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It’s good to make mistakes

Posted in Accessibility and Design

Like all five year olds, my son did something the other day, and I had to correct him. Afterwards he said he felt embarrassed, so I reassured him that it was OK to have done it, and that we all have to learn somehow.

As a designer and developer, particularly looking back now through my lens as an accessibility specialist, I’ve made countless mistakes.

One thing in particular came to mind recently: I used to add a single hidden link in each email I sent out for Frontend NE. I would put a link on:

  • punctuation, like a full stop, comma, or exclamation mark
  • a random letter in a word, usually a slim character like i or l
  • an emoji

These were deliberately hard to spot; Easter eggs that, to make matters worse, usually linked to an animated GIF to add some humour. My intentions were good, but there were a bunch of problems in doing this:

  • The link was always a very small target, putting some users who spotted it (those with a motor impairment, for example) at a disadvantage
  • Accidentally following a hidden link would takes the reader away from their task at hand, meaning they’ve got to get back to their email app from the browser tab that has just opened
  • The content doesn’t tell the reader what is at the end of the link
  • Links to inaccessible content
  • Provides no real value

That’s just one example; I could give you more, but I think it illustrates my point. We don’t know what we don’t know, and sometimes we find out the right way to do things by getting things wrong—sometimes publicly and embarrassingly so—but the experience makes us better at what we do.

Keep doing, keep learning, and keep correcting. Mistakes are a big part of progress, and I hope to continue to make them.

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