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TC4R Report Notes

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This is just rough, internal notes that should not be referenced, quoted, etc.

Notes from Discussions

For & From 18 Dec

  1. Discuss overall flow
  2. Getting into shape for RDWG this week & questions for them
  3. Review inputs
    • [SLH almost done] Review e-mails for input
    • Review IRC log for input
    • Review transcript for input
    • Re-review papers for input (also for background)
  4. Schedule time to discuss RDWG feedback and draft with all inputs

From 14 Dec Discussion

DS 1. pragmatics in today's world
DS (SLH) 2. diagnosis versus preferences (SLH: think we need to be careful on this one so it's not misinterpreted)
SLH 3. element level customization (see also Silas example on title)
SLH 4. user agent support currently
SLH 5. awareness of the importance of the issue
DS (SLH) 6. users perspectives on issues with customization
DS 7. UI of customization tools


  • Bring light on the issue - raise awareness
  • not just nice to have, but REQUIREMENT for many people


  • ideal is user agents do more to present customization options, what to do today since they don't
  • some things are hard to do now, but how to make them easier (e.g., ATbar lists fonts in same font instead of in the font itself, same thing for size - also Silas's interface). user interface of customization tools - also making them accessible, e.g,. text display widget is keyboard accessible
  • how to help users know what helps them. do this test and heres a set of display options that will help you best. providing minimal simple options, e.g., 3 color combinations choices, PLUS advanced functionality for multiple options (i.e., picking each colour from full palette)
  • PDF Readers have limited customization
  • why there isn't more interest of this as a need (e.g., older users)

report approach notes:

  • Draft report and encourage specific people to contribute, fill in holes
  • convey what the literature says, not just point to it (since many readers don't have access to the papers)
  • add acknowledgements to encourage additional input


  • silent majority - think they exist, but need proof
  • explanation why it doesn't seem like it's as big a problem as it is: older people more willing to accept, rather struggle instead of change color and text - social acceptance dilemma - don't want to use something special - don't want to acknowledge that I need this change! normalization of customization. (e.g., iPhone users will zoom text, but not on PC/Mac.) look at other research on user profiling & adaptation for older people. Users see Word is a tool for you to make stuff look like you want; whereas, web page is a magazine that someone else made for you to read in a certain format.
  • note that different display requirements for different content and situations

For 14 Dec discussion

  • Discuss overall what we have from the symposium, and what we want people to get out of the report.
    • What I(slh) wish we had:
      • These are the specific aspects of text display that users must be able to customize: xyz.
        These additional aspects of text display are beneficial for users to customize: xyz.
      • This is the responsibility of user agents: xyz. This is the responsibility of content providers: xyz.
        Since user agetns don't do their job well, for now, content could: xyz
      • Thus, accessibility standards/guidelines/requirements should include: xyz.
      • This is additional research needed: xyz.
    • What we do have:
      • Tool for generating user CSS (for research & users daily user) (Wayne)
      • What users need to customize:
        • Input on what users customize (but without specific recommendations) (Shawn)
        • Call for element-level customization (Wayne)
        • Line spacing (Suzette)
        • Colors (Anthony e-mail, Gordon e-mail)
      • Disconnect between user preferences and reading measurements (Luz)
      • Issues with converting from PDF to HTML (Vasile, Olaf)
      • Limitations of user CSS (Silas)
      • Users stuff:
        • User stories on the importance of customization (Anthony, Eileen)
        • Users copy text from Web and put in Word to customize (Dave)
        • Similar issues across user groups (Whitney e-mail)
        • Range of vision and needs (Gordon e-mail)
  • Background:
    • other research
    • Comments on re-using some of Shawn's other writing on the topic? [DS: OK given situation]
    • Pulling out relevant bits from other papers for the background.
  • ...


Archive of previous draft text.

TEMPORARY SECTION - Symposium Discussion

[@@DS this section started with the framework of questions that we produced in advance, and is being extended to include observations made during the call that are recorded on IRC or in the transcript]

What sort of customisation for readability do we know currently takes place?

Symposium authors' perspectives of text customisation that takes place "in the wild". What do people actually do?:

  • Shawn Henry - customisations made by people who write and use user-CSS.
  • Luz Rello - results of research exploring customisation made by people with dyslexia (including range and diversity of preferences)
  • Eileen Rivera Ley - experience of needs of people with visual impairment
  • Whitney Quesenbery - experience in finding similarity in customisation needs across diverse user groups

Additional contributions from the IRC log and transcript:

Gaps in user knowledge (of appropriate customisation)

  • Diagnosed customisation for performance versus preferences - do users know what's best? And what is "best"?
    • Luz Rello - research indicated no correlation between reading performance and personal choice - is choice more important than performance.
    • Wayne Dick - addressing the perceived need for diagnosis of text customisation needs through development of Typometric Rx.
  • Other than this, general gaps in user knowledge was not widely covered in the symposium submissions or discussion. Is this indicative of a wider lack of understanding of knowledge? Or that this is not a significant problem? @@Other references particularly needed.

