Phone App Developers, lend me your ears!

iOS developers are enabling users to get more and more out of their iPhones & iPads. But I think developers are missing one important thing that could make life easier for thousands of users. I’m not exaggerating.

I have a particular bee in my bonnet when it comes to accessibility, my wife is registered blind and I am constantly frustrated when she is unable see things (like text on a screen) especially when I know that this is avoidable. It was this frustration that prompted me to email Steve Jobs about the iPhone’s SMS functionality last year. True to his word users can now change the font size for those 2 apps.

20110510-024419.jpg

What I don’t understand is why there is no way to change font size system wide, or why app developers don’t provide that facility.

Yes I know that you can switch on zooming, but honestly – have you tried using zooming on a phone? My wife uses screen magnifying software at work, so she’s used to that – but she can’t get on with the iPhone implementation & I can understand why. It’s awful. There’s also Voiceover. This must be a massive boon for people with incredibly poor eyesight but for most users it’s not appropriate, who wants their texts or other private data read so that others can hear it?

I’m sure many iOS developers have come from a web background & will be familiar with WCAG. As far as I know there’s no similar guideline for developing accessible apps, but a developers are still obliged to ensure that their apps comply with disability discrimination legislation such as the UK’s Disabaility Discrimination Act. The act says that service providers (and as a developer that’s you) must “make reasonable adjustments to ensure blind and partially sighted people can access your service”.

So for a moment, let’s just pretend that WCAG does apply to smartphone apps and look at guideline 1.4.4 1.4.4 Resize text:Except for captions and images of text, text can be resized without assistive technology up to 200 percent without loss of content or functionality. (Level AA) That seems like a reasonable aim to me.

I have spoken to a couple of developers about this, the general consensus seems to be “I’m not sure if that’s possible” or “it would be an awful lot of work for not much benefit”. This makes me sad. Not being an iOS developer myself, I don’t know if it would be possible for someone to write a text resizing library that they could open source? If it is possible, think of all the people that could be helped by including that in apps. After all, it’s not jst cronicly badly sighted people that struggle with small text, many older & long sighted people do to.

I’d be really interested to hear other people’s thoughts on this, especially from the Dev community.

Worthing Tweetup

worthing pierThe other day I got chatting to David Rosam on  Twitter when we discovered that we lived very close to each other.  It occurred to us that there were probably a number of other Twitter users in the area, failing that it seemed likely that there would be lots of freelancers & assorted geeks Worthing and surrounding areas.

So, we’ve decided to have a go at getting as many people together as we could.  The proposed TweetUp is an informal social event, it’s a chance to get to know your fellow geeks / freelancers / twitter users, bump your gums and press some flesh all in the pleasant surroundings of Gio’s bar at The Burlington on Worthing seafront. We’ll be there from 8pm on Wednesday the 6th of August 2008.

If this sounds like something you might be interested in then please indicate your interest on our upcoming page.

You don’t have to be a twitter user to attend, nor do you need to be a freelancer. In fact anyone is welcome to come along – who knows what might come out of it?

Sky broadband customer? Moving house? Read This!

We’re moving house next Thursday, so last week I phoned Sky to let them know. I booked in installation of Sky TV at our new address and told them that we didn’t want to continue with the sky broadband when we moved.

On Monday My wife phoned me at work to tell me that she couldn’t get on line. When I got home I rebooted the router a couple of times but still couldn’t connect.

Yesterday we got an SMS on our home phone saying “your Sky broadband is now connected, enjoy!” I thought this was a bit odd considering we’ve been connected for the last 15 months or so. I decided to give Sky a call.

It turns out that as soon as you tell them you’re moving house they put in a request to have your broadband disconnected. Apparently this is because it can take 10 -12 days for the request to be actioned. In my case it took about four days.

We were disconnected without warning, it was never mentioned to me that we’d be disconnected before our moving date. I am absolutely furious with sky as we now have no way of accessing the internet at home for the ten days prior to moving home.

I Changed my theme

new themeAfter threatening to do it for almost a year, I’ve finally got round to changing the theme for this blog. I had planned to create my own theme, but having seen “HemingwayEx 1.0″ in an article by Smashing Magazine I decided that this was so close to what I wanted to achieve it wasn’t worth trying to recreate.

So here it is, the fordie.co.uk – what do you think?

