Working with the HTML5 Canvas

HTML5 has a considerable number of new features to offer. In fact, I discuss many of the new tags that HTML5 has to offer on page 228 of HTML5 Programming with JavaScript For Dummies. In fact, my book demonstrates a number of these tags as part of showing you how to use JavaScript to create applications that run anywhere and on most devices that support HTML5.

One of the more amazing (and least talked about) features of HTML5 is the concept of a canvas that you can draw on, much as an artist uses a canvas to create interesting pictures. I encountered an article about the HTML5 canvas the other day entitled, “All About HTML5 <canvas>” by Molly Holzschlag. In this article you get a great general overview of precisely what a canvas can do for you. I think you’ll find it quite useful, especially if your artistic skills are at the same level as mine are (nearly non-existent). The <canvas> tag makes it possible to create useful graphics in a way that most developers can understand quite easily.

This is one tag that I wish I had explored more fully in my book, but picking topics carefully is part of being a good author. Instead of providing an overview like the one that Molly provided, I chose to include a more specific example that also employs the Google API. My Working with Data Using Maps post describes just one method of working with the Google APIs. Chapters 18 and 20 both discuss methods of working with the Google API and the example in Chapter 20 combines the Google API with the <canvas> to create an interesting example.

If you’re working with HTML5 for the first time, make sure you spend time working with the <canvas> tag. It makes data presentation considerably easier, even if you lack artistic skills. Let me know about the projects you’ve created using the <canvas> tag at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Working with Data Using Maps

It’s hard for most people to visualize abstract data. The tables of information presented at meetings of various sorts provide information that people need, but often people don’t absorb the information because they don’t actually see it. The data doesn’t seem to have a connection to the real world. Part of the answer it so present the data as charts and graphs—making it easier to visualize the data. Unfortunately, charts and graphs have a certain level of abstractness as well, so they don’t fully perform the task of making the data. Fortunately, there are other tools in your arsenal, including maps. Creating a pictorial view of the data as it appears in context with the viewer’s surroundings often makes the data come alive. This is the reason I wrote “Using the Google Maps API to Add Cool Stuff to Your Applications.”

You can use the Google API to create data presentations that convey information that is more than the sum of the individual data components. The presentation of data as part of a map tells the viewer more than what happened, how much happened, and where it occurred. A human viewer can often see patterns that aren’t part of the data by viewing that data on a map. The right map can make it possible to understand the data in ways that the data itself doesn’t allow. For example, you might determine that most of your business occurs near crowded intersections during the 5:00 rush hour. Extending what you have learned might make it possible to optimize store locations so that more people will be able to visit during times of peak sales.

The creative presentation of data is important today because attention spans have grown ever shorter as more information sources clamor for a viewer’s attention. When you can make the data presentation interesting and also provide a means to derive more information than the information itself would tend to support, you have a winning presentation strategy. Maps provide such a strategy. Let me know your thoughts on data presentation at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.

 

Considering the Economics of Accessibility

People have asked in the past which book of mine is my favorite. I have a number of answers to that question. In one respect or another, all of my books are my favorite because they all answer different questions and help a different group of people. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the reason I write is because I truly enjoy helping others.

My reasons for writing “Accessibility for Everybody: Understanding the Section 508 Accessibility Requirements” are many. However, one of the biggest reasons that I wrote it is because there are good economic reasons to make applications accessible to everyone. Not all of these reasons have a direct monetary impact, but I do express them in the first chapter of the book. The fact of the matter is that if your application isn’t accessible, you’re costing your company time and money. If you’re a store owner, you’re losing money every second that your organization uses applications that aren’t accessible.

Many
people associate accessibility with those who have special visual or
audio needs.  However, accessibility affects quite a large group of
people, including those who are colorblind. Did you realize that about 8% of the male population is colorblind,
which means that if your application isn’t accessible to this group
that you’re losing out on 8% of your sales right off the top? Can you
really miss out on that many sales? In short, accessibility is truly for everyone and everyone includes you.

It amazes me that some organizations just don’t seem to get it. Accessibility affects more than those people across the street; they affect you personally. At some point in life, you’re going to need an accessibility aid. Our eyes get older and can’t see as well, the ears refuse to hear, things wear out. So, the accessibility features you add to an application today will ultimately help you in some way. It’s the reason that I read about lawsuits such as the one between the National Federation of the Blind, NFB, and Google, and have to scratch my head. I have to wonder why such a lawsuit is even necessary.

Another reason I wrote my book is to show how easy it is to make applications accessible and to inform my readers about the laws regarding accessibility (laws that our government doesn’t enforce).  Creating an accessible application with the tools available today isn’t a major undertaking. In many cases you’re looking at a few extra minutes to add features such as speed keys and titles that a screen reader can read (the same titles appear as balloon help that sighted users also rely upon). It’s true that applications that make heavy use of full animation or video can become harder to make accessible, but these applications are in the minority. Most business applications require very little extra work.

If you think buying a book to learn about accessibility is just too expensive, I encourage you to make use of the free resources available on the Internet. Companies such as Microsoft want you to create accessible applications because they realize that it’s in their best interest to do so. These resources are incredibly easy to use and they make life easier for everyone. I’m always happy to hear about your insights regarding accessibility, so feel free to contact me at John@JohnMuellerBooks.com.