Dowdell is a technology entrepreneur and operates the Marketing Shift blog.