Incidentally, I’m still playing with font sizes and colours etc – I might be fiddling around these for a little yet.

Also, I have found one or two niggly little PHP errors so far, if you spot any of these of you have trouble using the site please leave a comment.

How to create a sticky footer in ASP.net pages

When we were developing the Tesco Property Market website there was a requirement to be position the footer either at the bottom of the browser window or at the end of the content if it was over one screen high. On the original site I wasn’t able to acheive this, due to the way some of the web controls had been coded the side bars had to be absolutely positioned and were often taller than the main content.

With the recent redesign I completely scrapped the existing templates and started again doing away with the absolute positioning. However, none of the techniques I’d used in the past for footer positioning worked and for the life of me I couldn’t work out why.

Eventually the answer dawned on me; the form element that .net annoyingly insists on wrapping everything in was not being targeted by the CSS. Once I’d realised that it was fairly straightforward to get the footer working. Here’s how I did it:

The basic xhtml structure for your page should look like this

  1. <body>
  2. <!– Stupid form required by .net –>
  3. <form id=“form1” runat=“server”>
  4. <div id=“container”>
  5. <div id=“contents”>
  6. <!– Everything apart from the footer goes in here–>
  7. </div>
  8. </div>
  9. <div id=“site-info”>
  10. <!– footer stuff–>
  11. </div>
  12. </form>
  13. </body>

And here’s the CSS to work the magic

  1. html, body, #aspnetForm
  2. {
  3.     height:100%;
  4.     /* without this the footer stays at the end of the content
  5.            – not the botom of the viewport */
  6. }
  7. #container
  8. {
  9.     margin:auto;
  10.     min-height:100%;
  11.     width:980px;
  12.     /* #container is at least the height of the veiwport and contains
  13.             everything except the footer*/
  14. }
  15. #contents
  16. {
  17.     padding-bottom:3em;
  18.     /* #contents contains everything excepte the footer and adds padding at least equivalent to the height of the footer beneath the content*/
  19. }
  20. #site-info
  21. {   height:3em;
  22.     margin :-3em auto 0 auto;
  23.     width:980px;
  24.     /* #site-info (the footer) contains the supplimenatry navigation and copyright info.
  25.        It’s height and negative top margin should be the same as the bottom padding in #contents   */
  26. }

This technique was based on Cameron Adams’ “footerStickAlt”.

living with the Vodafone v1605

In a recent post I talked about how I got my hands on a Vodafone V1605 for free; having had the phone for a month now I thought it made sense to talk about it in a bit more depth.

v1605

Overview:

The Vodafone V1605 is the Vodafone branded version of the HTC hermes; it’s a Windows Mobile 5 device. Here are the full technical specifications for anyone that’s interested.

It’s quite a large device to carry around, although not that much larger than my old Nokia N70, it feels really solid and well put together. On the whole it’s really nice to use however – this being a windows device it does lock up from time to time forcing you to carry out a soft reset. Most of the time you just roll your eye’s and reboot, but it’s infuriating when it locks up when you’re trying to answer a call.

Set up:

Things didn’t get off to a great start when the phone crashed the first time I switched it on: while running “SetHSDPA.exe/Disable, a reboot sorted that one out.

The first thing I did once I’d gone through the set up process was upgrade the ROM so I’m now running the latest version of the firmware.

Getting GPS to work on the vodafone V1605:

Next I decided to try and get Google maps for mobile installed. Getting the application installed was a doddle, getting it to talk to my GPS reciever wasn’t. After hours of frustration I found this article which explains how to activate GPS on the V1605. It turns out that by default Vodafone hide the GPS settings in the control panel and you need a registry hack to reveal them. Once I got passed the initial issue of getting the handset to talk to the GPS receiver Google maps worked a treat.

Accessories & Software:

At the same time as ordering the phone I got myself a 2GB memory card to install applications & save files on – so far I’ve only used about 10% of it! I also bought a cradle so my phone can sit on my desk in the office & stay synced with my PC. This got me thinking, if the phone is always connected to the PC wouldn’t it be nice to be able to send text messages directly from the PC rather than have to pick the phone up? After a bit of searching I found my moblier a great little piece of freeware that talks to your phone over activesync and displays the phone’s screen on your PC’s monitor allowing you to navigate around the phone’s functions with the PC’s mouse & keyboard! Then I discovered by accident that if I move my mouse pointer of the left hand side of my monitor, it appears on the phones screen! This is brilliant, it means that my phone becomes effectively a third monitor on my desk albeit a tiny one.

