Taking time to think as we build

Solo individual in white t-shirt, working alone with hand on head staring at screen intently

When I was young, making my way in the world at my very first job, I asked one of the old heads (he was probably younger than I am now!) how anyone got anything done in business before email. He took my question seriously, looked at me, and said, “We had time to think before we responded.” I loved that answer then, and I love that answer more each day as the expectations around immediate response times keeps getting faster and faster. It wasn’t pining for the ‘good ol’ days’ and it wasn’t condescending. It was the reality. No matter the technology we are using or the circumstances in which we are using it, we choose how much time we take to think and respond, and the time we take to think and build the right way. 

We are in control of how we choose to use the technology around us no matter how fast it throws information at us or no matter how seemingly streamlined we can work. Our entire life in the 21st century feels like information overload. From instant messaging to the word processing software I am currently using, technology makes things faster and we want more; more information, more instant access, more ‘easy fixes.’ The very real dark side to all of this ‘now, now, now’, is that we feel like we’re not in control and we are unable to take the time to think and choose how we want to proceed. The truth is very much to the contrary, we are in complete control. It’s just that taking the time to build something right, is a lot tougher when we’re so used to shortcuts and half measures.

Recently, my friend and colleague Bill Danbury posted an NBC article about the growing frustration of disability advocates about the growing use of AccessiBe. If you’re not in the world of digital accessibility, you might not be familiar with AccessiBe or the many other tools like it that act as accessibility ‘overlays’. These overlays promise an easy fix with one line of code! All this stems from a fear of lawsuits, hoping to show that they really and truly tried to make their site meet ADA compliance standards. (Aside from the tools themselves, if legal compliance is your only motivator for making the web inclusive for all, we need to begin this conversation at a very different place. Call us at Tamman to have that conversation. I digress.) 

Like the huckster who came to town peddling ‘cure alls’ and snake oil, exploiting the fears of the townsfolk, these tools are not creating an inclusive web. My grandmother always said, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it is.’ 

Here’s the thing, accessibility takes intention. It takes a lot of thinking through various and sometimes confusing or contradictory user scenarios. It takes empathy and judgement. This is achieved with time, caste and thoughtful people behind it. Individual users have a myriad of potential use constraints when using the web. These use constraints can be situational, episodic, temporary or permanent conditions, but the reality is that making a website or app digitally accessible is beneficial to many and always useful to all. 

Don Pinkney who has built non-profit organizations, churches – both the physical and the community, built companies and mentored hundreds of young people, including myself, taught me that when you’re building something, you can choose two of the following three: Speed, Quality and Cost. He was a measure twice, cut once kind of guy who knew how to build something that lasts. He did not work fast. It is not so different in the technology space. People live, work and play in the schools, churches, and homes he builds and people live, work, and play in the virtual spaces of the web too. 

Just as it takes many craftspeople to build physical structures, there are many professionals involved in building accessible properties. Each stakeholder has priorities and ideas that are taken into account to make a website accessible and user friendly. Humans are involved in every facet, humans who interpret the set of best practices known as the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG). And that’s just what they are; guidelines. Throughout the whole process, thinking and judgment calls have to be made. By humans. It takes time to do it right. Not one line of code, but many. No easy fixes, rather thoughtful solutions. The end product will last and have an impact. 

At Tamman, our team of designers, developers, QA, and technologists take the time to build it right. We are thoughtful people, carefully designing and developing web properties so that we all benefit from access to information. Our company thinks about all the requirements and ways in which users with use constraints will use a digital property. We take the time to listen to our client’s needs, we talk with users, and we always take the time to think. Time to think before we respond, think through scenarios, and think about how our work is building something that can last. We don’t use shortcuts and overlays. This is how we will build a more inclusive web for all.

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