Thursday, September 16, 2010

Mobile Twitter.com Versus Standard Twitter.com: A Comparison For JAWS Screen Reader Users

As you may know from my blog post, Tips For Using Twitter.com With JAWS Screen Reader, there are some keyboard accessibility issues with the standard Twitter.com web site that makes it challenging for JAWS screen reader users. I was hoping that the mobile version, located at mobile.twitter.com would solve these issues. But as with most things, the mobile site has strengths and weaknesses. The weaknesses seems to arise from the fact that it was really designed for mobile devices that contain a visual display.

Strengths of mobile.twitter.com

It is easy to reply to or retweet a tweet. Each tweet has a reply and a retweet link following the time the tweet was sent. Activating the reply link takes you to a page where you type in your reply and activate the Reply button. Activating the retweet link takes you to a confirmation page with a Yes or No button that you must activate.
After the retweet link you'll find the favorite link. It isn't possible to mark a tweet as a favorite on the standard Twitter.com site using the keyboard. Here you just activate the link which toggles the tweet between being or not being a favorite. As with the retweet feature, you'll be asked to confirm the favorite action by activating either the Yes or No button on the confirmation page that displays.
To delete your tweet, look for the delete link preceding the favorite link. A confirmation page will display with Yes and No buttons.
It is easier to activate the Following and Followers links because the number follows the word (rather than precedes it as on the standard Twitter.com site). These links appear after the timeline of tweets on the Home page, which is the page that displays when you sign in.
Access keys have been assigned to the links that take you to the Home, Replies,  Favorites and Direct Messages (Inbox) page.
The pages contain fewer links and images. They are structured in a simpler, one-column format. Navigation and form elements are consistently placed. The pages you'll find on the mobile site include: Home, Replies, Favorites, Direct Messages (Inbox), Following, Followers, Find People (includes Browse Interests), Search Results and Profile.

Weaknesses of mobile.twitter.com

The mobile site does not give you access to all of the features found on Twitter.com. Absent are: Settings,  Lists, advanced Find People features, saved searches, Suggestions For You feature and Twitter.com links.
Important image links lack descriptive alt text. In most cases, the image name has simply been used. This is what you'll hear for the links: reply (Ic_reply), retweet (Ic_retweet), favorite - not on (Ic_fave), favorite - currently on (Ic_faveon), delete (Ic_delete), favorites page (Ic_fav-off). In addition, @ is the label for the Replies page and DM is the label for the Direct Messages (Inbox) page. Most form fields are well-labeled.
It is more difficult to determine if you've exceeded the 140 character maximum for a message. On Twitter.com, you can up arrow from the message edit box to hear the characters remaining. The mobile site does not tell you how many characters are remaining as you compose your message. If the message is within the limit, activating the Tweet button will send the tweet. Otherwise, an error page displays with a "Tweet not sent — It's too long" message at the top. The keyboard focus is in the edit box containing your message. Below that is the Resend button. Following that is the text, "Where your Tweet went over:"; beneath that you'll find your message with the portion that exceeds 140 characters in strikethru font style. So you could use your JAWS reading keys to move to approximately where you think the message went over, and use the JAWS say font characteristics command (Insert F) to hear if the current character has strikethru style applied.
The pages contain less structure which makes direct navigation mostly impossible. You can use link or form element navigation to skip over content if you don't want to read the entire page. But there are no headings, lists or tables as found on the standard site. Keep in mind that each tweet will have at least 5 links associated with it (username Home, time, reply, retweet, favorite) and each username search result will have at least 3 (username Home, latest tweet time, Follow button).
When sending a direct message, the combo box of your "follower usernames" only contains the most recent three that you messaged; all usernames appear in this combo box on the standard site.
Some pages don't contain a link to your home page or the other main pages on the site so you'll need to use the browser's "go back to previous page" command e.g. Alt Left Arrow.
The mobile site has a sign up form but it only has an image CAPTCHA.

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