I’ve tried a handful of other third party applications out too, including:

  • SPB mobile shell. This is “shell” that sits on top of the windows mobile operating and ads things like a fancy clock and weather forecasts to a “now screen” (today screen replacement). It is very pretty, but since uninstalling the trial I’m surprised to say I haven’t missed it
  • HTC Custom, a tool for your HTC Windows Mobile 5 or 6 device’s settings. Pretty useful tool and free too
  • Opera mini, So far this is the best web browser I’ve found for Windows mobile
  • Minimo, Mozilla’s mobile browser. I really wanted to like this little app, but frankly it’s just boring to look at and doesn’t feel as slick as opera.

All in all I’m pleased with my V1605, we didn’t get off to the best of starts – but I think we’ll be happy together for the next 17 months.

Blogging with ecto

I ain’t afraid of no ghost!

Ever since I started blogging, I’ve been trying to come up with a good way to get html into my posts so that can write tutorials. It’s something I’ve struggled with and as an upshot – I have two or three articles that are waiting to be published that I can’t get my code examples into. I’ve tried various wordpress plugins, I also tried using flock, but that didn’t work.

Another problem I found was that it seems impossible to post video to the blog using the online wordpress editor

Yesterday I was reading a blog post (I thought it was by Paul Boag but I can’t find it now) that mentioned Ecto.

Ecto is a feature-rich desktop blogging client for MacOSX and Windows, supporting a wide range of weblog systems, such as Blogger, Blojsom, Drupal, MovableType, Nucleus, TypePad, WordPress, and more.

I’ve already successfully posted video with Ecto, so now I just need to test to see if I can include html examples (ignore the code below)

<h1>test</h1> <p>blah</p>

Today I found this post which has links to a number of desktop blogging tools, so I’ll probably try a couple of others before I pay out for one

ahh… that’s that out the window then :( – oh well on to the next!

I was really hoping that I’d be able to go to @media 2007 in London next month but for one reason & another (it not having being signed off by the boss & actually being on holiday) I won’t be there. It’s a shame, but with any luck there’ll be plenty blogged about it. Last year all the session’s slides where put on line and the audio was podcast; with any luck they’ll do the same this year.

button-150x150-alpha.pngJust as I was coming to terms with not going to @media d.construct 2007 was announced. This years event is all about designing the user experience which is right up my street. They have some great speakers lined up so I really hope I can go.

It has the added advantages of being in Brighton which is just 12 miles from my house (much closer than London) and a it has a bargain ticket price of £85 + vat! The boss has gotta let me go.

Fordie’s Form System – a POSH way to mark up forms

Form layout is one area where designers have struggled to find a sensible way to replace tables with nice clean semantic xhtml + CSS.

In 2005 Andy Clarke demonstrated his approach to form layout at CSS for designers, He wraps the label around the input field, then put the actual label text in a span.

<label> label text<input type="text" /></label>

In the CSS he then sets the label to “display:block” and puts width on the spans. The list items effectively create rows spans columns.

This approach is fine when you only have two elements you want to appear on a line, however, when you start throwing other things into the mix (like required field markers or “help” links) you need a system that can handle more than two elements. This got me thinking…

In late 2005 I came up with a solution I call Fordie’s Form System (FFS).

FFS is based on the premise that a form is essentially a list of questions to which we need an answer, with label being the question and the input being the place for the user to answer it. That being the case, the obvious way to mark up the form (in my mind) is with lists.

I believe that as well as well as providing the structure to hold the form together, the lists add meaning to the markup – making FFS a POSH way to markup forms.

back in the saddle!

I think I’ve finally cracked the various PC issues I’ve been having – last night I reinstalled XP on my laptop (again). I’d done a reinstall last week, but I’d neglected to format the HDD first; the upshot of which was my hard disk was almost completely full of folders XP wouldn’t let me delete.

Now I have a lovely clean install of the OS and the system seems to be running a treat, I slowly installing all my software and running Windows update many many times – I should be totally back to normal soon. All that really remains to be done is a restore of all my important data from back up.