Integrated Text versions, style switchers and magnification are not necessary for accessible websites

Text versions, style switchers and magnification on web pages are almost as old as the web. As so often in life, long-forgotten features come back through the back door, today as accessibility overlays. Let's take a look at why they are superfluous and can even cause harm.

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Text version

The text version of websites has almost died out, and for good reason. It brings more problems than solutions. For example, although it is not a problem to maintain different versions of a website thanks to the separation of design, content and structure and media queries.

The text version is the dirty corner of the website, so to speak. With broken links, incomplete or sloppily formatted texts and totally outdated content, it is simply neglected and forgotten. In comparison: No website operator would let their websites optimized for mobile devices degenerate to such an extent and if they did, there would be enormous trouble.

It doesn't have to be, because the content is in databases and has to be properly linked so that all site versions are up to date. The styling is done via CSs.

But that's probably still a small problem. My bank - the Sparkasse KölnBonn maintains a "accessible" version of Internet banking, which unfortunately often failed. Kindly, you only noticed that before you wanted to send a transfer, i.e. after you had laboriously entered the data. It's just stupid that the site then stubbornly claims that you made an input error yourself, which was definitely wrong. And as a customer of this bank, do I actually have to accept that only a few functions of accessible banking are made available to me and that I cannot view, edit or set up my standing orders in the text version?

Text versions are superfluous because every good browser, with the exception of Google Chrome on the desktop, has a built-in reading view.

Style switcher

The well-known style switcher also seems to be coming to an end soon. We remember: several color schemes are created via CSS, which can be switched via JavaScript. Color inversion is particularly popular, from black on white to white on black or other highly contrasting color schemes.

I also believe that I have observed that websites are developing more towards sparse use of colour: many websites have a white or very light background and colors are used sparingly for the corporate design and for orientation elements. A very positive trend in my opinion. I've seen the strangest color combinations where the makers obviously didn't bother with such trivial issues as seriousness, color effects and legibility. True to the motto, there are 256 colors on the web and we use them all on our home page. A well-known book sales site actually uses a combination of pink and bright green, giving the impression of being on a children's site.

Today, however, we assume that users will set their color schemes via the operating system. In Windows there is a contrast mode that can be activated and deactivated using the key combination Shift + Alt + Print. In addition, set in the browser which colors you prefer for background and font.

Thought dead, the style switcher experiences its revival via Dark Mode.

Integrated font magnification

This also applies to the font size. All current browsers allow font scaling via the key combination CTRL and the + sign on the number block or CTRL + mouse wheel. In addition, the preferred font size can also be set in the browser. You can even set your favorite font here.

In general, it's strange how dominant small font sizes are on websites. The mixture of a huge headline and tiny text is crazy. Perhaps designers should consider whether it makes sense to force users to zoom.

Of course, there is also the browser zoom, which actually works well with responsive pages.

Away with the special solutions

The path generally leads away from such special solutions that sometimes don't work, that are often not maintained and that are only useful to a few people. It's a pity that this doesn't generally apply to technical products. The golden path today is universal design, compatibility and device independence. That said, the site must above all allow me to set my own preferences, because it's simply not possible to anticipate every possible barrier the user may encounter.

With such functions, there is a general risk that basic accessibility will be neglected. Why minimum contrast or legible font sizes if users can simply activate them?

Our goal must be to inform as many users as possible about the possibilities that operating systems offer today. This makes them independent of the good will of bad web developers.

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