Sharing responsibility between individuals applying appropriate customisation via user agents; user agent in supporting customisation; and web content providers.

  • the practical use of, and future of, widgets for customisation delivered as part of page content.

Additional contributions from the IRC log and transcript:

Limitation in support for customisation?

Control of customisation

  • Wayne Dick - argument for customisation at the element level - where different instances of the same HTML element in the same document may be styled differently, in order to give distinct semantic meaning. Applying customisation to that element would then remove this visual 0- and hence semantic - distinction
  • Silas Brown - there are limitations in control over specificity of user CSS (relating to Wayne Dick's observation above), of impact on script-generated content, on content not subject to CSS (e.g. title attribute. Argument that this *is* web content, rather than extension of the user agent UI)
  • Anthony Lee - personal experience of difficulty with sub-pixel rendering of fonts, and difficulty in making necessary customisation
  • Suzette Keith - line spacing control as an example of customisation that is currently difficult to easily implement
  • Shawn Henry - usability difficulties in authoring, using and reusing user-CSS
  • David Sloan - anecdotal evidence of awkward workarounds by older people in applying customisation (e.g. copy and paste web content into MS Word, and use Word to change text size in order to make content readable)
  • Olaf Drummer and Vasile Topac - both have investigated PDF support for text customisation

Additional contributions from the IRC log and transcript:

Moving forward

  • Translating knowledge of users' customisation needs into policies, standards, user agents. Submissions did not cover this issue in any great detail, but if there are gaps in support that could be addressed by revising guidelines, standards, policies covering content authoring and user agents, we should identify them here
  • this work could also take into account evidence supporting the need to rebalance efforts between user agent support for and usability of customisation features, and user effort in creating and maintaining user CSS.
  • Supporting discoverability of customisation vs education on the existence of customisation as a user option (and helping users diagnose their needs)
  • Specific research projects that are ongoing:
    • research presented in symposium submissions
    • other research currently underway that could inform knowledge in this area
  • Research that has not been done but needs to be done

Additional contributions from the IRC log and transcript:

Understanding text customization needs and requirements

Some work has been carried out to understand more about how customising text can address specific readability needs.

Examples of text customisation

Preferences versus diagnosed treatment

[DS@@ tension between text customisation as a user preference, or a diagnosed solution supported by evidence]

Gaps in knowledge of users' needs for text customization

Supporting text customization functionality

How well do existing text customization functionality and interfaces support users' needs?

  • What text customization functionality is provided in current products?
  • How effectively do <a href="">user agents</a> (web browsers, etc.) and web content share the responsibility for text customization?

User uptake

How do users interact with text customization features? Which do they use, which do they not use, and why?

Comfortably, Responsibilities - From Introduction 14 Dec

... The role of customisation of web content to enable an individual to comfortably read [@@ "read comfortably" I think could lead some to underestimate the seriousness of it -- e.g., many users find reading some formats painful, nauseating, etc.] [@@DS I agree. This is part of the "preferences vs diagnosed improvements" tension that we will have to give a lot of prominence to.] that content is a critical component for web accessibility. However, customisation is an aspect of accessibility that is complex, given different perspectives on the respective responsibilities of:

  • user agent developers
  • web content authors
  • web users with customisation needs

[i.e. some text that acknowledges different views on where responsibility for customisation lies in an (ideal | pragmatic | real-world) definition of inclusive design] [@@SLH: hummm - I'm not sure there are significantly different perspectives on who should be doing what. Do most people think that most of the responsibility is with the user agent?] [@@DS: It's a good question. I think what I was trying to establish was the extent of tension between what I would call the WAI/Web Standards view that users with readability needs have a responsibility to apply necessary customisation changes via the user agent, rather than placing all the responsibility on web authors to enable customisation as part of web content design; and a reality that current user agent support and user awareness of customisation is limited to a sufficient extent that motivates web authors to take on extra responsibility (e.g. by providing very obvious text resizing widgets or alternative CSS) in order to help visitors to their site. Or maybe sites provide these features because the CMS used to power them comes with such accessibility features, and it's not a conscious decision of the site providers. I guess some stats would help illustrate the extent of this]