Where the phark is my shea enhancement?
- 5 Dec 06, 02:58 PM
As part of the developments taking place at the BBC, the team have been looking at different spin on image replacement techniques. Why the phark should I care? Because it will add extra value for screen reader users.
Usually, image replacement is applied to headings. Designers use images to make headings look cool, but they also have plain text effectively hidden behind it so that none of the usefulness of a heading or text is lost. We looked at the Conservative party’s sort-it website recently that uses this technique. Sighted viewers are treated to headings set at jaunty angles, yet screen reader users can still use their hotkeys to jump between them. Phark and shea are two different coding techniques for doing this.
The BBC have been looking to use this for something else though. In the TV schedules being designed, space is at a premium. There’s a lot of information to pack in for all those programmes after all. For sighted users, a picture can tell a thousand words, so only a short piece of text is required. As these visual clues are not available to screen reader users, and alt text considered inappropriate for this purpose, another approach is needed to provide the extra detail needed. The solution? Using the techniques developed for image replacement.
During experimentation, the BBC are currently favouring the shea enhancement technique over pharking. Whilst there are good technical reasons for this, we can’t help feeling a little disappointed. Pharking is a wonderful verb, that could lend itself to being utilised on t-shirts every geek would be proud to wear. Sadly shea-ing just doesn’t cut it as a verb or a t-shirt. As one BBC insider confided, “It sounds like some kind of space age transgender plastic surgery.” So look out for sheaing on the BBC schedules and the next series of Torchwood.
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