The Extensible Web Summit happened in Berlin yesterday. This prompted written words from some big thinkers and doers. Jeremy Keith wrote a piece on Web Components followed up by a uncomfortably excited response from Alex Russell.
On Piffle and Tosh and feasting upon Fetid code
While I am as excited as the next nerd by the potential of web components. Their development and marketing appear to follow the same depressing pattern of ship first, oh yeah we better tack on some ARIA to cover up the cracks.
Jeremy’s argument, if I can paraphrase, is that people will build Web Components and this might be bad [for accessibility].
Piffle and tosh.
I cannot but agree with Alex piffle wise. Jeremy’s argument does not go far enough. Web components are being built in the same development culture that web stuff is usually built in, and this is bad for accessibility. This is not to say that web components are by definition bad. It is the same story for any implementation of accessibility support on the web, in browsers and in UI libraries: it usually comes after, often way after a product has been shipped and distributed to millions upon millions of people and 100s of thousands of developers have gorged on and regurgitated the code in their own projects.
Some tweets I wrote in June (in usual diplomatic style) upon initial release of Polymer Paper web components which may well be fantastic examples of what can be achieved with this new technology, but were sadly lacking in even the most basic accessibility considerations (this situation has improved but they are still riddled with issues):
— Steve Faulkner (@stevefaulkner) June 25, 2014
Alex stated yesterday:
Luckily we’ve been thinking very hard about this at Google and have invested heavily in Polymer and high-quality Material Design components that are, as I write this, undergoing review and enhancement for accessibility.
The economics of the new situation that Web Components introduce are (intentionally) tilted in a direction that provides ability for cream to rise to the top — and for the community to quickly judge if it smell off and do something about it.
As Alex stated “Google … have invested heavily in Polymer” and also invest in accessibility (see references). What I can’t comprehend is why that investment of big smarts and big bucks by Google did not include the integration of accessibility and usability into the core development cycle? Why is it considered the community’s job to polish the turds?
- Developing a Manifesto for Accessible UX
- An Accessible Design Maturity Continuum
- Accessible web components (part 1)
- Alice Boxhall “Accessible Web Components using Polymer” (ID24)