Browsershots: A Cross Platform Browser Test Tool

This is a terrific open source tool for Web designers: Browsershots (Inactive as of 2011)

Browsershots makes screenshots of your web design in different browsers. It is a free open-source online service created by Johann C. Rocholl. When you submit your web address, it will be added to the job queue. A number of distributed computers will open your website in their browser.

They make screenshots of your site in all the browsers you select for Linux, Windows, Mac OS, Gecko, and KHTML/WebKit and upload them to their central server.
Additional conditions you can specify are screen size, color depth, Javascript, Java, and Flash support. When the screenshots come up, you can then hover over each screenshot to see a larger version or click on it to see more details. You can also download all the screenshots with one click!

Everyday Usability – at the Dentist’s Office

Do you find usability concepts outside your work? Oh, we who work with these topics probably run into situations concerning usability and accessibility on a regular basis. Examples are everywhere as shown by the "broken" category over at Mark Hurst's Creative Good  Updated.

But what about this ad from 2008? (Click image for larger size.)

Advertisement that says font size adjustment on your computer screen can help prevent eye strain and headaches
Magazine ad from 2008 provides computer screen help.

Usability professional Whitney Quesenbery discovered this ad while leafing through a magazine at the dentist's office recently. Later, she found the ad discussed on the blog of Angela Schmeidel Randall, which was the original source of the image in this post. [Angela's post "Tylenol PSA Ad Everyday Usability" is no longer available.]

Not only does the ad provide a tip for avoiding eye strain and headaches while working at the computer, it also gives instructions for both PC and Mac browsers.

Of course, the ad is a pitch for a product that also provides relief – if you didn't use the tip in time, but it is commendable that a simple usability/accessibility trick is discussed in an ad that reaches the non-professional. And that it takes both PC and Mac into consideration.

Unfortunately, there is an error in the Mac tip. You do not need to include the Shift key when increasing or decreasing the font size using the latest Safari or Firefox browser on a Mac. If I recall correctly (don't have a PC handy just now), Firefox on Windows doesn't need the Shift button either. I had to use this tip to enlarge the ad to be sure of what I was viewing. I agree with Randall when she writes that it is ironic that the graphic illustration of the necessary keyboard buttons was very difficult to see. The color contrast and font size on the graphics was poor.

Despite these issues, let's start out our accessible new year on a positive note. It is good to see these topics pushed into mainstream conversation. Sooner or later, most of us sit in a dentist office leafing through magazines. 🙂 Improving the usability and accessibility skill sets of technical communicators who are involved in creating ads like this one will improve the overall message of the ad. Does that mean that companies who hire technical communicators with good usability and accessibility skill sets will make more money? Who knows? Maybe they should give it a try? 🙂

Have you discovered mainstream examples that promote usability and accessibility in constructive ways? Do share them in the comments.