[Simplicity #1] – Accessibility


There is much talk about accessibility in the public sector, mostly due to legal requirements and equality of treatment.

So accessibility is often an issue that seems to bug people and many ecommerce managers think that accessibility is a chore that keeps them away from making a nice and good looking shop.

Maybe that’s true – but a ecommerce manager is not a artist, he or she is not a wizard of beauty or self-realization. The job of a ecommerce manager is (unsurprisingly) to make money.

So – Why is accessibility good? – It makes your shop sell more, it helps you to make money!

As you might know about a third of the population is handicapped in the one or other way. When talking about handicaps you might think about wheelchairs or blind people. In fact there are much more handicaps and, from a commercial perspective, more annoying handicaps:

  • Many people suffer from text blindness
  • Many people have bad eyes and can not read a text that is printed too small
  • Many people are not as intelligent as we would whish them to be
  • Some people, but still a considerable number, are blind and will use a screen reader

Accessibility will make you reach more people and will make them understand what they can do with the things you offer.

How much would a consultant charge you for increasing your audience by 30 % ?

How much will you pay for this consultant ? Nothing – You can do this your self by making your site accessible!

And this exactly what every going SEO consultant will tell you: “Make your site accessible for humans and the search engines will honor it.”

Most search engines just behave like screen readers, they ‘understand’ text, they will not understand the meaning of images.

Take a look at your site in pure text form, strip off all images and the visual hassle. Then you will have a ‘structural pure’ view of what your site is. Many managers are surprised by the lack of information their site shows when all images are gone.

This ‘Zen’ of website development will hopefully lead you towards a purer look on your site. Then ask your self some of Kant’s questions:

  1. What can I know?
  2. What shall I do?
  3. What can we hope for?

Look at these questions from the perspective of one of the visitors of your site!

Translated to that perspective the questions sound like:

  1. What’s that site all about?
  2. What can I do with this site and how is it done?
  3. How will this site help me?

Again look at the fundamentals (the pure text) of your site and find out, whether you answer those questions of your visitors.

When you are focused on the pure essence of your site and you are sure that every visitor will be able to handle your site – then again it is time to add sugar and think about graphics, visual appearance and beauty.

I do not suggest to to have a ugly looking site, instead I suggest to have a good site full of content –  that just looks fine. Make use of the design paradigm  used to do in other parts of the real world —
‘Form follows function’.

  1. Have to have a clear vision of what your site is all about.
  2. Plan how your users shall make use of your site in every detail.
  3. Build your site and make it look appealing.
  4. Make people use your site.
  5. Measure success and failure.
  6. Learn from your measurements.
  7. Start again at 1. and keep on iterating. (hopefully for ever)

In my next post, I will go into details on accessibility.

The KISSS paradigm

Keep it simple small and stupid

This means make your shop do one thing and make it well. This means make it sell do not try to make it do any thing else. (stupidity paradigm)

Don’t try to sell everything possible good you can think of! Amazon already does. Nobody wants your shop to be Amazon number two. Instead be ‘YourShop’ number one! Focus on your special audience, give good recommendations. Take care of your customers. This again sounds simple – ‘yes’ it is the online version of a small highly special real world shop. But – it maybe surprising – the online world is part of a real world. (small)

To keep it simple is maybe the hardest of the three ‘s’. I think there will be a number of following posts that will take care of this paradigm.

Additionally we will have to ask ourselves: ‘What is simple?’, ‘What do my users expect?’, ‘What will statutory requirement say?’

I will try to answer those questions in the my next posts.

After spending a few words on hardware an OS, I will go back and talk about shops.

My recent postings were quiet general statements like ‘try to make a good first impression’, ‘do not bug your users’, ‘don’t surprise your users’.

You can not overestimate the importance of these simple ‘rules’ and you can not overestimate the number of times that ecommerce managers don’t follow these rules. Maybe they are too busy or or simply agnostic of these simple facts.

Install Dell firmware and BIOS upgrades on Xenserver

Citrix Xenserver is known to be based on Centos 5.x which is binary compatible to RHEL 5.
Dell offers a binary utility to upgrade your servers firmware and BIOS for Redhat Enterprise Linux.

Per default you will not be able those packages because Xenserver does not include one essential package: procmail 

Also the base repo is disabled by default. To install procmail type:

yum install procmail –enablerepo=base

Now you will be able to use the Dell firmware update packages on Xenserver.

This procedure was originally proposed in: http://forums.citrix.com/thread.jspa?threadID=235022

Know your shop and know your audience

Like every (realworld) shop owner, you should know what you sell and who your customers are.
Ask your self some simple questions:

  • Who are my users?
  • How much can I sell to them?
  • What problem will I solve for my users?
  • Why will they buy in my shop and not in any other shop?

Write down the answers and later come back and check if your estimates are right.
Check whether your shop is like the shop you want.
Check if you sell the products that your audience needs.

Yes this sounds trivial … but it is not. This is an ongoing task.
Times change, and we have to change with them